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Contract projection: Buffalo Bills defensive end Trent Murphy

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Most folks would agree he’s overpaid, but he’s a good player, too, on the right deal.

The Buffalo Bills added defensive end Trent Murphy a couple years ago on a somewhat surprising deal averaging $7.5 million. Since then, while he’s been a solid player for the defense, he’s under-performed the expectations of that contract.

While we’ve discussed the possibility of releasing Murphy, there is another option to keep him in town: a contract extension.

Hear me out.

The Bills have a 31-year-old Jerry Hughes and a 29-year-old Murphy coming back next season in addition to a bunch of young guys. Even if they are able to re-sign Shaq Lawson, they’ll need a player who can play close to 50% of the team’s snaps at defensive end, especially now following the retirement of Lorenzo Alexander, who pitched in some snaps at defensive end and defensive tackle to get after the QB.

A moderate extension for Murphy could help bridge the team until one of the young guys is ready and could spread out his 2020 cap hit among a couple years. It would act as a bit of a contract restructure as much as anything else.

With this deal, the Bills would tack on one year on the back of the deal while turning part of Murphy’s 2020 salary into a signing bonus. It would kick the cap hit down the road while also guaranteeing Murphy would stay in 2020. That would appeal to Murphy, since he’d get paid, and the Bills, who would retain a solid contributor.

Murphy is scheduled to make $6.425 million in salary in 2020 as part of his $9.775 million cap hit. If you convert the upcoming $500,000 and $2.5 million of his salary into a signing bonus, it would push $1.5 million in used cap space to 2021. Then tack on an extra year at a reasonable salary and you’ve got a contract extension that lowers the burden of 2020.

In theory, you could tack on a huge year three and year four on the deal to make it look better, too. Most or all of that money would be salary that wouldn’t ever reach Murphy’s wallet, and the longer contract would also lower the annual hit for Murphy’s signing bonus. But that’s probably not necessary here.

Note: I didn't give Murphy a pay decrease as the Bills did with Star Lotulelei, but it certainly is something they could do along with this contract extension/restructure. Without knowing if he would be interested, it's hard to project a guy willingly taking a pay cut. I would absolutely guarantee his 2020 salary if he took a ~$2 million pay cut like we saw from Lotulelei.

What it does for Murphy

It guarantees he’ll be on the team in 2020 and makes it possible for him to stay on the team at a legitimate mid-tier DE salary in 2021. This contract adds one year at up to $7.2 million for Murphy, who will be 30 when the extension takes effect.

What it does for the Bills

It allows them to keep a good player at a much better cap number in 2019. His cap number doesn’t change; if you add the 2020 cap hit to the 2021 dead money, it’s still $9.775 million. While the number doesn’t really change, it adds the possibility that they can keep him in 2021 when he could still be productive and only pay him $7 million in new money. This contract is built on the 2021 season, because if they don’t think he’s good enough for $7 million in 2020, he won’t be good enough for the $7 million in 2021.


2020

Old pro-rated signing bonus: $1.75 million
New pro-rated signing bonus: $1.5 million (was roster bonus of $500,000)
Workout bonus: $100,000
Base salary: $3.925 million (was $6.425 million)
Sack incentive: $500,000 (based on 2019 sack numbers)
Per-game-active bonus: $500,000 ($31,250 per game)

Cap hit: $8.275 million

2021

Pro-rated signing bonus: $1.5 million
Roster bonus: $1 million
Workout bonus: $100,000
Base salary: $5.1 million
Per-game-active bonus: $500,000 ($31,250 per game)
Sack incentive: $500,000

Cap hit: $8.7 million
Dead cap if cut: $1.5 million
Cap savings if cut: $7.2 million