This could be goodbye for Micah Hyde, one of most important Buffalo Bills players ever (2024)

Sal MaioranaRochester Democrat and Chronicle

ORCHARD PARK - When Micah Hyde decided to leave the tiny, winter-ravaged, football-crazed home of the Green Bay Packers for the NFL’s next-smallest, winter-ravaged, football-crazed home of the Buffalo Bills, he openly admitted he wasn’t sure what he was getting himself into.

After playing four seasons during which he started about half the time in Green Bay’s secondary, Hyde wanted so much more and Buffalo, with its young, new, defensive-minded coach, Sean McDermott, looked like the perfect place for that to happen.

But then he showed up at One Bills Drive for a free agent visit and thought, what am I doing here?

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“I remember coming here, it was cloudy … and that was when they were redoing this locker room,” Hyde recalled Monday as he was packing up his locker stall. “They had the training room down in the stadium and it was like this little ass room. And I’m coming from Green Bay with, you know, Lambeau Field and new facilities. I’m walking in here like, ‘Man, what the hell am I doing and why am I here?’ But it ended up being one of the best decisions I ever made. This is a very, very special place.”

However, it is a place that Hyde has likely said goodbye to because as soon as the gun sounded Sunday night and the Bills’ head-shaking 27-24 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs was complete, Hyde’s playing career probably ended. He is 33 years old, his contract will expire in March, and he is dealing with a surgically-repaired neck that, every time he stepped on the field this season, created angst in the back of his mind.

“It was a battle each and every week to get back on that field on Sundays,” Hyde said. “Neck injury, coming off the surgery and it was good ‘til about halfway and then stingers started acting up and it wasn’t fun. It was painful. I think I’d be lying if I didn’t admit that.

“I just have no idea what the future holds right now. I’m going to sit down and maybe in a couple of weeks or something talk to the wife and talk to the family. But we’ll see. I’m in no rush.”

If the expected happens and Hyde does not return to the Bills - either because he retires which is the likely outcome, or he gives it one last shot assuming he can find a team willing to give him one - he will go down as one of the most important players to have ever worn Buffalo’s red, white and blue uniform.

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Hyde’s arrival as a free agent in the spring of 2017 was a pivotal moment in this franchise’s history. The Bills were in the midst of a 17-year playoff drought, they had cycled through a series of unsuccessful head coaches who had only led them further into the abyss, and the team needed a total rebuild.

McDermott was the original foundational cornerstone, and then he began adding load bearing support beams with Hyde and fellow safety Jordan Poyer being among the very first. Both of them signed as free agents on March 9, 2017, as did fullbacks Mike Tolbert and Patrick Dimarco, kicker Stephen Hauschka, and offensive lineman Vlad Ducasse.

Not long after, cornerback Tre’Davious White, offensive tackle Dion Dawkins and linebacker Matt Milano were drafted, and so it began, the revitalization of a once-proud franchise, one that won four consecutive AFC championships in the 1990s, one that featured multiple players from its past now enshrined at the Pro Football Hall of Fame, but one that had become the laughingstock of the NFL.

Hyde and Poyer instantly became leaders, players who set the tone of the culture inside the locker room and for how the Bills played on the field.

“Oh man, where do you want to begin?” McDermott said when he was asked what it has meant to have his dynamic duo at safety the past seven years. “I mean, you come here and you have your first opportunity for a job and you’re trying to get the right people. Yeah, we need about an hour to talk about it. I’m just biased, probably, but I feel so indebted to those guys coming in seven years ago, and the work that they’ve done, the work that they put in that nobody sees, even I don’t see sometimes, and how important this team, this organization, is to them.”

Hyde was a fifth-round draft pick of the Packers in 2013 and it wasn’t like he was just a spare part of there in the frozen tundra. He started 33 of the 63 games he played and made eight interceptions, forced two fumbles, recovered five, and put in some productive work both as a punt returner (9.7 yards per attempt) and kickoff returner (23.9).

But he knew he could be a full-time starter, a difference maker, and when he hit free agency, McDermott was all over him because that’s what he saw in Hyde, too. He saw that production and made the projection that Hyde would be a perfect fit in his defense, a rangy, athletic, physical player with great ball skills and intelligence. It was one of the best decisions McDermott has ever made.

