This week at Buffalo Rumblings, we will be taking a five-part look at the Buffalo Bills’ salary cap situation heading into the 2023 offseason. Some notes and disclaimers about this work:
- The NFL set the 2023 salary cap at $224.8 million on Monday, January 30
- All player contract and cap hit information referenced comes courtesy of Spotrac
- This information is often subject to change, particularly once the new league year begins in March
Previous entries in this series include:
- Part 1: QB Josh Allen, WR Stefon Diggs, and DE Von Miller account for $78.7 million of that $224.8 million cap next season
This morning, we’ll continue by taking a look at the seven other players comprising Buffalo’s current top-ten in terms of 2023 cap hit: cornerback Tre’Davious White, left tackle Dion Dawkins, linebacker Matt Milano, center Mitch Morse, defensive tackle Ed Oliver, safety Micah Hyde, and cornerback Taron Johnson.
That’s the sum total cap charge for White ($16.2 million), Dawkins ($14.8 million), Milano ($13.3 million), Morse ($11.2 million), Oliver ($10.8 million), Hyde ($10.6 million), and Johnson ($9.2 million).
Out of this group, only White and Milano have earned first team All-Pro status, while Dawkins, Morse, and Hyde have also earned varying degrees of accolades, but are not necessarily considered among the league’s elite at their positions. Still, this is a group of players that is universally respected league-wide. We’ll leave it up to you, the reader, to determine if any of them are overpaid — we suspect only Milano will escape that discussion unscathed — and certainly, if the Bills are looking for cap room in 2023, these are players that the team could approach about contract adjustments to free up space.
That’s the sum total cap charge for Buffalo’s ten highest-paid players — Allen, Diggs, Miller, White, Dawkins, Milano, Morse, Oliver, Hyde, and Johnson. That’s 73.3% of Buffalo’s 2023 salary cap tied up in those ten players. Most, if not all, of them are quality performers (or better) when healthy, and likely are players that the team wants to keep. If the Bills want to make significant talent acquisitions this offseason — and they should definitely want that, as they’re still in their Super Bowl window — there are many ways they could go about modifying deals for all 10 of those players to cut that percentage down a bit.
What can change?
A lot. The Bills can free up chunks of cash by modifying deals for Allen, Diggs, or Miller, as we discussed yesterday, but some of the contracts in this group are also worth exploring.
- White: After making his return from an ACL tear on Thanksgiving Day, White worked his way back into starting-caliber form by the postseason, and the Bills are banking on the 28-year-old being back to his usual self next season. He’s signed through 2025, and has $8.6 million in base salary that could be spread out over those three years to create some additional room, if needed.
- Dawkins: Buffalo’s left tackle got a re-structure last summer that added two void years to his deal. He’s signed through 2024, but on the books through 2026. Unlike the next All-Pro name on the list, Dawkins is coming off something of a down year. Converting some of his $8.86 million salary into prorated bonus could be tempting if the team finds itself in a tight spot, but adding dead weight to the cap in years where Dawkins may not be on the roster is probably ill-advised.
- Milano: Like Dawkins, Buffalo has already modified Milano’s deal previously; he’s signed through the 2024 season, but on the books through 2026. If the Bills don’t mind adding dead cap to the books in those void years, they could convert a chunk of his $9.25 million base salary into prorated signing bonus, freeing up cap space in 2023. This seems like more of a desperation move than some of the other options available, even though Milano is coming off of arguably his best season as a pro.
- Morse: This is an interesting one. Morse will turn 31 in April, and suffered the sixth concussion of his eight-year career this past season. He is also one of the team’s foremost locker room leaders, and a guy the team would like to keep around. He’s under contract for two more seasons after signing an extension last March, but the Bills could clear almost $6.2 million in cap space by releasing him. They could also approach him about another short-term extension to lower his $11.2 million cap hit, or do a base-salary conversion (his is $6.64 million) to bump money into future seasons.
- Oliver: Heading into the final year of his deal, Oliver will be playing on a fifth-year option for a guaranteed $10.75 million. The only way for the team to lower that figure would be to trade Oliver, or to sign him to a contract extension. The latter seems feasible, though his production dipped a bit in 2022 despite several outstanding individual-game performances.
- Hyde: Buffalo’s lone remaining veteran safety (unless they find a way to retain Jordan Poyer, somehow) is under contract through the 2023 season, with three void years added through 2026. A small amount of room could be opened up with a base-salary conversion ($5.3 million), but the team could also lower his $10.57 million cap hit with a short-term extension.
- Johnson: The 26-year-old nickel corner is a ubiquitous on-field presence at this point, and the team could approach him about a Dawkins- or Milano-esque void year restructure at some point this offseason if the team needs a few more million dollars cleared off the books. Johnson’s $9.2 million cap figure is manageable as is, but he’s a name to keep an eye on.
Coming up next
There are still a few big cap figures — and contracts — to discuss, but we’re slowly traversing out of the top-heavy area of Buffalo’s 2023 cap picture and starting to discuss the value portions of their roster build. We’ll start tomorrow with a look at veteran players, and follow it up on Thursday with a discussion about the team’s biggest-name contributors still playing on rookie deals.