ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Add running back Jonathan Williams to the mix of former Buffalo Bills draft picks no longer on the team.
The 2016 fifth-round selection was regarded as the most surprising Bills player cut Sunday, when Buffalo was required to make room for three players acquired on waivers. Williams had 121 yards rushing and a touchdown this preseason, and was projected to be LeSean McCoy’s primary backup.
The backup role now falls to a combination of veteran fullback Mike Tolbert and Joe Banyard, with Buffalo preparing to open the season hosting the New York Jets next weekend.
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The Bills also released receiver Philly Brown and linebacker Gerald Hodges. Brown became the odd-man out a day after Buffalo dealt cornerback Kevon Seymour and acquired receiver/returner Kaelin Clay in a trade with Carolina.
The moves coincided with Buffalo claiming former Detroit Lions tight end Khari Lee, linebacker Deon Lacey and rookie tackle Conor McDermott, who was drafted in the sixth round by New England. Lacey has three seasons of Canadian Football League experience, and spent this offseason with the Miami Dolphins before being cut Saturday.
Lee, listed at 6-foot-4 and 235 pounds, has but one catch for 7 yards in seven starts in 24 career games over two seasons split with Detroit and Chicago.
McDermott provides depth at tackle with backup Seantrel Henderson to miss the first five games of the season to complete serving a 10-game NFL suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
Williams’ departure left Buffalo with just 16 players drafted by the team, including six rookies this year. And only 25 players remain from last year, including Henderson and receiver Walter Powell, who opens the season serving a four-game NFL suspension for violating the league’s substance abuse policy.
The changes are part of an offseason overhaul that began with the hiring of coach Sean McDermott in January, and continued with general manager Brandon Beane’s hiring in May.
Beane spurred the roster shuffle over the past month by trading numerous players, including receiver Sammy Watkins and cornerback Ronald Darby.
Watkins was traded to the Los Angeles Rams on Aug. 11 in exchange for cornerback E.J. Gaines and a second-round draft pick. Darby was dealt the same day to Philadelphia for receiver Jordan Matthews and a third-round pick.
The trades reflect Beane’s interest to rebuild through the draft next year even at the risk of Buffalo extending the NFL’s longest active playoff drought to 18 seasons this year. Buffalo now has two picks in each of the first three rounds of next year’s draft.
In other moves, the Bills began filling their practice squad by signing seven players, all of whom were released by the team a day earlier. Buffalo signed offensive lineman Jordan Mudge, receivers Brandon Reilly and Daikiel Shorts, cornerback Marcus Sayles, safety B.T. Sanders and defensive linemen Ian Seau and Marquavius Lewis.
Mudge gets the opportunity to continue pursuing his NFL dream after spending the past four seasons playing arena football. He also became a team and fan favorite this offseason for being a 28-year-old rookie, who raises goats on his farm in Arizona.
The Bills also reached an injury settlement to release linebacker Sam Barrington.
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