The Buffalo Bills, like any other NFL team, could use as much free money in their budget as possible. I'm often asked to name current Bills players that could be released to free up cap space; it's high time for me to mention those names on the blog. Please note that I'm not offering a report; this is merely my opinion. I've got four names to discuss. You'll find them after the jump.
These players are listed in order from most likely to be released to least likely. None are a slam dunk, but all fall well within the realm of possibility of being cut within the next couple of weeks.
Terrence McGee. As exemplified by their failed pursuit of Stanford Routt, the Bills are looking to shake things up at cornerback, and McGee is the likely fall guy. His salary far outstrips his level of play, and the fact that he's missed 22 games in the last three seasons - and is coming off of knee surgery - greatly exacerbates that problem. Money Saved (Estimate): $3.6 million in 2012; $4.6 million in 2013
Dwan Edwards. The switch to the 4-3 defense has left the Bills with an overabundance of "tweener" defensive linemen - guys who don't really fit at tackle or end in the scheme. Edwards sits atop that list. Signed to play 3-4 end when the Bills switched to that scheme prior to 2010, Edwards has had to very quiet seasons for the Bills, with difference-making plays coming few and far between. With so many bodies on the interior defensive line, Edwards' salary may be a bit too lofty to stick around. Money Saved (Estimate): $3.8 million in 2012; $3.65 million in 2013
Spencer Johnson. Remember what we said about the Bills having a lot of defensive linemen? Even if they cut both Edwards and Johnson, they'd still have five tackles with some experience to rotate in and out of the lineup. Johnson, however, has a more impressive recent sampling of big plays (though not by much), and his salary is slightly more manageable. He is a player that last year's coaching staff felt compelled to have on the field, even if it meant playing him at outside linebacker. Money Saved (Estimate): $3 million in 2012
Shawne Merriman. Everyone knows that Merriman's best days are behind him. They know his long history with injuries, the amount of time he's missed in the last four seasons, and his lack of production even when healthy in that time frame. Here's the thing, though: for as much money as Merriman signed for in January 2011, the Bills would not be saving all of it by cutting him, as three-quarters of his 2012 salary are guaranteed to him whether he's on the team or not. The question the Bills must ask themselves: is a washed up, injury-prone, part-time edge rusher worth $2 million? Money Saved (Estimate): $2 million in 2012 ($1 million of $4 million base salary plus $1 million roster bonus due in March)
If the Bills cut all four of these players, they'd be saving themselves $12.4 million on the books in 2012, and another $8.25 million in 2013. That's obviously a lot of cash.
I do not, however, expect the team to part ways with either Johnson or Merriman. Call it a hunch, but the team seems to like what Johnson brings to the table, and with so much already committed to Merriman, I think they'll keep him through the summer in a last-ditch effort to milk some value out of the contract they gave him. That removes $5 million from that $12.4 million figure.
That leaves Edwards and McGee. I am not a betting man (which I am reminded of seemingly every day in these parts), but if I were, I would not expect to see either of these guys with the team come the start of the 2012 league year. If the Bills do release McGee and Edwards prior to March 13, they'd save around $7.4 million on the books. (At this point in the writing process, I have now turned my sarcasm filter off.) Hey, now: isn't Stevie Johnson asking for $7.5 million? (My sarcasm filter has now been turned back on.)