The Buffalo Bills signed a bunch of free agents over the last week. As the numbers have become available, interested folks have been asking how much cap space the team has available to continue signing free agents. The standard answer I’ve been giving is “enough to sign more guys” and that’s largely true.
Following the first wave of signings, general manager Brandon Beane estimated that the Bills were in the “high 30’s or low 40’s” during Thursday’s press conference. Even he didn’t know. Following that, the Bills signed OT LaAdrian Waddle over the weekend, continuing to eat into that cap space.
There is one more complication in determining Buffalo’s salary cap space: We still don’t have a breakdown of Ty Nsekhe’s deal for some reason. We have a report that it’s for two years and up to $14.5 million with $7.7 in guarantees. But that doesn’t tell us the 2019 cap space used or even the cash paid out. When deals are leaked by agents, it’s usually max values of contracts. So that $14.5 million number probably includes playing time incentives. The wording of the original tweet also brings the guaranteed money number into question. Is that the fully guaranteed money or a mix of fully guaranteed and injury guaranteed? It’s not clear.
Going all the way back to the start of March (after the signing of Spencer Long), here are the free-agent contracts with the 2019 cap hit:
- OC Mitch Morse $11.25 million
- WR John Brown $7.5 million
- WR Cole Beasley $6.9 million
- TE Tyler Kroft $4,956,250
- DT Jordan Phillips $4.5 million
- OG Jon Feliciano $3,453,125
- CB Kevin Johnson $2,718,750
- KR Andre Roberts $2.6 million
- RB Frank Gore $2 million
- OT Ty Nsekhe $?,???,???
- OT LaAdrian Waddle $?,???,???
That adds up to roughly $46 million plus the cap hits for Nsekhe and Waddle. We can comfortably estimate that Nsekhe will count somewhere between $6 million and $8 million against the cap in 2019, bringing the total near $53 million. We have no clue what they gave Waddle.
Heading into free agency, the Bills had roughly $76 million in cap space, a number lowered to $67 million of effective cap space when you take into account the rookie contracts.
After subtracting the new contracts that leaves $23-ish million in current cap space. But it’s not that cut-and-dry, because every time one player is signed, another player drops out of the top 51 contracts.
(Teams only count the top 51 players at this point in the calendar, and as a new player is signed, he knocks out another lower-paid player. Right now, Ray-Ray McCloud at $610,000 would be the next guy to come off the books.)
According to Spotrac, the Bills have $36.5 million in salary-cap space not counting Nsekhe and Waddle. Take away Nsekhe’s $7-ish million and another $4 million or so set to be earmarked for the NFL Draft players after they take the place of players in the top 51, and Buffalo has $25.5 million in effective cap space right now minus the Waddle contract.
On Sunday morning, Albert Breer said the official number was $33.13 million, presumably without one or both of Nsekhe or Waddle contracts processed.
Buffalo can also create cap space by releasing Vlad Ducasse ($2 million), Chris Ivory ($2.1 million), and/or Russell Bodine ($2.3 million) this offseason, among others.
Long story short, Buffalo has enough cap space to do more things this offseason and the way they’ve structured the contracts this offseason, they won’t have to worry about a lot of dead cap into 2020 and beyond.