In August of 2017, the Buffalo Bills swung a blockbuster trade with the Los Angeles Rams, sending wide receiver Sammy Watkins to the West Coast while receiving a second round pick in the 2018 NFL Draft in return. Along with that draft pick came a cornerback, E.J. Gaines, who was coming off an injury-plagued down year.
While the Bills immediately said that Gaines would start for the team in 2017, most could not have predicted the level of success he had. The Bills’ secondary was easily the most successful positional group on the roster, and Gaines was just one of four big additions who made that so. If not for injuries, our sixth player in terms of salary cap value would have been much higher on this list.
2017 Cap Hit (per Spotrac): 1,797,000 (1.16% of 2017 Cap)
2017 Cap Hit Rank by Position: 71st among cornerbacks
2017 Vital Stats: 11 games played, 11 starts, 654 defensive snaps (59.03% of team total), 48 solo tackles, 11 combined tackles, 59 total tackles (NFL leader), 9 pass breakups, 1 interception, 3 fumbles forced
As far as cap values go, when Gaines was on the field for the Bills, it’s difficult to find someone who performed significantly better. The Bills were 8-3 in the regular season when Gaines played, and they were 1-4 in games where he didn’t play. While a whole host of factors obviously goes into that, the team clearly benefited from his presence.
Pro Football Focus agrees that Gaines is one of the league’s best values, and they also considered him one of the league’s best corners last season. He earned a grade of 86.6, or “high quality,” for his play last season. PFF ranked Gaines as the league’s 13th-best corner.
The only reason Gaines doesn’t rank higher on this list is that the team was unable to take advantage of his abilities far too often due to Gaines’s inability to stay healthy. Of the 11 games he started, he left multiple contests early due to injury. His lack of availability directly contributed to a weaker pass defense, as Buffalo was forced to start Shareece Wright in his absence when Gaines was hurt.
Overall, however, Gaines’s low salary cap hit and his excellent production when on the field earns him high marks for his 2017 campaign. Gaines signed with the Cleveland Browns this offseason.
Best 2017 Bills salary cap values
10. QB Tyrod Taylor (article)
9. LB Preston Brown (article)
8. LT Dion Dawkins (article)
7. LB Matt Milano (article)
6. CB E.J. Gaines (article)
5. RB LeSean McCoy (article)
4. OG Richie Incognito (article)
3. FS Micah Hyde (article)
2. SS Jordan Poyer (article)
1. CB Tre’Davious White (article)