The Buffalo Bills had the 12th-highest payroll in the NFL in 2009 (ahead of such teams as the Ravens, Eagles, Colts, Vikings, Patriots, Bengals and Cowboys), with a shade under $112M spent on players. Obviously, payroll doesn't correlate to success.
The Bills did, however, get some great value out of players this year. Over half the Bills' roster, 36 players, had a salary cap value of less than $1 million in 2009, and 24 of them made less than $500K. Cap value is the prorated portion of the player's signing bonus (the total bonus divided by the number of years) plus the base salary and any bonuses earned by that player in the fiscal year (such as workout or roster bonuses).
Let me just say that developing this list was very difficult due to the list of players who lost major time to injury.
10. Bryan Scott ($1,100,000) Scott could have been much higher on the list had he been able to stay healthy. Even so, he started nine games this year, tallying 81 tackles, a crisp nine per game. He also recorded two sacks and an interception while putting the team first, transitioning from safety to linebacker before a concussion forced him out of the lineup.
9. Jonathan Scott ($465,590) Started eight unspectacular games for the Bills at both tackle spots. His salary reflects his value on the roster, but Jonathan Scott performed admirably for less than $500K. Scott is a borderline NFL OL, much less a starter, but the starts he made at OT were invaluable for an offensive line in shambles.
8. Demetrius Bell ($404,220) Started eight games this year at left tackle, but injuries and penalties dogged the second-year lineman from the start. It was Bell's first action in an NFL uniform. His $400K salary is more than fair for the play the Bills garnered, and could be a steal if Bell finds a way to consistently contribute.
7. Eric Wood ($1,235,000) As a late first-round pick, Wood made good money for a rookie, but not an astronomically high number. He started 10 games before the lower portion of his leg was absolutely shattered on a play in Jacksonville. He was solid and consistent, and should be a stalwart of the Bills' roster for years to come provided his leg heals correctly. To put it in comparison, Jason Peters' cap value ($12.7M) was ten times Wood's value this year.
6. Jamon Meredith ($273,529) Played in eight games this year, starting four, including three of the Bills' six wins. He wasn't even on the team until the end of September, when he was signed off Green Bay's practice squad, yet did a good job at both right and left tackle for being such a raw prospect. His minuscule price tag pushes him ahead of Wood on the list.
5. George Wilson ($1,015,590) Buffalo's best-dressed player was also a special teams captain and started 12 games, with injuries to safeties and linebackers changing the makeup of the defensive backfield. He tallied four interceptions and 103 tackles, both numbers good enough for second on the team.
4. Paul Posluszny ($1,067,000) Despite missing four games with a broken arm, Paul Posluszny led the Bills in tackles this year with 110 (23rd in the league). He also had three interceptions, three forced fumbles, and defended nine passes while calling the plays for the defense.
3. Fred Jackson ($1,428,770) Jackson was the 49th-highest paid running back in the NFL this year. All he did was lead the league in all-purpose yardage with over 2,500 yards combined rushing, receiving, and returning - the fourth-highest total in league history. Yeah, I'd say he's underpaid.
2. Jairus Byrd ($740,000) Jairus Byrd comes in second, and I know I'm going to catch hell for this. He was the Bills' lone Pro Bowl selection, tied for the league lead in interceptions, and had a large part in two wins. He also only played in 14 games, starting 11, and recorded 33 tackles. You can't top the list from the training room!
1. Andy Levitre ($660,000) Levitre started all 16 games as a rookie at left guard, and even had to moonlight at left tackle on occasion. He helped Jackson break the 1,000-yard mark, and allowed one sack in the first two months of the season according to NFL Fanhouse. And he caught a really big fish.