The Buffalo Bills saw their 17-year playoff drought come to an end this season, but unfortunately they came up woefully short of making their first Super Bowl appearance since 1994. So while that wait continues, Bills fans will have settle for watching the New England Patriots take on the Philadelphia Eagles in the big game this year.
Painful as it may be to root for New England, there’s possibly one reason to cheer for the Bills arch nemesis, in that they have a handful of former Bills on the roster who could earn themselves a shiny Super Bowl ring. Fortunately, if you really can’t bring yourself to cheering for the Patriots, the Eagles have some ex-Bills of their own on the roster as well.
We’re here to help jog your memory and decide which group of former Bills you’d rather see win a ring.
Right off the bat, cornerback Stephon Gilmore is probably the most notable and controversial Bill turned Patriot. Gilmore joined New England this past offseason as a free agent after spending the first five years of his career in Buffalo, who drafted the shutdown corner 10th overall in the 2012 draft. Shortly after signing with the Patriots, Gilmore tweeted about playing in more nationally televised games than he did with the Bills, which subjected him to plenty of criticism when he struggled in those nationally televised games this season. Tonight he’ll play in his biggest game with millions of people watching as he tried to win his first Super Bowl ring.
Joining Gilmore in taking his talents to New England this past offseason was running back Mike Gillislee, who came to left Buffalo as a restricted free after the Bills chose not to match the Patriots offer. Gillislee cracked the Bills roster as a practice squad surprise in 2015 and spent two seasons there. For what it’s worth, Gillislee has been a healthy scratch for both of New England’s previous two playoff games and was for the majority of the regular season as well, so he may not even play tonight but obviously would receive his first Super Bowl ring should they win.
Of course, former Penn State Lacrosse bro turned wide receiver Chris Hogan is playing for ring No. 2 after going to New England from Buffalo as a restricted free agent ahead of the 2016 season. Playing for his third ring is defensive tackle Alan Branch, who you may have forgotten spent a single season in Buffalo in 2013. He’s been with the Patriots ever since and won the Super Bowl’s 49 and 51. There’s also DE Eric Lee, who spent a a good portion of the 2017-season in Buffalo. Lee was signed to the team’s practice squad on Sept. 5 and was promoted to the 53-man roster and was active for the Bills Week 4 win over Atlanta before being released the following week and re-signed to the practice squad. New England plucked him from Buffalo on Nov. 21.
Philadelphia is home to a few former Bills players as well, starting, most notably, with cornerback Ronald Darby. Darby spent the first two years of his career Buffalo lining up opposite of Gilmore, before being traded to the Eagles last August in exchange for WR Jordan Matthews. Darby suffered a rare knee injury in Week 1 and missed the next eight games before returning in Week 11. He’s started all but one of the 10 games he’s played in this season, including postseason contests.
Like Darby, safety Corey Graham also came to the Eagles from Buffalo this past offseason, only as a free agent following his release last March. It isn’t all that surprising that Graham landed in Philadelphia considering the move reunited him with defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz, who held the same role with the Bills during Graham’s first year in Buffalo in 2014. Graham spent a total of three seasons with the Bills. Believe it or not, Super Bowl 52 is actually the 11-year veteran’s third Super Bowl appearance. In his rookie season with the Chicago Bears, Graham’s squad made it all the way to the big game only to fall short against Peyton Manning and the Indianapolis Colts. During a two-year stint with the Baltimore Ravens from 2012-2013 though, he got himself a ring as Baltimore took down the San Francisco 49ers in Super Bowl 47.
Linebacker Nigel Bradham is playing in his first Super Bowl after joining the Eagles in 2016. Bradham spent the first four seasons of his career in Buffalo, but wasn’t retained following the 2015 campaign and signed with Philly as a free agent. Again, his reunion with Schwartz is no surprise. And even though he’s on the IR and won’t play tonight, we’d be remised if we didn’t mention tackle Jason Peters. Peters was signed by the Bills as an undrafted free agent in 2004 and spent five seasons in Buffalo before departing for Philadelphia in 2009. He’s been there ever since and is hoping his teammates can deliver his first Super Bowl ring.
Oh and how could we forget Bills legend Frank Reich, who’s currently the Eagles offensive coordinator. And if you don’t remember what Reich is famous for you can’t call yourself a Bills fan.
So which team of former Bills are you cheering for?