With the drought forever in the rear-view mirror, let’s take a quick look at the salary cap situation of the 2018 Buffalo Bills. As of today, the team has about $31.4 million in salary cap space, according to Spotrac.com. This number puts them just below the league average of $37.4 million.
What the Bills do with their cap space will greatly depend on decisions made at the quarterback position. As we wrote earlier this month, the Bills can save over $9 million by releasing Tyrod Taylor before March 17 (the third day of the league year). If the team cuts Taylor and doesn’t spend that (or more) amount on another veteran quarterback option, the team will have some flexibility to spend in free agency.
This flexibility is currently reduced by the team’s four picks in the first two rounds, but if a few or all of these picks are packaged together to acquire a higher draft pick, there would be more cap space available for free agents. If the team uses all four high draft picks, they will receive the significant benefit of having those players on cheap contracts for four (2nd round picks) or five years (1st round picks, with the option).
Unlike last year, the Bills only have a few key contributors hitting free agency. Heart and soul of the team, Kyle Williams, will be a free agent. Whether or not Williams wants to play another season appears to be up in the air, but if he does play, you have to assume it will be in a Bills uniform and on a reasonable short-term contract. Middle linebacker Preston Brown hits free agency off another season in which he piled up tackles but often left much to be desired in coverage. As a limited athlete at a non-premium position, an extension for him should not break the bank. Cornerback E.J. Gaines was great when healthy, but was always banged up and missed multiple games. Gaines has battled injuries his whole career, and it will be interesting to see how his market develops. Jordan Matthews was barely on the field in 2017 and did not do much when he was there. It seems unlikely that he returns to the Bills in 2018.
The rest of the team’s free agents are veteran types that the team should be able to re-sign for cheap or replace. Here, we’re talking about Shareece Wright, Ramon Humber, Mike Tolbert, Brandon Tate, Cedric Thornton, Leonard Johnson, Colt Anderson, and players of that level. Those players should all sign for close to the veteran minimum.
With only Williams and Gaines appearing to require big (or even middle) money contracts, the Bills should be able to use free agency to plug holes or upgrade the roster. Where, if, and how they will approach this is anyone’s guess, but I will refuse to speculate as to what Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott will do.
If they do want to spend aggressively, the Bills can also clear another solid chunk of money if they trade or release left tackle Cordy Glenn. Either a trade or release would create significant dead money (between $9.6 and $11.6 million, depending on timing), but Beane and McDermott have already shown that they laugh in the face of dead money by trading Sammy Watkins and Marcell Dareus. Either a trade or release would clear another $9.25 million. Glenn has $8 million in guaranteed money in 2018, becoming guaranteed at the beginning of the league year, but the vast majority of that money would presumably be offset by salary paid by a new team if cut. Based on this, it is safe to assume the Bills would save the vast majority of his $9.25 million salary. Glenn also has a $2 million roster bonus due the day before the league year, which would be lost if he was not cut prior to that date.
Speaking of dead money, the team currently leads the league with $18.6 million in 2018 salary cap tied to players no longer on the roster ($14.2 million is Dareus). This number would only go up with the probable release of Taylor and any move regarding Glenn. Oh well, the drought is over.