In 2010, the Buffalo Bills spent a smidge over $100M on their player roster. As part of the yet-to-be-signed Collective Bargaining Agreement, it's believed that the salary floor will be raised from 86 percent of the cap - as it was in the last CBA - to 90 percent. Last week, ESPN's John Clayton reported that the 2011 salary cap is anticipated to be $120M, and the new salary floor will be $108M. The Bills will have some significant ground to make up just to meet the minimum requirement for roster salary.
According to Doug Farrar, the Bills' cap number for the 2011 season is $89.5M - and their cash commitment, explained by Farrar as the more important number for the floor, at $73.5M. Therefore, the Bills will need to spend $32.7M on players to get to the minimum cash commitment from the $73.5M mark to $108M.
That's a lot of money. Here's how the Bills can go about closing the gap.
This figure is going to be a drop in the bucket compared to years past. Brian hypothesized that first-round pick Marcell Dareus could sign for five years and $34.15 million earlier this week - but if a rookie salary pool is part of the new CBA (as it was in the old CBA), each team will only have a small amount of money to sign rookies. Last year, the St. Louis Rams had the most money with $7.56M. This will not be the first step when the league year opens, but since we know they have to sign their rookies, I listed it first.
Buffalo can add a significant amount of salary by simply re-signing Posluszny. If they give him a front-loaded deal specifically to reach the salary floor, it would be even better. Posluszny's annual figure looks to be around $5.5M on the open market, and the Bills gave Chris Kelsay a four-year, $20M extension a year ago - so it's not out of the realm of possibility. Posluszny is the clear cream of the crop at inside linebacker, and because of that, it has to be Posluszny - unless they're willing to settle for a lower-tier guy like Akin Ayodele.
It may take as much as $6M a year to keep Florence, but with the state of the cornerback position on the team, the Bills will need to re-sign Florence or one of the other corners on the market. (And no, Nnamdi Asomugha is probably not on their radar.) While Florence is 30 years old, he is a prime candidate for a front-loaded contract. That could also help the Bills quickly overcome that spending deficit.
Sign A Back-Up Quarterback
This is going to happen. The only questions are who and how much. While I don't expect the number to be too big, say $3M as the most expensive we could ever think of seeing, it's still money to consider.
Sign a Tight End
Neither Chan Gailey nor the team he coaches have particularly strong histories at tight end, but when you have to spend money it's the first position I would look to upgrade in free agency. A Kevin Boss or Zach Miller signing would instantly upgrade the position from the despicable 2010 production. It would also help the Bills close the gap on the salary floor. Here's a list of the free agent tight ends for your perusal.
If the Bills make these signings, they will be more than two-thirds of the way between the $73.5M they currently have on their books and the $108M they would need to spend. Remember, these are just rough estimates, but the Bills would likely put more than $22M into these signings alone, leaving them with less than $11M remaining to get to the 2011 salary floor. They could bring back Donte Whitner and sign some depth players like Ayodele, but the more realistic option is what we'll discuss in the next post in this series.