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2021 NFL Free Agency: Marquel Lee contract details

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 have a string of veteran minimum signings over the last couple weeks, but several of them have been slightly different in how they pay out the money. Linebacker Marquel Lee is the newest variant, as reported by Over the Cap.

Lee will make the NFL minimum salary of $920,000, but won’t receive the maximum compensation he could have earned. The Bills have the option of giving him up to $135,000 in signing bonus money above that and still maintaining the NFL’s Veteran Minimum Benefit, where his cap hit would be equal to that of a second-year NFL player plus the signing bonus. Instead, Lee only received $25,000 in signing bonus money, a $25,000 workout bonus, and another $50,000 bonus at $3,125 per game.

Because Lee wasn’t on a roster in 2020, his per-game bonus is Not Likely To Be Earned and won’t count in his cap hit. Adding the rest of the money together means his cap hit is $970,000.

That means the Bills didn’t use the Veteran Minimum Benefit at all, which would have made his cap hit roughly $70,000 lower. Instead they chose to use the workout bonus and per-game bonus as cap management tools.

The signing moves him into the top 51 salary-cap hits, moving off a player making roughly $850,000, so the net impact on the cap at this point in time is only $120,000.


Signing bonus: $25,000
Workout bonus: $25,000
Base salary: $920,000
Per-game Roster bonus: $50,000 ($3,125 per game)

Cap hit: $970,000
Dead cap if cut: $25,000 now, $50,000 at end of offseason workouts