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Buffalo Bills’ salary cap implications of releasing Star Lotulelei

What are the numbers?

Matt Warren is Associate Director of NFL coverage for SB Nation and previously covered the Bills for Buffalo Rumblings for more than a decade.

In an effort to provide Buffalo Bills fans with information, we are tackling the potential release of defensive tackle Star Lotulelei. He has one of the largest contracts on the team and, for the first time since he signed his deal, there is an actual chance the team could release him this offseason.

That would have large consequences on their salary cap in 2020 and beyond, so let’s dive into the numbers.

Lotulelei is due a $500,000 roster bonus on the fifth day of the league year near the end of March. So all of the calculations we are going to make assume they release him before handing out that bonus. To calculate the numbers if he’s a roster cut during training camp or on cutdown day before the regular season, just add $500k to everything.

None of Lotulelei’s contract in 2020 or beyond is guaranteed. The entire $11.65 million in guaranteed salary from the initial contract plus his $13 million signing bonus has been paid out.

The remaining dead cap hit for Lotulelei is $7.8 million. That’s the pro-rated portion of his signing bonus for the final three years of his contract’s signing bonus.

In 2020, Lotulelei is set to make $6.25 million in base salary, $500,000 in his roster bonus, up to $500,000 in per-game roster bonuses, and a $250,000 workout bonus. His cap hit is $10.1 million. If he’s released, Buffalo’s cap hit would go from $10.1 million to $7.8 million, saving $2.3 million. The cash savings would be $7.5 million.

We can’t look at just 2020. In 2021, his contract is very similar; $6.5 million in salary, $1 million in roster bonus, $500,000 in per-game roster bonuses, and a $250,000 roster bonus. His cap hit is $10.85 million. In 2022, it’s identical to his 2021 numbers.

With a dead-cap hit of $5.2 million a year from now, I don’t think the numbers will matter very much to the team’s salary cap management. If they think he’s worth $7.5 million in 2020, they should keep him. If they don’t think he’s worth $7.5 million, they should cut him. That is the only number that should matter at this point.

2020 cap hit: $10.1 million
Salary due: $6.25 million
Roster bonus: $500,000
Workout bonus: $250,000
Per game active bonus: $500,000 ($31,250 per game)

Dead money if cut: $7.8 million
Cap savings if cut: $2.3 million
2020 cash savings if cut: $7.5 million

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