(WKBW) — The Buffalo Bills are set to make their first move since the negotiating window opened on Monday, though for a player that was free to sign last week.
According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, free agent cornerback Kevin Johnson is expected to sign with the Bills after making a round of free agent visits last week. The deal, according to the report, is still pending a final review by the player and his representation.
Johnson, who turns 27 in August, missed all but one game of the 2018 season after suffering multiple concussions. Rife with experience, Johnson has started in 18 of the 35 games he's appeared in over his four years with the Houston Texans.
Since he was released last week by Houston, Johnson is eligible to sign now ahead of the new league year's official start on Wednesday at 4:00 pm.
Joe B's Take
- With the addition of Kevin Johnson to the defensive secondary, the Bills have crossed off their lone need to that grouping in the 2019 offseason.
Still with Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer entrenched as the starting safeties, Rafael Bush as the team's third safety, Tre'Davious White as one starting cornerback, Taron Johnson as the nickel corner, Levi Wallace as the young up and coming cornerback, and several dependable options for special teams, Johnson might just be the last piece to that puzzle for 2019.
Johnson enters the mix as a player that was once a dependable starter before injuries began to take their toll, and now he'll have at least an opportunity to win a starting job in the spring and summer. The Bills needed to add one thing to the cornerback room: someone that can compete with Wallace and provide depth.
In one fell swoop, Johnson does precisely that on what is likely to be a low-risk, short-term deal -- which has increasingly become a specialty of GM Brandon Beane in both the free agent and trade market. He now helps the Bills to be the deepest they've been at cornerback since Beane and head coach Sean McDermott came around in 2017.
The Bills and McDermott feel quite strongly in making their young players earn their established role in the starting lineup. Take last year for example with the young and extremely talented Matt Milano.
Milano initially had the reps with the starters, but when the Bills weren't happy with what they were getting from him during training camp, they began to give Ramon Humber time with the first-team defense to wake Milano up. It worked, and Milano went on to have a highly productive season.
In 2018, Wallace provided the Bills with an excellent rookie season as soon as they inserted him into the starting lineup. However, Wallace's showing did come during a small sample size, so providing themselves with some insurance if he has a sophomore slump was a necessity.
That's where Johnson comes in, who will compete with Wallace. If all goes well for the Bills, the young Wallace will win the job, and Johnson will be the top backup to both the boundary and at nickel cornerback when the Bills suffer injuries. Too often in 2018, the Bills were down to only three cornerbacks in the confines of one game because they didn't have any depth to speak of during that season. One injury during a game and the Bills had to derail their plans altogether.
The move to bring in Johnson, as long as the cost is short-term and low, is a savvy one by Beane and company.