I believe the Bills can attain a playoff berth each year for the next 8 years.
In this quest they can join top tier teams that had sustained success over the last 20 years - just look at Patriots, Steelers, Ravens, Eagles, Seahawks, Colts, Packers, Chiefs, Saints, & Titans.
And over the past 20 years, those successful teams have had to reload, reboot, and rebuild. ‘Reload’ and ‘Reboot’ are somewhat subjective, but just look at the cycle of reloading and rebooting that Belichick accomplished the past two decades. And with a franchise QB, GMs don’t have to do full tear down rebuilds.
So over the course of the next 8 years, the Bills will certainly have to at least reload or reboot the following:
- Offensive Line
- Wide Reciever room
- Defensive line
- Linebacker room
- Defensive backfield
In a competitive league, and with the multiple chess moves a GM has to make, we have to expect some yearly variance to the Bill’s success this decade.
Now that the salary cap numbers are known for our franchise quarterback, those numbers will act as a constraint for our GM when he has to reload or reboot. (Yes I know GMs manipulate the Cap, but I don’t think you can count on that dance outrunning cap constraints over the next 8 years.) For example, this preseason the Seahawks are experiencing a constraint with their team cap directly related to their Franchise QB. Two key Seattle players did not report to camp due to contract issues - tackle Duane Brown and safety Jamal Adams. You could describe this situation as an equation: Higher Cap Hit for QB = Less $ available for offensive line and defensive backfield. And Russell Wilson knew he was part of the problem. On Aug 10 according to NBCSports, "Wilson has told the Seahawks he is willing to restructure his contract to help facilitate new deals for Adams and Brown under the team’s salary cap".
Yes it’s great having a franchise QB, but Math is still Math, and there will be tradeoffs.
For this post, my definition of a successful year is getting to the AFC Championship game.
My main assumption is Josh Allen remains a top seven QB who is generally healthy. My other assumption is that the AFC will continue to have strong competitors. Rival AFC Teams over the next 2 years for sure include: Chiefs, Titans, Browns, & Ravens. Then after 2021 perhaps add the Colts, Patriots & Chargers to the list of AFC teams we will have to battle.
I list my yearly predictions of success for the Bills for the rest of the decade, and because I’m a fan I err on the side of being optimistic. The story I see taking place is that the Bills have their highest odds for success the next two seasons. Then there are four other years in which the Bills can make a significant run.
Below my yearly prediction, I list free agents, other general considerations, as well as JA’s Cap hit. (And I do understand for key players that contract extensions are done earlier than free agency, but this post isn’t about when contracts are written).
Feel free to criticize with your opinion preferably backed up by some data. And Keep in mind this quote from Bills podcaster Bruce Nolan - "There are 15 seasons of "Hard Knocks" on record and there are people who still think their favorite NFL team is infallible".
2021 - 60% probability of being in AFC Championship.
Very similar to 2020 successful season, and I see the Bills winning 12 to 13 games.
FYI I am more optimistic than ESPN which gives the Bills a 30.8% chance to get to the AFC Championship game.
Josh Allen Cap hit: $10,210,057 which is 5.42% of Team Cap
2022 - 50% probability of being in AFC Championship.
Player talent is similar to 2021 season, but there is some chance that Bills lose Offensive Coordinator Daboll and/or Defensive Coordinator Frazier.
There may be some issues with the Defensive line with Jerry Hughes, Addison, Butler, Phillips, Zimmer, Obada as 2022 free agents (I know some may be on 2021 53 man roster but still that’s 6 players). After the first couple 2021 games, and the success of Rousseau & Epenesa, perhaps GM Beane does not resign the veterans with high dollar contracts and reloads. There may also be turnover in defensive backfield with free agents Taron Johnson and Levi Wallace and Siran Neal, but that should be manageable for our GM. Regarding special teams, hopefully Isaiah McKenzie is solid in 2021 at the KR/PR position and is signed to multi year deal.
