What should the Buffalo Bills do at defensive end this offseason? We’ve already had a big discussion because Shaq Lawson is set to hit free agency, but there is another part of the puzzle: What to do with Trent Murphy.
Murphy has the second-highest cap hit on the team in 2020 but hasn’t played up to that number. Should the Bills replace him, restructure his contract, give him an extension, or something else?
We’ve put together a series of articles and now it’s your turn to vote! Read the article excerpts then let your voice be heard in the poll.
All-22 analysis excerpt
(By Jeff Kantrowski)
Trent Murphy is a bit harder to peg than a lot of other players so I’ll start by simply saying he is for sure not elite, nor is he trash. With that opening up the vast middle ground I’ll revert to the same argument I had regarding Levi Wallace. If Trent Murphy is the weakest link in the chain, it was still one hell of a strong chain in 2019. If I’m the Bills I’m looking for an upgrade but I’m not letting go of Murphy until I’m sure I have one (and maybe not even then as he’d be good depth).
Trent Murphy’s less-than-elite strength and athleticism seem to be holding him back. Despite that, he’s consistently shrinking the pocket and reading plays at a pretty high level in his read-and-react role. Simply stated, the Buffalo Bills appear to have a diminished version of Trent Murphy compared to what he was in Washington. On the flip side, he’s improved significantly when it comes to technique. He wasn’t spectacular in 2019 but he was a contributor on an elite defense.
Read the entire article with GIFs and analysis here
Salary cap ramifications excerpt
(By Matt Warren)
The veteran only has one year left on the deal he signed a couple offseasons ago. His $9.775 million cap hit is a combination of $1.75 million from his signing bonus, $6.425 million in salary, $500,000 for a roster bonus (due March 22nd), a $100,000 workout bonus, and a $31,250 per-game-active bonus which could needs to be counted as the full $500,000 in the cap, plus a $500,000 incentive bonus he earned in 2019. The pro-rated portion of the signing bonus and the incentive bonus are only dead money left.
Buffalo saves $7.525 million in actual and salary cap dollars by releasing him.
Read the entire article outlining the financial implications of releasing Murphy here
Contract extension excerpt
(by Matt Warren)
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.
Read the entire contract projection with actual figures here
In-house replacement options excerpt
(By Matt Warren)
Darryl Johnson Jr., a 2019 seventh-round pick, proved he wasn’t ready for the next step in his career. In Buffalo’s defense, that would mean at least one-third of the snaps possibly up to 50%. He was wasn’t effective enough in the job to warrant that leap in playing time.
Mike Love was on injured reserve all year after suffering an injury during the preseason. He will come back but he appeared in just two games during the 2018 season, tallying fewer than 30% of the snaps and was outplayed by Johnson in the 2019 preseason. He could be ready to step into a complementary role, but he’d probably be better off as the fourth defensive end until he proves more.
Also on the roster was Jonathan Woodard, who signed futures deal after ending the season on Buffalo’s practice squad. A former seventh-round pick, he’s been released four times by three teams since then. He did spend a brief moment on the Miami Dolphins’ roster, nabbing one sack and a few tackles in six games in 2018.
Free Agent Replacement Options
(By Sean Murphy)
If the Bills want to add a truly elite defensive end, they’ll have the opportunity to do so this offseason via the free-agent market. However, they’ll need to be ready to spend some serious cash if that’s the route they want to take in replacing Shaq Lawson.
Here’s the big fish in the pond. He’s played in 63 of a possible 64 regular-season games, notching 37.5 sacks, 42 tackles for loss, and 85 quarterback hits in his career. He knocked six passes down at the line of scrimmage this year, and he even returned an interception for a touchdown. He’s forced 14 fumbles, as well, adding to a phenomenal resume that’s sure to lead to a huge contract. If Buffalo wants Ngakoue to join the squad, they’ll need to be prepared to offer at least $90 million, perhaps even more, over a five- or six-year contract.
Another elite option, the first overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft has been hampered by injuries throughout his NFL career, as he’s only managed to play a full 16-game slate once in six seasons. He’s been less productive overall than Ngakoue, but he’ll probably command a similar salary thanks to his freakish athleticism and overall pedigree.
Don’t want to commit to a $100 million contract? Still looking for an elite talent who’s only 30 years old? Quinn is the man for you! The nine-year veteran had a resurgent season playing for the Dallas Cowboys this year, notching 11.5 sacks for his highest total since the 2014 season with the St. Louis Rams. If Quinn could replicate his “average” 16-game season (37 tackles, 10 sacks, 12 tackles for loss, 19 quarterback hits), it would be well worth a three-year deal in the $10-million-per-year range for his services.
Quietly, the man known as JPP had two solid years as a member of the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Last year, he had 8.5 sacks, nine tackles for loss, and 16 quarterback hits, all while playing just over half (51.9%) of Tampa’s defensive snaps. While he’s never been a great run defender, if it’s pass rush you’re looking for, he’s always been elite in that category.
Inconsistency has plagued him for his whole career. Aside from his second year, where he totaled 15.5 sacks, Beasley’s production has been incredibly pedestrian. He has only 22 sacks in his four other NFL seasons combined.
Another savvy veteran, Bennett has remained very productive even into his 30s. Splitting his time between the Dallas Cowboys and the New England Patriots, Bennett notched 6.5 sacks, 14 tackles for loss, and 15 quarterback hits last season. If it’s short-term improvement that the team wants while its young pass rushers develop, they could do a lot worse than a player with 69.5 career sacks.
2020 NFL Draft Replacement Options
(By Andrew Griffin)
Below are some options in the draft who may be able to offer just that:
Chase Young (Ohio State)
A.J. Epenesa (Iowa)
Yetur Gross-Matos (Penn State)
Terrell Lewis (Alabama)
K’Lavon Chaisson (LSU)
Darrell Taylor (Tennessee)
Zack Baun (Wisconsin)
Marlon Davidson (Auburn)
Julian Okwara (Notre Dame)
Curtis Weaver (Boise State)
Bradlee Anae (Utah)
Jabari Zuniga (Florida)
Read mini scouting reports on all 12 players here
Now it’s your turn to decide. There are a bunch of options available for you in the poll. Then hash it out in the comments.
Editor’s note: If you’d like to vote in the poll and you’re using a mobile device, you’ll need to click through to the site. Apple News and Google’s Accelerated Mobile Pages (AMP) strips the poll from the page.
What should the Buffalo Bills do with Trent Murphy this offseason?
This poll is closed
Keep him on the final year of his deal
Extend him for one more season at a reasonable salary
Cut him, sign a big-name free agent
Cut him, sign Shaq Lawson and add a depth option
Cut him, draft a high-round replacement
Cut him, roll with Jerry Hughes & Darryl Johnson or Mike Love as your starters