There has been a decent amount of chatter in the media lately about the current state of contract talks between the Buffalo Bills and top cornerback Stephon Gilmore. The 25-year-old is in the fifth and final season of his rookie contract, one that will pay him just north of $11 million this season.
It would seem the team isn't willing to raise that number much higher for future seasons.
The Buffalo News' Vic Carucci wrote this morning that he's been told "the Bills have no intention of giving Gilmore a contract that will come close to the five-year, $75-million deal [Josh] Norman received to join the Washington Redskins as a free agent." Carucci goes on to write, "The Bills, as I understand it, would be willing to put him in the range of about $12.5 million, maybe $13 million, per year. But they aren't going to $15 million." That's slightly under the $13.4 million average value we projected after the Norman deal was announced, but it's certainly in the ballpark.
There are plenty of reasons why the Bills won't break the bank on Gilmore. First and foremost, there isn't much of a bank left to break. According to Spotrac, the Bills have just over $134 million in cap currently committed to 2017. That number is going to go down as players are cut, but unless Kyle Williams decides to call it quits after this season, thereby taking his $8.3 million hit off the books, most of the players at the top of the list are likely going to be sticking around.
Of course, the cap is going to rise. The league-wide cap this year is $155,270,000 with variation depending on how much space a team had left over from the previous season. The Bills are going to have a decent chunk of change, to be sure, but there are some key pending free agents that need to be addressed along with Gilmore, none bigger than incumbent starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor. His cap hit is an astonishingly low $3.1 million this season. While it's hard to say exactly what kind of contract he'll ultimately receive, if any, it's important to note that there are 16 quarterbacks who have an average annual value of $18 million or more. Also, since he's not under contract beyond 2016, he's not included in that $134 million for next season. If the team decides he should be, that number is going to jump by at least $20 million.
There's also the receiver position to consider. Robert Woods is another pending free agent, and the wide-open race for the third receiver position doesn't inspire confidence that any of them could step up to the number two position if Woods were to leave. A look at the rising cost of number two receivers in free agency implies that, whether it's Woods or a free agent pickup, the second receiver position is going to be a costly hole to fill.
Finally, it's critical to realize that the Bills had one of the best cornerback duos in the league last season, if not the top pair overall. If Gilmore were to walk in free agency, Ronald Darby seems more than capable of taking over his spot based on his rookie performance. Two shutdown cornerbacks is a luxury most teams aren't willing to pay for, and it wouldn't be surprising if Darby makes the front office feel comfortable enough to entrust him with the top role on a regular basis in the future.
There are plenty of variables, though, that could change things between now and next March. Injuries tend to crop up, especially when it comes to Gilmore, whose tackling style leaves him open to the injuries that have prevented him from playing a full 16-game slate since his rookie year. On the other side, though, an injury to Darby, or a reversion to his 2015 preseason form, would give Gilmore quite a bit of leverage and possibly force the front office to reconsider its stance. Some national recognition would also help Gilmore's cause, such as a Pro Bowl nod or an All-Pro designation. He has yet to earn either.
It's becoming increasingly likely that Gilmore will play out his rookie contract, although a midseason extension isn't out of the question. We must also consider Taylor and Darby. If both sides want the deal to happen, it's likely that they'll be able to come to an agreement. However, if one side wants out (which may be the case), Gilmore is all but gone. Until then, he'll just keep showing up to play. You can be sure of that.