In what was one of the most telegraphed moves of Brandon Beane’s tenure as General Manager of the Buffalo Bills, the team traded for running back Nyheim Hines in a buzzer-beater move just before Tuesday’s 4 pm NFL Trade Deadline. In exchange for Hines, the Bills sent running back Zack Moss and a sixth-round draft pick to the Indianapolis Colts.
Buffalo aggressively pursued running backs that were impactful in the passing game since March. When the deal to land J.D. McKissic in free agency fell through, Beane pivoted and selected Georgia ball carrier, James Cook, in the second round of the 2022 NFL Draft. But while Cook has flashed in his limited role, it’s clear that the team doesn’t fully trust the rookie – as nearly all of his touches have come in garbage-time situations.
The Bills’ interest in this specific type of ball carrier ramped up once again in the last few weeks, with reports surfacing that the team inquired about Christian McCaffery – who was eventually dealt to the 49ers for multiple draft picks – and Alvin Kamara, but were “rebuffed.” After the attempt to swing for the fences fell through, the team ultimately lands Hines – a young, talented, and explosive back that should immediately bring a new dimension to Buffalo’s offense.
The 25-year-old has been heavily utilized in the passing game since joining the Colts as a fourth-round pick in 2018. He’s been targeted at least 50 times in each of his four full seasons and is on pace to hit that number again. He’s caught 235 passes for 1,725 yards (7.3 yards-per-reception) and seven touchdowns to date while averaging 5.5 yards per offensive touch.
Hines maintains his balance and shifts it into top gear! pic.twitter.com/Rt2Be0Gmmu
— Erik Turner (@ErikJTurner) November 1, 2022
Hines is a versatile weapon that will allow Ken Dorsey to open up the playbook while presenting Josh Allen with yet another weapon in his arsenal. But Hines isn’t just a scat back – he can effectively run routes from the slot and will make himself available when motioned out wide. He’ll also surely assume punt return duties – a role he relishes. There, he’s averaged 11-plus yards per return during his career with two scores.
At the moment, it’s unclear just how the addition of Hines will impact Devin Singletary – who’s having a nice campaign in a diminished capacity. Singletary has gained 323 rushing yards on 71 attempts (4.5 yards-per-carry), while forcing 10 missed tackles and averaging 2.08 yards after contact. Eight of his carries have resulted in 10-plus yard gains, four of which gained 15-plus yards.
Singletary has run a route on 187 snaps – the fifth-highest total in the NFL among running backs. But he’s only seen 25 targets, catching 23 for 187 yards. Hines’ acquisition will undoubtedly cut into that total in some capacity. In contrast, Hines is 20th in targets per game while running the 34th-most routes. The opportunity for Hines to flourish is there.
While Singletary’s effectiveness as a between-the-tackles rusher will likely keep him in a starting role, Hines should find himself as the more impactful player – a multidimensional player in an offense that’s thrown 271 passes to 173 runs (53 carries from Josh Allen). Now Hines isn’t just a pass-catcher – he’s effective as a runner in a limited role also. Given the attention defenses pay to Stefon Diggs and Josh Allen, Hines will face lighter boxes in situations that call for traditional runs.
— Erik Turner (@ErikJTurner) November 1, 2022
In the short-term, the Bills absorb Hines’ substantial three-year, $12.8 million contract. However, there are no guarantees beyond the $1.833 million he’ll see this season, making this a deal that is prime for restructuring. The move makes James Cook’s 2022 role murky but also opens the door for some creative packages should Ken Dorsey choose to utilize both weapons at the same time. Singletary likely keeps his role as the traditional starting back.
In the long term, things get a bit interesting. Singletary is an unrestricted free agent following the season and it’s doubtful that the team chooses to re-sign him to a market-value deal, given the capital they’ve used on the position in recent years. Still needing a true running back, expect the Bills to look at the NFL Draft for the position once again. James Cook is an extremely talented player that they’d like to develop, and hopefully, by Year 2, there is some clarity on his future as well.
On paper, this is a great deal for Brandon Beane and the Bills’ offense. They got what they’ve coveted for months – an explosive weapon that they can feature out of the backfield in a multitude of ways, at a rather low cost.