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If I was GM: Buffalo Bills free agency plan

Here’s what I would do in free agency as the Bills general manager.

NFL free agency is upon us, and the Buffalo Bills have plenty of work to do at the outset of the offseason to start building their team for the 2017 campaign. Doug Whaley is the Bills general manager but for the sake of this article, let’s assume I took over the reigns of Buffalo’s personnel department.

This is what I’d do as the Bills GM during this free-agency period.

Pick up Tyrod Taylor’s option:

We’ve talked about this ad nauseam, so I’ll be brief. Tyrod will represent a $15.9 million cap hit in 2017.

After releasing Dan Carpenter, Nickell Robey-Coleman, Garrison Sanborn, Gerald Christian, and Phillip Thomas on Monday, the Bills have $24.2 million in cap space, per OverTheCap, which includes Tyrod’s $15.9 million cap hit in 2017. Right now, Buffalo has $68 million in cap space for 2018, an important fact to remember when considering how the Bills could structure contracts this year.

Let’s use the $24.2 million in 2017 cap space as a starting point for the Bills’ offseason:

Contract restructures:

OT Cordy Glenn
Savings: $7.5 million

DT Marcell Dareus
Savings: $7.2 million

Total savings: $14.7 million

We already outlined the impact of these possible restructures, which would be logical. Glenn is one of the most reliable players on Buffalo’s roster and will only be 28 on September 18. His contract runs through 2020, and this restructure makes it more likely he stays on the team until then. Glenn isn’t going anywhere. There’s obviously more risk with Dareus, yet he’s still 26 — turns 27 on March 13 — and is an exquisite fit in Sean McDermott’s one-gap defensive front. This would add some potential dead cap later on in the deal, but in a few years, the salary cap will be near $200 million.

Updated cap space: $38.9 million


S Corey Graham
Savings: $2.6 million

Currently, the veteran safety is set to represent a $5.6 million cap hit in 2017. While he’s been a reliable box defender for the Bills over the past few season, he’s somewhat overpaid as a one-dimensional player. In this scenario, Graham’s salary and bonuses would drop from $3.2 million in 2017 to $1.4 million, which would decrease his cap hit to $3 million.

Updated cap space: $41.5 million


RB Mike Gillislee:
Contract details: 3 years, $12 million
2017 cap hit: $2 million

This is mostly based on Tom Mitchell’s contract projection for Gillislee, which is slightly higher than the deal Bilal Powell signed last offseason. The Jets running back’s contract was structured with cap hits of $860,000, $4.6 million, and $4.8 million. Gillislee’s contract would be mostly backloaded too, as he’ll likely see more carries in 2018 and 2019 when keeping LeSean McCoy fresh will be more vital. Cap hits would be $2 million, $5 million, and $5 million.

LB Zach Brown
Contract details: 3 years, $18 million
2017 cap hit: $4 million

This contract would put Brown above recent contracts signed by similarly-aged and comparably productive linebackers Wesley Woodyard and Rey Mauluga. Inflation, his 2016 production — especially early in the season — and his three-down capability would be the main reasons Brown’s deal would exceed his contemporaries. By giving him a three-year contract, Brown could hit free agency again as a 30-year-old linebacker. Cap hits would be $4 million, $7 million, and $7 million.

S Robert Blanton
Contract details: 1 year, $860,000
2017 cap hit: $800,000

This is the (likely) veteran minimum for a player with six years of experience. Blanton can play special teams and work inside the box in McDermott’s defense as a rotational depth safety. Blanton played with Leslie Frazier in Minnesota in 2012 and 2013.

OL Ryan Groy
Contract details: 2 years, $2 million
2017 cap hit: $1 million

Groy wasn’t able to win a starting job in camp but proved to be an important insurance policy on the offensive line when he filled in for the injured Eric Wood at center. The Bills have backup interior linemen Patrick Lewis under contract in 2017, which may lead one to believe a Groy re-signing is redundant. However, at 6’5” and 320 pounds, the 26-year-old could technically be slotted at any of the offensive line positions.

Total 2017 cap used on re-signings: $7.8 million
Updated cap space: $33.7 million

Free-Agent Signings:

WR Kendall Wright
Contract details: 4 years, $22 million
2017 cap hit: $4 million

The parameters of this deal would be based on the four-year, $24 million contract Travis Benjamin signed in 2016 with the Chargers. Benjamin’s 68-catch, 966-yard, 5-TD campaign in 2015 was integral to him being able to strike it that rich in free agency. And although he was more of a one-hit wonder than Wright, the former Titans first-round pick is a year older than Benjamin was when he hit free agency, hasn’t appeared in 16 games since 2013, and had 29 receptions, 416 yards, and three scores in 2016. Cap hits would be $4 million, $7 million, $6 million, and $5 million.

S Jairus Byrd
Contract details: 2 years, $7.5 million
2017 cap hit: $3 million

After leading the league with eight interceptions as a 32-year-old safety in 2015, Reggie Nelson signed a two-year, $8.5 million deal with the Raiders in 2016. Leading into that deal, the veteran safety had missed three games in four years. Byrd, now 30, rebounded from a bad start in New Orleans with an 82-tackle, two-interception season last year. Byrd would be an ideal fit as a free safety presence in McDermott’s defense and would serve as a mentor to a young safety Buffalo could add in the draft. Byrd’s dad, Gil, is the Bills defensive backs coach. Cap hits would be $3 million and $4.5 million.

