Buffalo Bills add defensive end Ryan Russell to the mix


Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane wasn’t joking when he declared he’s always looking around for options to improve competition on his team’s roster. His latest move was the signing of former Tampa Bay Buccaneers defensive end Ryan Russell to a one-year deal. Another DE, former Giant Owa Odighizuwa, was released to make room for this move.

A 5th-round pick (163th overall) by the Dallas Cowboys in the 2015 NFL Draft out of Purdue, Russell made only one game appearance that year. He was declared inactive in week 11 and put on injured reserve just after with an abdominal strain. In 2016, he had his first great opportunity, with fellow DEs DeMarcus Lawrence and Randy Gregory suspended. he entered training camp as a starter, but after uninspiring preseason performances was released and signed to the Buccaneers’ practice squad a few weeks later. After being promoted to the 53-man roster in November of that year, he played in eight games and recorded four tackles and one sack, primarily as a reserve. The 2017 season came, and it was Russell’s most consistent and productive so far. He started seven of his 14 games, registering 16 tackles and two sacks. He missed two games because of a dislocated left shoulder that limited him during the last part of the season.

The 26-year-old DE possesses very good athleticism, with a 4.68s 40-yard dash, 32 1/2 vertical jump, 9’11” broad jump, and 25 reps at the bench press at the 2015 NFL combine. At 6’5″ and 275 lbs, he has the ideal size and length for the position in Sean McDermott and Leslie Frazier’s 4-3 defense.

Russell made progress on each of his three seasons in the league so far, and Buffalo looks like a nice fit for him to continue his growth. With Shaq Lawson struggling to live up to his draft status, Owa Odighizuwa out of the picture, and Eddie Yarbrough as the only other somewhat proven option at the position, there’s a wide-open competition behind starters Jerry Hughes and Trent Murphy. Anyone that’s able to impress during the camp and preseason games, especially rushing the passer, can guarantee a place on the Bills’ opening day roster, and even decent playing time as a rotational DE and pass rusher specialist in sub-packages.