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2021 contract projection for Buffalo Bills free-agent guard Brian Winters

It seems doubtful the Bills want to keep Winters.

It seems unlikely the Buffalo Bills are going to make an offer to Brian Winters. They benched him during the 2020 season for poor play and they’ve said they want to improve the position, but at the same time Buffalo is up against the COVID-lowered salary cap, and may need a place holder at one of the guard positions.

Enter Brian Winters, who essentially was that placeholder a year ago. Signed for one year and $3 million, Winters was supposed to be a steadying force with starting experience following the training camp injury to Jon Feliciano. He was available on August 1, but heck, the New York Jets gave him a four-year, $29 million contract in 2016. He was a solid NFL player.

That didn’t bear out on the field in 2020 and will affect his salary demands for 2021.

Winters is about to turn 30, and that factors into the conversation, as well. I don’t think Winters is anything more than a one-year deal at this point, but he could sign a longer deal with unguaranteed money on the back end.

Comparable contracts

Brian Winters
Buffalo Bills, 2020
One year, $3 million ($1 million guaranteed)

The Bills signed Winters in early August after starter Jon Feliciano went down with an injury. It’s not like he languished on the free-agent market; the Jets released him on August 2.

Jonotthan Harrison
New York Giants, 2021
One year, $2 million

After starting 42 games during his NFL career, Harrison found himself on Buffalo’s expanded practice squad in 2020. The New York Giants signed him to a big futures deal when the season ended.

Jonotthan Harrison
New York Jets, 2019
Two years, $5 million ($2.5 million guaranteed)

The Jets signed Harrison to a modest extension after two years at the minimum. He didn’t see year two of the deal and none of the second year was guaranteed. He started eight games for them in 2018 and then ten games during the first year of the two-year deal before he was released just before the 2020 season.

Contract projection

The veteran minimum for someone with Winters’s experience is $1.075 million. I don’t see Winters being back on the Bills for much more than that. He’s the perfect candidate for a one-year deal with COVID-19 shrinking teams’ salary-cap space. He’s not good enough to warrant a good contract so he’ll have to settle for a short one.

One year, $1.2125 million
($137,500 guaranteed)
$850k cap hit

It’s a contract for the NFL’s veteran salary benefit. A $137,500 signing bonus is added to the minimum for a player with as many years of service as Winters has. Then the NFL allows them to lower his cap hit from $1.2125 million to that of a second-year player. That’s the $850k cap hit.

Winters might be able to generate more interest on the open market and get a deal comparable to Harrison’s $2 million, but he was benched in Buffalo for Ike Boettger. Harrison was on the practice squad behind Boettger AND Winters, so anything is possible, especially when you’re talking about non-guaranteed money. If a team signs Winters and they don’t like him, they can cut him during training camp for peanuts.

A non-guaranteed $2 million contact would work for me, but I don’t see why Winters would take that knowing this coaching staff benched him and the GM said they wanted to get better on the offensive line.

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