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2022 NFL Free Agency: Contract projection for Bills DE Jerry Hughes

The Buffalo Bills have decisions to make at defensive end, starting with veteran free agent Jerry Hughes. Hughes has been with the organization for a decade and has been one of the most consistent and best players on the team for a while, but Father Time catches up with everyone. He still played well enough for me to bring him back in 2022 if he wants to, but finding a dollar figure is not going to be easy at his age.

Comparable Contracts

Jerry Hughes in 2021 played 52% of Buffalo’s snaps on defense, with 19 hurries, 26 QB pressures, two sacks, and 18 tackles—all numbers well below his worst seasons since his second year in the league. He will be 34 before the season starts, so comparable contracts are few and far between.

Carlos Dunlap
Seattle Seahawks 2021
Two years, $13.6 million ($8.5 million guaranteed)

Carlos Dunlap in 2020 played 15 games for the Cincinnati Bengals and Seahawks, finished with eight hurries, 26 QB pressures, six sacks, and 32 tackles playing roughly 58% of his team’s snaps. Dunlap had just turned 32 when he signed the contract, but was also coming off years where he played 80% of his team’s snaps and was close to double-digit sacks for a few years. This $6.8 million average value feels like the absolute top of the market for Hughes.

Vinny Curry
New York Jets 2021
One year, $1.3 million

Vinny Curry in 2020 played 42% of the Philadelphia Eagles’ snaps with three hurries, 13 QB pressures, three sacks, and 16 tackles. He was entering his 33-year-old season when he signed this deal for the league minimum and he was signed as a rotational piece.

Everson Griffen
Minnesota Vikings 2021
One year, $1.075 million

Everson Griffin in 2020 split time between the Dallas Cowboys and Detroit Lions, he notched nine hurries, 23 pressures, six sacks, and 33 tackles playing 52ish% of the teams’ snaps. Griffin was a Pro Bowl selection in 2019 before his down year in 2020, but he’s roughly the same age as Hughes will be when he signs his new deal. He signed for the league minimum to return to his former team.

Mario Addison
Buffalo Bills, 2020
Three years, $30.4 million

This is an interesting comp, because Addison was 32 when he signed the deal. Now he’s 34 and about to be cut after underperforming. Would this make the Bills gun shy?

Two years, $6.6 million

I value Spotrac, but I don’t think they are using appropriate comps for Hughes. Tyson Alualu is a 3-4 defensive end, Ryan Kerrigan is a 3-4 OLB pass rusher, Kerry Hyder and Benson Mayowa were just turning 30 when they signed their deals. Their numbers might ultimately bear out to be accurate, but those players are just different.

Contract Projection

If Hughes wants to play a year or two more, I think there are some interesting ways to structure the deal. Buffalo hasn’t really been in this position under general manager Brandon Beane, where a vet wants to finish his career in Western New York. I think there is value to that, and Hughes was a captain a season ago in 2020.

The reality is that Buffalo is cap-strapped and has invested considerable draft capital in the position. It’s unclear what type of hometown discount Hughes is willing to give, but it seems unlikely he’s going to get up to a Dunlap deal at his age and production level.

If they want to offer him as a veteran minimum exception, he’ll only make $1.12 million and I’m not sure it’s worth it for a guy who has played for a dozen years and hails from Texas.

I am going to land somewhere in the middle with some incentives, and I’m modeling it off the Emmanuel Sanders contract from last year. It’s a really difficult number to figure, but I’m thinking somewhere in the neighborhood of $2 to $4 million. Even with his good QB pressure and hurry numbers, it’s hard to justify a number much bigger than that.

One year, $4 million
$3.5 million guaranteed

His base salary and signing bonus are fully guaranteed. He can make an additional $250,000 in per-game active bonuses and $250,000 in a workout bonus. I also built in a $500,000 sack performance bonus if he gets to five sacks on the season. It’s a Not Likely To Be Earned incentive. I put in a void year, as they did with Sanders, to spread out the cap hit just a smidge.

Signing bonus: $1 million
Workout bonus: $250,000
Salary: $1.5 million (guaranteed)
Per-game active bonus: $250,000
Sack performance bonus: $500,000 NLTBE

Cap hit: $3 million

2023 VOID
Dead cap: $1 million

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