Josh Allen Cap hit: $16.38 million which is 7.875% of Estimated Team Cap
FYI Estimated Team Cap 2022 - $208 million
2023 - 25% probability of being in AFC Championship
Allen’s cap hit goes up $23 million, so there will have to be some combination of Key and Role players that the Bills won’t be able to afford. While we can’t predict which group will not be as strong, it’s probable that the 2023 team is not as complete as the 2021 team - perhaps pass protection or linebacker play is not top notch. The hope is that the team improves in some significant way - I hope that through draftee development the Bills in 2023 is strong.
2023 free agents are Cole Beasley, Dawson Knox, Mitch Morse, Cody Ford, A.J. Klein, Tremaine Edmunds, Jordan Poyer, Devin Singletary, and Tommy Sweeney.
Josh Allen Cap hit: $39.78 million which is 18% of Estimated Team Cap
FYI Estimated Team Cap 2023 - $218 to $221 (Average is $219.5)
2024 - 20% probability of being in AFC Championship.
Chance of success similar to 2023, and counting on GM to add the right supporting pieces, and counting on Coaches to develop recently drafted players. These are the free agents in 2024: Stefon Diggs, A.J. Epenesa, Gabriel Davis, Jon Feliciano, Micah Hyde, Zach Moss,Dane Jackson, Tyler Bass, Matt Haack, and Ed Oliver (assuming picked up 2023 5th yr option). So there is some uncertainty with wide receiver room (who is WR2, WR3) and some concern with who will be the lead running backs.
Josh Allen Cap hit: $41.78 million which is 18% of Estimated Team Cap
FYI Estimated Team Cap 2024 - $230 to $234 (Average is $232)
2025 - 10% probability of being in AFC Championship.
Allen’s Cap hit its high mark this year, so team is probably reloading with less expensive talent and depending on players on rookie deals (draft yrs 2022 thru 2025). Will need to spend significant dollars to retain Dion Dawkins or equivalent left tackle. And what will be the quality of the Offensive line? How successful and what are we paying for the 2021 OL draftee class who are now free agents - Jack Anderson, Tommy Doyle, and Spencer Brown? Are the 2021 defensive backs - Rachad Wildgoose & Damar Hamlin - solid contributors?
Other free agents are Matt Milano, Carlos Basham, and Marquez Stevenson (if he made the WR room).
Josh Allen Cap hit: $51.28 million which is 21% of Estimated Team Cap
FYI Estimated Team Cap 2025 - $243 to $248 (Average is $245.5)
2026 - 20% probability of being in AFC Championship.
Hopefully both McDermott and Beane are both still with Bills, but that is a significant uncertainty. In 2026 Team’s success depends significantly on how well GM performed in previous 5 years in drafting and adding supporting pieces. Hopefully we have to pay up for a top ten Defensive End Greg Rousseau. Those drafted in 2022 (except first rounder) will be free agents. For 2026 the resigning of Tre White or development or acquisition of equivalent CB1 will be key.
Josh Allen Cap hit: $46.98 million which is 18% of Estimated Team Cap
FYI Estimated Team Cap 2026 - $257 to $263 (Average is $260)
2027 - 25% probability of being in AFC Championship.
Crystal ball is fuzzy this far out, but Allen’s Cap hit goes down this year, so Bills have opportunity to add more supporting pieces to make a run at championship game. Hopefully not facing more than one AFC Team that is the equivalent of 2019-2020 Chief’s team with loaded talent and a QB on a rookie deal.
Josh Allen Cap hit: $40 million which is 14.6% of Estimated Team Cap
FYI Estimated Team Cap 2027 - $270 to $277 (Average is $273.5)
2028 - 25% probability of being in AFC Championship.
Best guess is similar to 2027.
Josh Allen Cap hit: $41.55 million which is 14.4% of Estimated Team Cap
FYI Estimated Team Cap 2028 - $285 - $293 (Average is $289)
2029 - impossible to predict without having franchise QB under contract
With Allen being a free agent and all the uncertainty that entails, there is much less chance to make the AFC Championship.
Go Bills and Enjoy the 2021 Regular Season & (hopefully) Playoffs!