For the third time in four years, the Buffalo Bills have fallen victim to Patrick Mahomes, and his Kansas City Chiefs. It was a thrilling three-point game but was sealed by a missed kick from Bills kicker Tyler Bass. The loss marks the fifth straight year Buffalo has fallen short of the Super Bowl. This one is the mark for some changes in scenery in Orchard Park.
Bills Off-season Cap Situation
Buffalo finds themselves in a tricky situation going into the 2024 off-season. As the team with the second-highest cap hit only behind the New Orleans Saints at $29.2 million over the cap. With a recent playoff loss, the Bills are in a scary spot with this price tag and a few key guys up for new deals. It is not the end of the world in Buffalo, as a few changes can be made to clear up enough cap. With a league-high 44 returning players, the core of the Buffalo Bills will be returning for another year. Meaning there are only a few changes to be made to the roster.
Potential Contract Restructures
Contract restructures are critical to any top team clearing space to bring more firepower. In the Bills’ case, restructuring is necessary for the team to make even minor moves this off-season. There are two significant contracts in Stefon Diggs and Josh Allen that the Bills could restructure to clear up a net cap of $36.1 million ($13.1 million from Diggs and $23 million from Allen). Which almost fixes the cap issue entirely, giving the Bills around $7 million to play with. Two more minor contract restructures that would help Offensive Guard Connor McGovern ($3.2 million) and Defensive Tackle Ed Oliver ($3.9 million). This could bring Buffalo’s cap space into the $15 million range.
These would be the most beneficial and realistic restructures, as these players’ positions on the depth chart are almost guaranteed. They are locked up for somewhat long-term deals, with the shortest being Connor McGovern with 2 years remaining and an optioned year after that.
Potential Player Cuts
After such a disappointing season, changes to the roster must be made. This begins with the player cuts that can free up money on players performing worse than their current value.
To headline this would be Nyhiem Hines, which would clear up $5 million off the cap. Now Nyhiem has two return touchdowns, from the game after Damar Hamlin (cardiac arrest) returned. Despite this emotional and almost fairytale moment, Hines has not lived up to his expensive price tag as a back-of-the-chart running back and leading return man. This is mainly due to an ACL and LCL tear he suffered in an off-the-field Jet Ski incident. Now, is this injury his fault? No. Is it worth paying $5 million to a guy who might never play the same again? It is a question the Bills must consider.
Another option is recent signee Deonta Harty. Originally, Harty was on a decent-sized contract as a return man and receiver. His production could have been better at either position, unlike his old days in New Orleans. Releasing Harty would free up $4.1 million in cap space and not hurt the overall roster. The next option is to release Punter Sam Martin. He had a horrible year for Buffalo with the 5th lowest average amount of yards per punt attempt. This move would free up $1 million, and a punter would be easy to find in the draft.
The last very likely cut would be Siran Neal, who has yet to produce as a defensive back, while others such as Christian Benford have stepped up. Cutting Neal would free up another $2.5 million. One less likely player cut would be Mitch Morse, a very serviceable center for his entire career. He is aging, and the cut would clear up 8.8 million dollars. It is a decent option to look at if cap issues are wrong.
Possible Contract Extensions
To those unaware, contract extensions allow teams to spread out the cap and clear up more space heading into Free Agency when they are to those currently under contract. The expiring deals are kept from getting touched here. The two main extensions that would benefit the team and their cap space would be Taron Johnson, who would clear $4 million, and Dion Dawkins, who would free up $7 million. The money freed up after likely player cuts and contract extensions to approximately $35 million in cap space.
Important Expiring Deals
Buffalo has several expiring deals, but they can be signed on minimum deals other than backups. There seem to be five leading expiring players to keep an eye on. Those players would be wide receiver Gabe Davis, defensive ends Shaq Lawson and AJ Epenesa, and safety Micah Hyde and Taylor Rapp.
Gabe Davis and Micah Hyde headline these names as the big decisions to be made. Gabe Davis is the easiest one. He wants more than the Bills are offering, due to him not already resigning during the year. If another team is willing to pay more, the Bills could let him walk and find another solid number two wideout for cheaper. Micah Hyde is a little more brutal to judge as the aging safety market is already relatively low. A resignation here is in the cards. The Bills will likely go to the draft or further free agency moves to find a replacement for the Bills veteran.
The other names mentioned are worth considering returning if they cannot find more significant deals. Also if they don’t mind fitting in more of a backup slot compared to a full starting position on another roster. AJ Epenesa might be able to find up to $25 million in free agency. The Bills cannot afford to match that for a player that would be second string. Similar situations for the rest of the players here.
Is It Time to Panic? No, Brandon Beane knows what he is doing regarding the salary cap. While certain moves are restricted due to money, options are available, and the Bills returning core can recover from this offseason.