clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

What will it cost the Buffalo Bills to retain free agent cornerback E.J. Gaines?

He’s good when he’s on the field.

E.J. Gaines came to Buffalo as part of the Sammy Watkins trade. He had been drafted by the St. Louis Rams in the sixth round, pick 188 overall in the 2014 NFL Draft. As Buffalo’s defense was substantially better with Gaines than it was when he missed time due to injury, he figures to be a priority target for the Bills to lock up before he leaves for greener pa$ture$.

The question becomes what sort of contract Gaines can get on the open market and whether or not the Bills want to match it. Working in Buffalo’s favor is Gaines’ extensive injury history. He hasn’t played in 16 games in his career, missing one in 2014, all 16 in 2015, five in 2016, and five in 2017. All told, he has missed 27 games over his four-year career which may spook teams with cap space to burn. Also, Gaines isn’t a man-to-man corner, which also will diminish his value to some NFL teams. All of that said, Gaines is going to get substantially more per year than he made in his first entire NFL contract.

Previous contract

His rookie deal was a 4 year pact that has paid him just over $3.1 million dollars after escalators and incentives. Nearly $1.8 million came in his lone year in Buffalo and he is now a free agent.

2014 cap: $446,918
2015 cap: $259,918
2016 cap: $626,918
2017 cap: $1.797 million


Bills fans were surprised when less-than-elite Stephon Gilmore got a contract that averaged $13 million per season. However, it is worth noting that seven other cornerbacks made more than Gilmore. Trumaine Johnson led the way in 2017 with over $16.7 million. Josh Normal ($15 million), Xavier Rhodes ($14 million), Patrick Peterson ($14 million), Richard Sherman ($14 million), Desmond Trufant ($13.7 million), and A.J. Bouye ($13.5 million) were the top CB earners. They are not all man-to-man coverage CBs. Still, they have proven to be more durable than Gaines.

The next nine CBs made between $9 million per season and $13 million. While those players also have been more durable than Gaines, it would seem reasonable that he will get offers in that ballpark. Part of that stems from the majority of his injuries being fairly short-term and part of that is due to his solid play against the run. Cornerbacks who can tackle will always be in demand and demand drive prices.

Salary Cap Considerations

Buffalo has less than $21 million in available cap space for 2018 factoring in projected rookie contracts, squeezing their ability to devote big money to free agents. Teams may also want to give playing time or games played incentives to Gaines based on his injury history, but if I was his agent, that’s the first thing on which I would pit teams against each other.

Contract Projection

Spotrac projects a four-year, $37.5 million deal for Gaines averaging $9.3 million per season while Over The Cap is much more conservative, at roughly $25 million for four years.

Four years, $35 million with $12 million guaranteed including $6 million signing bonus and $1 million available in incentives


Salary: $4 million (guaranteed)
Pro-rated bonus money: $1.5 million
Per-game played bonus: $500,000 ($343,750k LTBE*)
Cap hit: $5.85 million


Salary: $5 million
Roster bonus: $2 million (guaranteed)
Per-game played bonus: $500,000
Pro-rated bonus money: $1.5 million
Cap hit: $8.5 million plus LTBE incentive based on 2018 games played


Salary: $6 million salary
Roster bonus: $3 million
Pro-rated bonus money: $1.5 million
Cap hit: $10.5 million


Salary: $9 million
Pro-rated bonus money: $1.5 million
Cap hit: $10.5 million

* “Likely To Be Earned” incentives count against the salary cap in the year they are to be earned but if they are not reached are subtracted from the following year’s cap hit. Gaines played in 11 games in 2017 so 11 game bonuses from that $500,000 counts on the cap as Likely To Be Earned while five game bonuses count as Not Likely To Be Earned. If he earns them, they are added to the following year’s cap number.

  • Pros for Gaines: Guaranteed roster bonus likely means at least two years of contract will be paid, in a system he can excel, Year 3 roster bonus allows him to cash in again at age 27 in Bills release him
  • Pros for Bills: low cap hit in first year, incentive-laden deal means they won’t pay as much if Gaines can’t stay on the field, ability to get out after two years and pay less than $18 million


Would you sign E.J. Gaines to a four-year, $35 million contract with incentives for games played?

This poll is closed

  • 66%
    (501 votes)
  • 33%
    (253 votes)
754 votes total Vote Now