The 2020 Buffalo Bills did not have many players who truly fit the bill as a “bad” value. When trying to compile this list, I found that even the players Buffalo compensated well played well. General manager Brandon Beane should be commended for the roster he put together.
While there are certainly a few players who were overcompensated relative to their production, there are a few players who played about as well as we could have expected them to play, but their contract was still a little rich given their age, recent production levels, and injury history.
One such player is profiled today—a veteran corner who was last year’s answer to the coaching staff’s annual question: “Which veteran corner are we going to bring in to attempt to unseat Levi Wallace?”
CB Josh Norman
2020 Salary Cap Figure: $5,812,500 (2.63% of Buffalo’s cap)
2020 Stats: 9 games, 3 starts, 24 tackles, 2 tackles for loss, 2 fumble recoveries, 1 forced fumble, 1 interception, 16 return yards, 1 touchdown
Norman played about how we’d have expected him to play throughout last season. Gone are the days when Norman could be counted on as a shutdown corner, but his savvy came in handy in Buffalo’s zone-heavy scheme. To say that a guy played about as expected and then list him as one of the team’s “worst” values feels a little harsh even as I’m typing this, but he slots in here for two reasons. As Buffalo’s second-highest paid corner, he played the fourth-most snaps, so the return on investment just in terms of availability wasn’t great. Finally, while he was good relative to expectations, he was still limited while on the field, as he was a liability in man coverage while performing adequately in zone coverages.
Norman wins (or loses?) out to another former Carolina Panthers veteran in Mario Addison, who was also strongly considered for this spot on the list. Ultimately, I decided to leave Addison out even though he was Buffalo’s highest-paid defensive lineman. While Norman only played in nine regular-season games plus three playoff games, Addison appeared in all but one game—the regular-season finale against the Miami Dolphins where the team rested him along with Jerry Hughes—and tied for the team lead in sacks. Addison was paid more than Norman, but he was also more valuable to the club than Norman was, hence Norman’s placement on the list instead of Addison.
This is a long-winded way of owning that Norman is a pretty weak choice for this list, and while I can convince myself that he belongs over some other players, it’s not as if he was an albatross on the roster. Norman played like an aging veteran on a one-year deal where his compensation was geared more towards his past performance than his future growth. That kind of contract was a risk worth taking for a team like Buffalo but, at the end of the day, it wasn’t a great value.