One of the big questions for the Buffalo Bills heading into free agency is the status of All-Pro S Jordan Poyer. He has been one of the building blocks in the locker room that helped the Bills end the playoff drought to become a perennial Super Bowl contender.
As the team improved, so did Poyer’s profile, collecting his first All-Pro nod in 2021 and a long overdue Pro Bowl selection in 2022. Once the accolades came in, the demand for a new contract soon followed. Most would agree that he did outplay the prior contracts that he signed in Buffalo, appearing to be team-friendly.
While Poyer is certainly on the back end of his career, he still appears to be playing at a high level and could still contribute meaningful snaps. However, an aging veteran with several notable injuries expecting top dollar for his services isn’t always a good mix.
Below is Poyer’s injury history and whether to re-sign him.
2013 Philadelphia Eagles/Cleveland Browns
Toe injury, Week 16, missed 0 games.
No publicly reported injuries.
Shoulder injury, Week 7, missed 2 games.
Lacerated kidney/bruised liver, Week 6, went to IR, missed 10 games.
2017 Buffalo Bills
Right MCL sprain, Week 7, missed 1 game.
Right finger injury, Week 13, missed 0 games.
Head injury/stinger, Week 5, missed 0 games.
No publicly reported injuries.
Left ankle injury, Week 3, missed 1 game, listed as day-to-day.
Right shoulder injury, suffered in Wednesday practice prior to Week 9, missed 0 games.
Right shoulder injury, Week 16, missed 0 games. Confirmation of right shoulder due to kinesiotape on the right shoulder during Week 17 game. Later confirmed in the offseason, a partial rotator cuff tear did not require surgery in the offseason.
Hyperextended left elbow, suffered on August 2, missed three preseason games, practiced in full for Week 1.
Foot injury Week 2, missed 0 games. Different sources report that this was a foot sprain, other sources including Jordan Poyer’s mom indicate the foot was broken.
Fractured ribs, Week 4, missed 1 game. As a result of the rib fracture, causing a pneumothorax that prevented him from traveling by air with the team to Kansas City.
Left elbow reaggravation, Week 8, played without his brace and suffered another injury to the area, missed 2 games.
Knee, meniscus tear, Week 15. Suffered a knee injury against the Miami Dolphins, stating he had been playing on a torn meniscus for a while.
Concussion, Divisional Round of Playoffs, exited the game.
A Clear Demarcation
There is a clear demarcation line when it comes to Jordan Poyer’s injury history. That cut-off is the 2021 season. From 2013-2020, Poyer missed 13 games, 10 of those were for a lacerated kidney. During his 2017-2020 tenure in Buffalo, he only missed 1 game for an MCL sprain for the Bills.
It’s highly likely that he had several injuries that led to him being on the injury report from 2013-16 that did not receive a designation that week. But that means they were minor enough that they likely had little to no impact on his performance.
However, once the 2021 season hit in his age-30 season, injuries began to accumulate. Over the last two years, he missed only four regular season games but suffered a number of injuries listed above.
Poyer has been a relatively durable player throughout his career, missing 17 games over 10 seasons due to injury. But the recent rate at which he was getting injured became worrisome which puts him and the team in this predicament.
Levels of Concern
Reflecting back on his overall injury history injuries, the outlier injuries are the lacerated kidney and pneumothorax, costing him a total of 11 games. Those were unfortunate events and have a very low likelihood of happening again. It took an incredible amount of energy and getting hit at the exact angle to cause damage. In either case, there was no way to prevent either injury. These injuries should not be held against him in determining his worth.
Other injuries included toe, shoulder, finger, stinger, and knee injuries that cost him minimal time prior to 2021. The shoulder injury was possibly an AC joint sprain based on time missed whereas the knee injury was an MCL sprain. Those types of knee injuries are very common in NFL Combine athletes but this also implies that they are frequent injuries overall.
The concerning injuries are the elbow, knee meniscus tear, rotator cuff, and foot injury. These all occurred within the last two years and could either be seen as unlucky or the beginning of a trend of injuries. Despite missing only four games in 2022, Poyer could have easily missed six-to-eight games if he had added an extra week to all of his injuries listed above.
The state of the elbow concerns me moving forward as it took a beating this year and at some point may have benefitted from surgery. As for his meniscus tear, he didn’t appear to have a bucket handle tear which would have likely necessitated surgery. Based on that knowledge, he likely rehabbed the injury right after it happened and the outcomes are generally no different than if he had undergone surgery.
The specifics of the foot injury are unknown whether it was truly a sprain or fracture and the location of the injury. He was able to play through the injury either way without any known setbacks.