CB Alterraun Verner
Contract details: 1 year, $2 million
2017 cap hit: $2 million

Verner spent two years with Bills defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier in Tampa Bay. While didn’t live up to the four-year, $26.5 million deal he signed with the Buccaneers in 2014, the former Titans standout did have 75 tackles, nine passes defended and two interceptions that year. He was relegated to a backup role and played just 241 snaps in 2016, thereby lowering his asking price.

DE Cornelius Washington
Contract details: 2 years, $3 million
2017 cap hit: $1 million

Washington was a combine star in 2013 then was drafted in the sixth round by the Bears. Appearing in 15 games a season ago, the 6’4”, 265 pounder had 20 tackles and two sacks on 364 snaps. He has ideal 4-3 DE size and length to play behind Shaq Lawson and/or Jerry Hughes. Buffalo needs defensive end depth. Cap hits would be $1 million and $2 million.

WR Brian Quick
Contract details: 2 years, $8 million
2017 cap hit: $4 million

Quick, a former second-round selection, is 6’3” and 215 pounds and fresh off a 41-catch, 564-yard, 3-TD campaign in 2016. The Appalachian State alum is a former second-round pick that never really materialized into a consistent producer with the Rams. He’s battled injuries too but did appear in all 16 games a season ago. There’s a connection here to Buffalo’s tight end coach Rob Boras. He spent 2016 in Los Angeles with Quick, who’ll be 28 in June. Cap hits would be $4 million both seasons.

CB Teddy Williams
Contract details: 1 year, $1 million
2017 cap hit: $1 million

Williams is a 6’1”, 210-pound cornerback who spent time in Carolina in 2015 and 2016. While mostly a special teamer, he fits McDermott’s profile of long cornerback and would come cheaply. He’ll be 29 in July.

DT Tyrunn Walker
Contract details: 2 years, $4 million
2017 cap hit: $1 million

Once a promising, pass-rushing sleeper at defensive tackle, Walker spent the past two seasons with the Lions, falling short of expectations, failing to record a sack in 20 games. He was injured on a cheap shot after only four contests in 2015 but played in all 16 games a year ago. At 6’3” and 295 pounds, Walker’s specialty is getting upfield as a pass-rusher, something McDermott will love. He’ll be 27 later in March. Cap hits would be $1 million and $3 million.

OL Tom Compton
Contract details: 1 year, $1 million
2017 cap hit: $1 million

Compton would provide a similar to what Groy would bring to the field in 2017. While Groy is more of a backup center or guard, Compton, 28 in May, is more of an insurance guy at guard or right tackle. He played well for the injured Ryan Schraeder in the Super Bowl. Compton has experience in two zone-running attacks, in Washington and Atlanta.

OLB John Simon
Contract details: 3 years, $13 million
2017 cap hit: $3 million

Simon slowly but surely developed in Houston’s defense as an well-rounded edge-defender who flashed when asked to get after the quarterback and became stout against the run. He’ll be 26 when the season begins and, though slightly smaller, he can play the “Mario Addison, blitzing linebacker / defensive end” hybrid position in McDermott’s defense. Cap hits would be $3 million, $5 million, and $5 million.

FB Patrick DiMarco
Contract details: 2 years, $4.5 million
2017 cap hit: $2 million

DiMarco was quietly an integral facet of the Falcons’ superb rushing attack in 2016, emerging as one of the NFL’s best lead-blockers. He’ll be 28 in April and has a similar style to that of Baltimore’s Kyle Juszczyk — whom Buffalo’s offensive coordinator Rick Dennison worked with in 2014 — but will come at a lower price. A season ago, Dennison saw the benefit of a good lead-blocking fullback in Denver with Andy Janovich. DiMarco’s familiarity in a zone-blocking scheme makes him a perfect fit with the Bills. Cap hits would be $2 million and $2.5 million.

2017 cap used on outside free-agent signings: $22 million
Updated cap space: $ 11.7 million

The Bills are projected to leave at around $6.3 million for their 2017 draft class, leaving Buffalo would have $5.4 million in available cap for any free-agent acquisition that would need to be added after injuries in training camp. After that, any cap space can be carried over to 2018. The Bills carried over $2 million in cap room from 2016 to 2017.


Buffalo has quite a few holes to fill, mostly at depth positions. McDermott comes from the Panthers regime that prioritized defensive-front players, which is why Simon, Washington, and Walker were added to a thin backup defensive line group. The secondary doesn’t have much depth at all, and although this is the best draft class of defensive backs in a long time, veterans are needed, hence the signings of Byrd, Verner, and Williams. With Sammy Watkins, Walt Powell, Marcus Easley, and Kolby Listenebee the only receivers currently under contract for 2017, the Bills needs to add two adequate receivers in free agency. Committing to Tyrod means it’s logical to give him a more competent wideout group. Wright and Quick aren’t superstars but have talent, have shown they can be good complementary receivers and would offer Buffalo two different types of pass-catchers. Compton is a decent and cheap veteran swing tackle option. After witnessing the wide-receiving group dwindle down to essentially nothing in 2016, Buffalo would add two serviceable players at that spot but those deals wouldn’t preclude them from drafting a wideout early. DiMarco may seem like a novelty addition, but he’d prove to be valuable piece of the Bills offense.