“You Never know what’s coming for you” ~ Benjamin Button
And thus begins The Curious Case of Buffalo Bills safety Jordan Poyer. An awful lot has come for the 31-year old during his NFL Tenure – some good, some not so good. The one constant though Poyer’s nine seasons has been a voracious appetite for the game of football. An appetite that lead Poyer to Oregon State and on an NFL trajectory that, at points, required supreme resilience to realize success. Not every NFL star’s story is written the same but at one point or another the best of the best find themselves defined by a particular adjective, elite.
A Brief History
Poyer’s story began at Oregon State as a cornerback for the Beavers. Over his final three seasons with the Beavers Poyer developed a reputation as a ballhawk, tallying 142 tackles, seven sacks and a staggering 13 interceptions. This led to an invite to the NFL Scouting Combine, where Poyer produced slightly above-average metrics. His collegiate production and performance at the Combine generated enough buzz for some pundits to project him as high as the second round. However, Poyer fell to the seventh round, when the Philadelphia Eagles made him the No. 218 overall pick and the 46th defensive back taken.
As a late Day Three pick, it was not a foregone conclusion that Poyer would make the Eagles roster. Nearly half of all seventh-round draft picks don’t make an NFL roster. Poyer did crack the final 53-man squad as a reserve corner, where he saw action in three of the Eagles’ first six games. He played 33 snaps and made three tackles. Poyer was cut after those six games, and two days later, was claimed by the Cleveland Browns, who provided him with his first opportunity to play the position he was essentially created to play – safety.
Poyer batteld for playing time during his first two seasons, seeing the majority of his snaps on special teams. After beating out Rahim Moore for the starting free safety gig, Poyer started the year on a hot streak, racking up 36 tackles and two pass breakups. But in week six, Poyer took a vicious blindside hit and was rushed to the hospital with a lacerated kidney, thus ending his season and tenure with the Browns. Many thought his career would be over, but then Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane came calling.
Jordan Poyer and Micah Hyde were each signed by the Buffalo Bills on March 9, 2017. Hyde – the more proven veteran – signed a five-year, $30 million contract. Poyer, a larger question mark at that stage of his career, agreed to a $13.5 million deal over four years.
From day one, Poyer emerged as a bonafide, all-around talent at safety. In his first game as a member of the Bills, he recorded three tackles, one sack and one interception. He was the only player in 2017 to record three-plus interceptions and two-plus sacks. He was in a league of his own the following season, as well, being the only defender to notch four-plus interceptions and seven-plus tackles for loss.
If you’re beginning to notice a trend, you are on to something. During his time with the Bills Poyer has consistently produced a holistic stat line that is unmatched by his peers. In year three (2019) he was one of three players with two-plus interceptions, three-plus forced fumbles, and 100-plus Tackles (Logan Ryan & De’vondre Campbell). In year four (2020) he was one of two players with two-plus Interceptions, two-plus forced fumbles, and 120-plus Tackles (Joe Schobert). Still, there was little to no recognition for Poyer who was rarely mention in the “Best Safety in the NFL” conversation.
In 2021 Poyer produced a major stat line of five Interceptions, nine Passes Defended, three Sacks, and 93 Tackles. Even with all the love Poyer has gotten this off-season these numbers are somehow underrated. If you stack this single season up against some of the modern greats at the safety position, the results are shocking.
His five interceptions are more than Brian Dawkins’ best single season (4), his three sacks matched Troy Polamalu’s best and his 93 tackles finished better than Ed Reed’s most productive season (85). Some will say the underrated tag is a bit absurd when applying it to a player who was just honored as a First Team All-Pro, but let’s not forget, he was a 3rd Alternate for the Pro-Bowl.
On last night's @Cover1 Buffalo we talked about how Jordan Poyer is a cheat code at safety. The dude played out of his mind in 2021.
Had to make a graphic to represent the laundry list of mind-blowing stats Jordan was able to compile last year.
— Aaron Quinn (@AaronQuinn716) July 7, 2022
So what now? Poyer is coming off an All-Pro season, entering the final year of his contract, and wants to get paid.
Should he? Yes.
Since joining the Bills in 2017, 23 players have totaled 13 or more interceptions. Among them, Poyer ranks No. 6 in interceptions (18), No. 2 in forced fumble (six), No. 1 in fumble recoveries (5), No. 1 in sacks (10), No. 1 in tackles (519) and No. 1 in tackles for loss (29). At this point, the only concern and/or argument against paying Poyer is his 31-year-old age.
While a valid concern, there is plenty of evidence supporting the claim that safeties age gracefully. Ed Reed played at a high level through his 34-year-old season, while Brian Dawkins played until he was 38. Minnesota Vikings is two years older than Poyer, while still playing at an extremely high level.
The old adage says “Father time comes for us all,” but it’s yet to arrive, or even show signs or nearing, for Poyer. Poyer’s ascension comes after being incredibly underutilized in the early stages of his career – which is important to remember.
In an interview with Rob Quinn prior to last year’s training camp, Poyer explained that he felt better than he had in his entire career, thanks to giving up alcohol.
So the real question becomes, does he have one more elite-caliber year ahead of him? Is it two, or three? Unfortunately, that’s not an answer we mere mortals can provide.
The final question remains – will he get extended? This cannot be answered today, and at this point, there are far too many unknowns. What is he asking? What would the Bills be willing to offer? And what plans do the Bills have for players like Oliver, Knox, Edmunds, or even Micah Hyde?
The Case of Jordan Poyer is quite curious and will be interesting to follow the next few months. As far as this writer goes, you don’t jettison an elite player like Poyer over a contract dispute and as for this season, expect another elite chapter to be added to the Case of Jordan Poyer.