Bills find starting-caliber center fielder at safety in signing Mike Edwards


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The Buffalo Bills have raided AFC rival Kansas City for a safety with the credentials to be a starting center fielder on the back line of the defense.

The Bills announced an agreement with six-year veteran Mike Edwards on a one-year deal. The move fills a big hole on the defense, and Edwards can be penciled in as the presumptive starter next to incumbent Taylor Rapp, who was re-signed by the Bills last week.

Edwards, 27, filled much of last season as the third safety in Kansas City’s defense. But after an injury to starter Bryan Cook, he moved into a starter’s role for the last five games of the regular season. He started all four of the Chiefs’ playoff games, including their 25-22 victory over San Francisco in the Super Bowl.

The Bills now have overhauled the safety position in the wake of long-time starters Micah Hyde and Jordan Poyer becoming free agents. Poyer signed with Miami. Hyde remains a free agent.

Edwards was a third-round pick of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2019. He started 10 games, including three playoff games for the Bucs, and won a Super Bowl in Tampa in the 2020 season.

A 5-foot-10, 205-pounder, Edwards has shown ball-hawking ability, with eight interceptions over the past four years in the regular season. He has three more interceptions over 11 career playoff games. His playoff interception last season came in a wild-card round win over Miami.

Edwards said he views his range on the back end of the defense as a strength.

“That’s the name of the game, limiting the explosive plays,” Edwards said on a conference call with Buffalo reporters. “You give up explosive plays, that’s a big momentum changer, a big part of the game. Micah Hyde kind of took on that role as a rangy guy, center fielder. I’ve studied his film a lot and feel like I can have the same type of traits that he has. Roaming the backfield and trying to read the quarterback. I can also come in and blitz, play man to man, be up in the box, sort of do it all. I definitely want to make as many plays as I can and limit those explosive plays.”

Overall, Edwards has played 75 games with 28 starts in the regular season.

With the major free agency moves behind us, Mark Gaughan and Katherine Fitzgerald discuss how the Buffalo Bills took an unsentimental approach to the process as they get under the cap and reshape the team for 2024. Plenty of familiar faces on both sides of the ball will not be back with the Bills next season. Mark and Katherine share what they like, what surprised them and what to look for as the offseason continues with the draft in April.

First as a member of the Chicago Bears in 2022 and again last season with the Philadelphia Eagles, Morrow has come to recognize the challenge quarterback Josh Allen and the Bills' offense present to opposing defenses. He no longer has to worry about that.

Meanwhile, the Bills are continuing to work on their defensive line depth.

The Bills signed defensive end Casey Toohill on Tuesday. They are entertaining free-agent visitor Austin Johnson, a defensive tackle from the Los Angeles Chargers, on Wednesday, according to a report from ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Johnson, 6-foot-4 and 314 pounds, has been a starter the past three seasons in the NFL. He has built a reputation as a run-stuffer with good size since entering the league as a second-round pick of the Tennessee Titans in 2016. The Bills are in need of a backup to nose tackle DaQuan Jones. The players who filled that role last year (Linval Joseph and Tim Settle) no longer are on the roster.

Johnson has not provided much pass rush in his career, with just eight sacks in eight seasons. He served as a backup to Jones in Tennessee the first four years of his career before moving to the New York Giants for two seasons. He played only eight games in 2022 because his season was cut short by a serious knee injury. He injured his medial collateral ligament and fractured his left knee. But he played all 17 games in 2023.