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LeSean McCoy contract: are the Buffalo Bills stuck?

Can the Bills keep McCoy and sign the other contracts they need?

Matt Warren is Associate Director of NFL coverage for SB Nation and previously covered the Bills for Buffalo Rumblings for more than a decade.

The Buffalo Bills gave LeSean McCoy a hefty extension when they traded for the running back last offseason, presumably to keep him happy after being traded away from the only state he’s ever called home. That contract is seen by some as one of the worst contracts in the league, but it’s really not that bad if the team wants to get out of it in 2017.

“Would it be reasonable for Buffalo to cut McCoy at the end of 2016 and reallocate said money in order to extend Gilmore beyond next season?”

This question popped up in my email this week. Reader Michael Alongi clarified that he expects Karlos Williams to be back to what he was last year and that one of the other running backs on the roster proves his worth, as well.

McCoy is scheduled to have a cap hit north of $8.5 million in each season over the rest of his contract. With the running back position being what it is today, Alongi wonders if the Bills might be able to find a “cheaper replacement.” Of course they can find someone cheaper.

If Buffalo cuts McCoy a year from now, they only save about $1 million on their 2017 salary cap thanks to money already paid in signing bonus. What they realistically save is McCoy’s $6 million in actual money they would have to pay him in 2017 in addition to the $12 million over the final two seasons in 2018 and 2019.

One other thing to note about McCoy’s contract is it doesn’t become an easier pill to swallow in 2018. He’s still owed a big chunk of actual money and he still has a massive cap hit and it still doesn’t save them a ton of money on the cap to release him. If they are on the fence, it doesn’t make a ton of sense to keep him on board at that price knowing it won’t get easier to release him the following offseason.

It’s not just about money in this case, it’s about value. McCoy’s contract is built on him carrying the load, something he wasn’t able to do over the course of 16 games a year ago. If he can come back in 2016 and do what he did in Philadelphia in 2013 or even 2014, the Bills can realistically keep McCoy while still signing Gilmore.

To answer Michael’s question, it would certainly be reasonable for the Bills to release McCoy and reallocate the money to Gilmore, Tyrod Taylor, and the other contracts they’ll need to sign. If McCoy returns to form, though, they can realistically keep all of them with some creative cap work.