Bills Bringing Back Veteran RB for Next Season: Insider

Ty Johnson

Getty Ty Johnson runs the ball in a game against the Dallas Cowboys.

The Buffalo Bills are tending to their bare backfield with plans to bring back a veteran running back who rose to a prominent role in 2023.

ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported that the Bills plan to re-sign Ty Johnson to a new contract, keeping the free agent back in Buffalo. Johnson joined the Bills late in the last offseason, starting on the practice squad but eventually moving up to the No. 2 spot behind James Cook after Damien Harris was lost to a season-ending injury.

With the move, the Bills would fill a hole in the backfield as they have just one running back under contract who was on the active roster in 2023.

Ty Johnson Moved Up Depth Chart in 2023

The Bills initially signed the former New York Jets back in late August, helping fill the void after running back and return specialist Nyheim Hines was lost to a season-ending ACL tear. Though Johnson started the year on the practice squad, he was elevated to the active roster in October after Damien Harris suffered a neck injury that would keep him out the remainder of the season.

As NFL insider Ian Rapoport reported at the time, the Bills made the commitment to Johnson after the Los Angeles Rams had tried to poach him off the practice squad.

“The #Bills promoted RB Ty Johnson to the 53-man roster from the practice squad after the #Rams tried to sign him earlier in the week,” Rapoport posted.

Johnson eventually rose to the role of No. 2 behind Cook, rushing 30 times for 130 yards and making seven receptions for 62 yards and a touchdown. He took on an even bigger role in the playoffs, getting eight carries for 26 yards in a win over the Pittsburgh Steelers and seven carries for 40 yards in a divisional-round loss to the Kansas City Chiefs.

The Bills had just Cook and practice squad running back Darrynton Evans under contract this offseason, with Harris headed to free agency along with veterans Latavius Murray and Leonard Fournette. The Bills also released Hines in a cap-saving move.

Bills Could Make Other Additions

While the expected return of Johnson gives the Bills a reliable back with a skill set similar to Cook, insiders believe they will add another power-rushing back as well. The Athletic’s Joe Buscaglia predicted that former Green Bay Packers running back A.J. Dillon could be a good fit at a good price.

“The Bills will likely want another veteran runner with more power to his game, which could pave the way for Dillon to be in a small role this season,” Buscaglia wrote. “At 247 pounds with some pass-catching ability, Dillon would be the ideal short-yardage back who would keep things slightly unpredictable on offense. With the running backs market expected to take a nosedive this free agency, the Bills can get him on a good deal.”

Though the Bills had big backs Murray and Fournette last season, they continued to turn to quarterback Josh Allen to convert in many short-yardage situations. This is likely not a long-term plan for the team, as coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane have stressed the need to cut down on the number of hits Allen takes.

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