Hyde started all 95 regular-season games he was able to play for Buffalo, plus nine postseason games. Combined he made 18 interceptions, forced six fumbles and recovered nine, had 46 passes defensed and made 456 tackles. But his contributions extended so much further beyond the stat sheet.

He was a mentor for so many young defensive backs who have come through the doors at One Bills Drive, players like Taron Johnson, Christian Benford, Kaiir Elam, Cam Lewis, Siran Neal, Dane Jackson and Damar Hamlin, and that’s just the guys who were on the 2023 team.

There are so many more through his seven seasons here who relied on Hyde for help in coverage or run support, but also with understanding what the Buffalo defense was trying to get accomplished every day in practice and how that would pertain to the upcoming game.

“To the defense, I mean, I think they’re our heartbeat,” Jackson said recently, speaking of both Hyde and Poyer. “They’re our leaders, the guys that we look to step up to make those big plays, because we know they can, and we trust them to lead us.”

Poyer has one year left on his contract, and while the Bills could save about $5.4 million of much-needed salary cap space by moving on from him this offseason, there’s a sense that they would want him back, if for no other reason than losing both Hyde and Poyer in the same year would be problematic.

McDermott wasn’t ready to think about that Tuesday when he held his season-ending press conference. He preferred to reflect on what Hyde and Poyer have meant to him, and the team.

“As competitors, it’s a different life when you’re performing and you’re competing your whole entire life, you’re up here from a standpoint of what an elite athlete you are, and you’re competing at this level and all of a sudden that goes away,” McDermott said. “I was extremely proud of watching those guys, those two and their careers and how they handle themselves as professionals. You guys know who they are as human beings, what their character is and what they’re all about and the way that they handle themselves with class in our community. It really says a lot about who they are and how they’ve helped us grow as an organization.”

So we will wait and see on Poyer’s future. As for Hyde, if this is the end, it has been quite a ride.

He showed up in Buffalo when he was 26 years old, got married in 2018, welcomed a son in 2020 and a daughter in 2021. He forged a life in western New York while playing for the Bills, and while there are many chapters left to be written in that life as he leaves the area and football, so far, the book has been a spectacular read.

From growing up in northern Ohio where he was a three-sport high school star, to Iowa where he was a three-year starter for the Hawkeyes and an All-Big-10 performer, to the NFL where he played on teams in Green Bay and Buffalo that made the postseason in 10 of his 11 seasons, Hyde has been a shining light, a transcendent player and an even better person.

“Love this organization, love everything that we were able to accomplish,” Hyde said while fully recognizing that in the end, the Bills did not achieve the ultimate goal during his time with them. “I woke up this morning and I saw the light. I reflected and I thought about all the memories that we’ve had around here. And yeah, we came up short (Sunday) and all that. But it doesn’t take away from all the things that we’ve accomplished over the years.”

And that was the right opinion to have. During his time with the Bills they went 73-44 in the regular season, won four straight AFC East division crowns, and went to the playoffs six times. Individually, he earned one Pro Bowl invitation and was twice a second-team All-Pro. If the Bills’ Wall of Fame is reinstated when the new stadium is built, and I am still a part of the selection committee, he’ll get my vote for inclusion.

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“I can’t even put into words how amazing this journey has been, just from playing alongside J-Po and us growing as men, the relationships I was able to build,” he said. “I can confidently say that we changed this culture. I mean this place wasn’t winning many games before we got here and we kind of turned that thing around.

“They just needed some fresh faces to come in here and appreciate Buffalo for what it is. And I think (the fans) saw that we made Buffalo our home. We’re not just NFL guys that are collecting a check, getting in and out. They see that we’re actually part of this with them, we feel the losses, we feel the wins, we feel the struggles.

“Yeah, I wasn’t here for those 17 years. Thank God I wasn’t here for those 17 years, but we felt their struggles when people would talk about it. So I think we helped the city of Buffalo and the city of Buffalo helped us. And here we are seven years later and still chugging along. I’ll always be thankful for this place.”

Sal Maiorana can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @salmaiorana. To subscribe to Sal's newsletter, Bills Blast, which comes out each Friday during the offseason, please follow this link:

This could be goodbye for Micah Hyde, one of most important Buffalo Bills players ever (2024)
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