...and then there were 53.
The Buffalo Bills cut down their roster to the league mandated number of players on Friday evening.
Crossing out several names local fans expected to see come opening day against the Jets (and keeping a few question marks as well... like our new kickoff/touchback specialist John Potter). Sure, the roster moves are likely not done and the season is still over a week away, but some of the moves were still a little shocking.
After a summer of activity, one that saw numerous tight battles at several positions, some fans may be amazed at who isn't (and is) on this roster now.
Here, then, is a quick look at some of the highlights of the roster slice and dice in Buffalo, a synopsis of those gone and those who aren't for 2012.
DT Dwan Edwards - The first announced cut, it was both expected and a little unfortunate, but Dwan's price tag for 2012 was a hefty $4.2 million as a backup and he never had a chance to start ahead of either Marcell Dareus or Kyle Williams.
That's a lot to pay an insurance policy, even if it's the injury-prone Bills.
Though he produced somewhat in the 3-4 the last two years, he just looked somewhat less at tackle in the 4-3 scheme and his stats from the last two years weren't exactly mind blowing (109 tackles, just 3.5 sacks).
He also only managed three tackles in his preseason work for 2012. A decent player and one who will surely become a solid producer for some other team with a 3-4 scheme (the Colts, or even the Patriot or Dolphins), the fact is Dwan never looked comfortable in new coordinator Dave Wannstedt's defense and it was a smart move (especially financially) to release him.
WR Derek Hagan... and Naaman Roosevelt... and Marcus Easley - After a summer playing "Guess who'll be the fifth receiver?", the answer turned out to be Brad Smith, I guess. Hagan looked to have the inside track during camp, but he only caught two balls in preseason work for 12 yards and was non-existent during the scoring drives with the first team (and second... and third).
Roosevelt used up his practice squad eligibility, the one way locals were hoping to keep the St. Joe's alum on the team, though he did have some good work with the backups in the preseason (10 for 102 yards) and could very well end up back on the team in the near future.
Meanwhile, Easley just couldn't be waited on any longer and after two years with season-ending injuries, his 100-yard kickoff return and two-point conversion in the fourth quarter against Detroit was just too little, too late (though he is still eligible to be signed to practice squad).
With just four receivers now left on the squad, you'd expect Buffalo to look a little thin in the passing game.
But keep in mind that many of those empty backfields we've seen in the preseason have included either a running back or receiver-esque tight end Scott Chandler in the fifth spot, sometimes both.
C.J. Spiller and Fred Jackson are great dual-threats, with tremendous hands in addition to their solid run abilities, so there's no issue there.
Then there's Chandler, who has made some tough catches already this preseason (two in the Washington opener) and seems to once again figure largely in the Bills' passing attack in 2012.
With the added retention of speedy fullback Dorin Dickerson (4.40 40-yard dash), who'll likely see some work outside his position in two tight end formations, the Bills may not even have to resort to Smith as a receiver option... if they can stay healthy at the position. Big "if".
It was just kind of... anti-climactic is all, what with 10+ receiver options going into OTAs, but it shows how many multi-useful players are on the team, able to line up under the guise of several positions.
So, they should be fine with four... right?
LB Tank Carder - Of the rookies, this was the cut that surprised me the most.
Tank looked great in the Rose Bowl last year and had a pretty solid preseason to boot, but fellow rookie Nigel Bradham got the vote for rookie linebacker most likely to succeed in the regular season.
Carder was a beast on the field for the Bills in his limited work, getting 11 tackles in four games, but the Texas Chrisitian graduate just couldn't find room on a roster that already had seven linebackers.
Bradham looked much better in pass defense and should be a nice keeper for Buffalo, but you've got to lament losing a young player who looked to have a great future (as well as the perfect football name).
NOT QB Tyler Thigpen - This one may have been a head scratcher to many fans, especially considering it'll cost $2.5 million for a guy the Bills aren't even considering their two, but with Tarvaris Jackson still trying to learn the offense and Brad Smith currently out with a groin injury, keeping Thigpen seems like a necessary evil just now.
Sure, he gave it a good old try in the final preseason contest, going 18-30 for 186 and a TD, but he also had two INTs and had thrown one in each of his other two games. The 60 percent completion rate against Detroit was his highest of the year, too, and his QB rating (a made up stat, I'm sure of it) was 44.5 for the entire preseason.
It's an expensive insurance policy, but hopefully Buffalo can restructure his deal, release him, or cut him and re-sign him at a lower cost.
It's a necessary keep for now, though, in light of the state of the backups should Fitz go down against the Jets.
NOT Terrence McGee - Yes, he's a hometown favorite. Yes, he's got a great career stat line. Yes, he's going into his tenth season with Buffalo, but his limbs are almost starting to fall off.
Fact: McGee hasn't played a full season more than once in his career and that was back in 2004.
Fact: He's only played in 15 games the last two years, 26 the last three.
Fact: Though he did see some time against Pittsburgh in Week 3 of the preseason, his four tackle night caused a "setback" in his rehabilitation and he's likely out week one at New York.
Though Terrence did restructure his deal to ensure he wasn't getting paid too much to sit on the bench, you've got to think that this was a roster spot that could have gone another way (maybe another receiver or linebacker), but maybe with the injury to Ron Brooks' foot, they wanted to keep another corner just in case.
However, without McGee ready to play and with Brooks down for now, that leaves only four healthy players at the position and you've got to think they could use another.
Still, McGee was the best option not named Gilmore or Williams, even if he hasn't been 100 percent since... 2004?
NOT Delano Howell - A late graduation from Stanford caused him to miss almost all of the OTAs and spring camps, but he made a big splash in games, seeming to be involved on almost every defensive play.
For the preseason, the undrafted free agent pickup has a healthy 22 tackles, with two deflections, but has been involved much more than his stats would indicate.
His game against Minnesota stood out the most, as he not only recovered a Leodis McKelvin fumble, but was involved in three great plays over one series (a tackle for loss, a pass breakup, and a third down stop).
He's a surprise not due to his play on the field, then, but in that he wasn't even on the radar for most of the off season.
To be fair, he's got two great veteran teachers to learn from in Jairus Byrd and George Wilson, so it looks like he got caught up pretty quickly and his horizon of potential is pretty high in Buffalo for the future (as their starters aren't getting any younger).
The Bills looked thin at safety coming in to camp, so it was good to see a backup making a name for himself, so this was a nice keep.
Again, this roster isn't set in stone, so expect some changes between now and their meeting with Sanchez and Tebow week one, but at least fans can now stop wondering who will stay and start focusing on who will play.
Viva the football.