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A Jerry Hughes extension could create some Buffalo Bills cap space for 2021

There’s only one name on the extension list.

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

The Buffalo Bills need some salary cap space to sign more free agents, and one of the way they can do that is with contract extensions. Only one player immediately comes to mind for a move like this, so let’s dive in.

DE Jerry Hughes

Jerry Hughes has one year left on his most recent deal, and he played well in 2020. It’s not out of the realm of possibilities that the Bills have already approached him about a contract extension. Due to make $6 million in salary in 2021, Buffalo could re-shape his contract to bump some of that cap hit into the future with an extension.

Adding a year at $10 million would take Hughes through age 34 and probably ensure he retires as a member of the Bills. Convert his upcoming roster bonus plus $5 million of his 2021 salary into a portion of his new pro-rated signing bonus along with $2 million in new signing bonus money and you can spread a potion of the cap hit into 2022, when the new TV deal will be on the books.

This move saves $2 million on 2021 salary cap.

Old structure

Pro-rated signing bonus: $2.1 million
Roster bonus: $1 million
Workout bonus: $250,000
Base salary: $6.1 million
Cap hit: $9.45 million

New structure

Pro-rated signing bonus: $6.1 million ($2.1 old plus $4 new)
Workout bonus: $250,000
Base salary: $1.1 million
Cap hit: $7.45 million

Pro-rated signing bonus: $4 million
Roster bonus: $1 million
Workout bonus: $250,000
Base salary: $6.75 million
Cap hit: $12 million

LB Tyler Matakevich

If the Bills like Matakevich as a core special teamer as his playing time indicates, they could give him another two years on his deal to get him to age 32. I don’t know if I’d advocate for it, but they could. To me, it’s not worth it to save just $1 or $1.5 million against the cap.

He has a $3.7 million cap hit in 2021, which is pretty high, and they can lower it by a couple million if they choose to extend him with another two years and $7 million. It would tie Matakevich with them for another two seasons at minimum.

This move saves $1 to $1.5 million on the salary cap.

CB Taron Johnson

I’m not in favor of extending Johnson, but you can at least see a world where it happens. His cap hit is $2.344 million in 2021 but if they gave him a couple years at $2.5 to $3 million per season, you could lower that number by $500k. With nickel as the new base defense, Johnson would probably be foolish to sign a deal at that price. Kenny Moore, Brian Poole, and Nickell Robey-Coleman have signed deals much higher than that. Johnson is a free agent in a year from now and this is another one not really worth the effort.

This move saves $500,000 on the salary cap.

With Hughes being the only viable candidate for this type of extension, there are still contract restructures the Bills could make without cutting players. Also, here’s the list of players they could cut (though it hasn’t been updated since Mitch Morse and Vernon Butler took their pay cuts).