As it stands right now, the Buffalo Bills won’t receive any compensatory picks for the loss of Stephon Gilmore despite his massive contract. This is because the formula for comp picks begins with a net loss of free agents. Since Buffalo signed more free agents than they lost, they won’t receive any picks.
As ESPN’s Mike Rodak pointed out last month, that doesn’t have to remain the case moving forward. Good teams manipulate the compensatory pick system and the Bills under new general manager Brandon Beane can do the same thing over the coming weeks to earn a projected third round pick for the loss of Gilmore and even a projected fourth round pick for Robert Woods, if they choose. A third round pick is certainly nothing to sneeze at and would be worth it.
According to OverTheCap.com, Buffalo signed seven free agents in the qualifying window and lost five. In order to get that Gilmore pick, they need a new loss so they would have to rid themselves of three of those signings by the compensatory cutoff, assumed to be in Week 10 because the NFL has never shared the compensatory formula.
The pros of cutting three players are clear; they would get a third round pick. Cut another player to get an additional fourth rounder. You also don’t have to pay those guys and can save money on the cap.
The cons are also clear; there is upfront money you’ve already paid these recently-signed players that will go to waste and be accelerated onto the salary cap. There is also the risk of looking foolish by going back on a signing you just made.
Let’s take a look at the players Buffalo would have to release to get there and power rank them in terms of likelihood. We have included the dead cap hit that would be associated with the release.
1. OL Vlad Ducasse ($250,000 dead money)
Ducasse primarily plays a position where the Bills have a lot of depth. He’s not going to play ahead of Eric Wood, Richie Incognito, or Ryan Groy and he’s behind John Miller on the interior. If they were inclined to move him outside, he would be fourth on the tackle depth chart, too. Are the Bills going to keep a seven-year veteran as their eight linemen or use it on a developmental prospect?
2. DE Ryan Davis ($100,000 dead money)
While the Bills have little depth at defensive end, it wouldn’t be hard to let go of Davis and find a similar player in order for them to get the third rounder or even re-sign Davis at a later date. This move could be made just for performance, too.
3. WR Andre Holmes ($2.45 million dead money)
Despite the big dead money hit, Holmes could see himself on the chopping block. Buffalo has salary cap space and if he is the difference between an extra third rounder or not, it would be worth pulling the trigger, especially if Holmes finds himself marred at the fourth or fifth receiver spot.
4. K Steven Hauschka ($4 million dead money)
Here is the cut off. Buffalo would need to release four of these guys to get the comp pick for Gilmore. Undrafted free agent Austin Rehkow is the only other kicker on the roster, but he’s been getting plenty of offseason reps and looked good according to media in attendance at OTAs. They could also sign a kicker released during the preseason for a week. It would be a significant cap hit, but it could also be possible to re-sign Hauschka after a week in the middle of the season. Think about Buffalo releasing him over their bye week to bring him back the following week just to game the system. If accelerating his cap hit and opening him up to signing with other teams would be the only problem, it’s a very intriguing hypothetical.
5. FB Patrick DiMarco ($3.3 million dead money)
DiMarco has been running with the first team and been very involved in Rick Dennison’s passing game to this point in the offseason. But Buffalo also has Mike Tolbert who is cheaper and not stopping them from adding a draft pick. DiMarco plays a position, like Hasuchka, that doesn’t need a ton of depth so if he is released, it’s less likely another team will sign him to stash him on the roster. Heck, Buffalo released their fullback during final cuts last year and was able to re-sign him a week later.
6. S Jordan Poyer ($5 million dead money)
The Bills have zero depth at safety. It would be shocking to see them release Poyer, who is slotted in as a starter.
7. DB Micah Hyde ($10.3 million dead money)
Huge dead money. Versatility at positions of great need. Not happening.