I don’t believe that Jordan Poyer would be that snake-bitten again to suffer that many injuries in 2023 alone. But it could very well be a trend toward more significant or chronic injuries that keep him out of the lineup for extended periods of time.
Is this the edge of the cliff for Poyer or merely several speed bumps along the way when it comes to injuries?
No one can fault him for changing agents to Drew Rosenhaus to get one final big contract prior to the 2022 season. When he got his arm sandwiched early in training camp, nearly passing out from the pain, that’s why he wanted the contract. The entire 2022 season was only further proof.
Stay or Leave?
It’s a big question. Jordan Poyer has been a glue guy for the Bills. Some people will tell you that culture doesn’t matter. It 100 percent does matter. Poyer is a perfect example of that. A guy that helped transform the Buffalo Bills from a middling team to a Super Bowl contender. While players are interchangeable on the football field, the person filling that position is not always immediately replaceable.
But it’s not wise to keep guys around just because they are liked in the locker room or fan favorites.
Full disclosure, I am all for keeping Jordan Poyer.
But at the right price.
Spotrac.com has Jordan Poyer’s market value at $11 million, which would put him 13th at his position according to Spotrac. Prior to this, the most he had made in a season was $9.2 million in 2020.
While the team could franchise tag him, it would cost them $14.4 million for a fully guaranteed contract next year. This would be more than what the market would give him but it would not offer any financial flexibility to lower his cap hit for 2023. Financially, it doesn’t make sense to tag a guy at a rate higher than what the market says for one season.
I am not an expert when it comes to what the Bills should pay him, but I know it’s not the market rate for the injury concerns over the last two years. If he signed a contract similar to his last extension, that could be palatable which was 2 years, $19.5 million. That may even be too rich for the Bills at this time. Even with a signing bonus that can be spread out, the team may not want to kick out dead cap into later years.
The concern with signing Jordan Poyer is whether will he be able to live up to a market-level contract.
His age and recent injury history suggest he won’t but he has still been productive in spite of everything. It’s not that he doesn’t warrant that contract at all; it’s the fact that the Bills likely can’t afford him anymore when they’re looking at the big picture.
It’s a risk to pay him that much when looking at what is perceived to be a declining asset given the injuries and age. They do have to get under the cap and consider several contracts including Tremaine Edmunds along with other positional needs.
Jordan Poyer has come out and stated that he was not offered a contract which leaves him in limbo with the Bills. Brandon Beane has stated they would love to have him back, but I am sure they have a number and won’t go above that.
Let Him Walk
The right move is to let Poyer test the market and see what’s out there. He’s earned that right. But keep in mind, despite the production, he still carries that injury baggage from the last two seasons. I would expect any team signing him to a market-level deal would want to examine him thoroughly. It’s not like the Bills are letting him go and he’s a diamond in the rough like Wyatt Teller or even Isaiah Hodgins. He’s a known value and the injuries will certainly dampen his luster.
If I am a team looking to add him, I’d be concerned about what that elbow looks like. Will he need to continue wearing a brace, potentially affecting his tackling? Will his elbow need surgery despite saying that he doesn’t need it?
I suspect that there is chronic UCL damage and possible tendon involvement that had scarred down somewhat by now. But some teams may insist he gets surgery that could carry a four-to-six-month timeline for a UCL repair. Any repair to the tendons would carry a similar timeline. Both would allow Poyer to be ready for the season wherever he ends up.
In addition, what is the condition of the shoulder, foot, and knee? With proper rest, they should be non-factors, but a new team can’t risk bringing in damaged goods if things are lingering.
If Jordan Poyer gets his money, good on him, but if he isn’t finding what he wants, the Bills know what they are getting back. He knows the defense and has produced, has roots in the community, and is well-liked within the fan base. When compared to free agency, this front office has taken risks on guys with lengthy injury histories with several panning out over the years.
However, none come to mind that are truly elite game changers other than someone like Von Miller. Based on his knee injury this year, the argument could be made the jury is still out on that one.
The only players that come to my mind that contributed positively were Taiwan Jones, Rodger Saffold, Kevin Johnson, and Daryl Williams. Some would say otherwise.
The key has been minimizing the contract length or money the team is on the hook for down the road. Poyer would be no different, but giving him the money he is seeking despite the concerns is the kind of decision that kept the Bills mired in mediocrity for two decades.
While I do think Buffalo is the best place for Jordan Poyer to finish his career, he does deserve to find out his value on the open market. It may be depressing once he gets out there, but that’s the sad reality of the NFL sometimes.
I wish Jordan the best of luck in his free agency journey and that he secures one last payday. However, I hope he does come back to Buffalo at a price that the team can afford as they look to keep the defense together.
Top Photo Credit: Bryan Bennett | Credit: AP