McCray is a former undrafted free agent out of Florida who signed with the Denver Broncos in 2014. He played sparingly for Denver, notching 12 tackles and 1.5 sacks in 24 games over the course of the last two seasons. He got into three playoff games, though he didn’t make any tackles, on the way to earning a Super Bowl ring last winter.
The Broncos let him go, and he signed with the Packers in April, but Green Bay dealt him to Buffalo as part of their effort to get down to the 75-man roster limit.
McCray performed solidly for the Packers in both training camp and preseason games, but for most teams, he would probably be best suited for a backup and special teams role.
The Bills are not in a situation like most teams, however, as they are in desperate need of linebacker help after being hit by a number of injuries, including to their top two picks in the 2016 draft, Shaq Lawson and Reggie Ragland. A first-round pick, Lawson is out indefinitely with a shoulder injury. Second-rounder Ragland is out for all of 2016 after tearing the ACL in his left knee.
In addition to those players who were expected to be key contributors, IK Enemkpali has also been lost for the season with a knee injury, and Manny Lawson has been sidelined as he battles a pectoral injury.
All of the injuries have left the Bills with a couple of undrafted rookies – Bryson Albright and Eric Striker – battling for roster spots. In addition to dealing for McCray, the Bills also added some veteran talent at the position, signing free agents Brandon Spikes, David Hawthorne and Kroy Biermann.
These injuries won’t help a Bills defense that ranked in the middle of the pack (15th overall) last season. They were 17th in the NFL in rushing yards allowed, 20th in passing yards allowed and gave up the ninth most passing touchdowns (30).
It’s hard to stop the opponent if you can’t get pressure on the quarterback, and the Bills managed only 21 sacks in the 2015 season, besting only the Atlanta Falcons’ 19.
That being said, the Bills’ first-unit defense has been solid this preseason despite all the injuries, even drawing the attention of Sports Illustrated’s Peter King, who wrote: “Buffalo, with several front-liners hurt, shut out the opposition (Indy, Giants, Washington) for the first 11 possessions of first unit-versus-first unit this summer, until Kirk Cousins strafed the Bills late in the first half Friday night.”
While the meaning of those results could be debated – the Colts, Giants and Redskins were likely not revealing anything too fancy scheme-wise in those games – it does suggest that the Bills at least won’t be completely awful.
Either way, the addition of McCray at least provides coach Rex Ryan with another option as he tries to cobble a linebacking corp together until some of these injured players – namely Shaq Lawson – return to action.