This week at Buffalo Rumblings, we have been 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
- Part 2: Buffalo’s top ten players account for $164.8 million of that $224.8 million cap next season
This morning, we’ll continue by examining the contracts of eight more players — a group of veterans that varies fairly considerably in terms of both experience, production, and role. Those eight players are: running back Nyheim Hines, wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie, tight end Dawson Knox, guard Ryan Bates, defensive tackles DaQuan Jones and Tim Settle, and core special teams players Siran Neal and Reggie Gilliam.
That’s the combined total cap number for these eight players. The figures vary quite a bit, starting with Jones’ $8.58 million cap hit, and traversing down the list to Gilliam, who comes in at a mere $2.03 million. Because of that variance, not all of these players can be considered the same way — but we’re separating them out all the same, because these are players who are not on rookie deals with the Bills.
What can change?
Something will have to, but again, with such a high degree of variability between cap hit, role, and expectations for each player, we’re obligated to consider these players on a case-by-case basis. So that’s what we’ll do.
- DaQuan Jones, DT: Jones is inked through the 2023 season with a void year on the books in 2024. His $8.58 million cap hit tops out this group, and he’s scheduled to make $6.75 million in base salary next season, which is definitely an adjustable figure. He’s still only 31 years old and coming off of a very solid first season in Buffalo, so it would not be terribly surprising if the Bills targeted Jones for a shorter-term contract extension that lowered his cap hit a bit in 2023.
- Dawson Knox, TE: Knox is effectively entering the first year of the lucrative four-year contract extension that he signed last offseason. His $6.43 million cap hit in 2023 is manageable, with the hits beginning to accelerate into the $14-16 million range starting next season. There’s a built-in potential out after 2024 with $7.8 million in dead cap at that time, and for that reason, Knox’s deal may be one the team waits to tinker with, though he does have a $2.5 million option bonus that could be moved around.
- Tim Settle, DT: Settle is on the books for $4.95 million in 2023, and also has a void year in 2024. His dead-cap value for this season is $2.7 million. Having played just 35.5% of defensive snaps last season, Settle is a prime candidate to be a cap casualty, with his release freeing up just under $2.25 million in cap space.
- Ryan Bates, OG: Buffalo matched an offer sheet that Bates signed with the Chicago Bears as a restricted free agent last offseason, putting him on the books for a $4.88 million cap hit this season. That’s also where his cap hit stays in 2024 and 2025, so if he plays well enough, his deal will only increase in value in future seasons. That also makes him a candidate to have his deal adjusted some, with his $3.9 million base salary potentially being converted into prorated bonus.
- Nyheim Hines, RB: Buffalo traded a sixth-round pick to the Indianapolis Colts for Hines, who had one memorable (if not legendary) performance as a kick returner. He also had 13 total touches for 61 yards and one touchdown in 10 games, regular season and playoffs, as a minuscule part of Buffalo’s offense. There’s no way to justify keeping that level of production at a $4.79 million cap hit — 16th-highest in the NFL next season among running backs — with no dead-cap hit. The Bills do seem to like Hines, but they’ll either need to cut and re-sign him, or give him a short-term extension that severely lowers his 2023 cap hit, to keep him around. They’d save that full $4.79 million cap space by moving on.
- Siran Neal, DB: The Bills signed Neal to a three-year extension last March. One of Buffalo’s core special teams players, Neal has a $3.3 million cap hit this season, with only $1.07 million in dead cap. That’s over $2.2 million in savings should the Bills move on, but it’s more likely that they approach him about a small re-structure, given that special teams captain Tyler Matakevich is a pending free agent, and Neal is an important piece to those units.
- Isaiah McKenzie, WR: McKenzie signed a two-year contract to return to Buffalo last offseason, but had something of a disappointing campaign after taking the reins as the primary slot receiver. Heading into 2023, McKenzie carries a cap hit of $2.93 million with a dead-cap value of just $300,000. He’s a beloved figure in the locker room, but that $2.63 million in cap space has to be something that general manager Brandon Beane will be eyeing at some point this offseason.
- Reggie Gilliam, FB: Gilliam signed a two-year contract extension with the Bills last August. Along with Neal, Matakevich, and veteran Taiwan Jones, Gilliam was among just four Bills who played on more than 70% of special teams snaps last season. His cap hit ($2.03 million) and potential savings ($1.36 million) are modest enough that his deal will likely rank quite low on the list of deals likely to be altered by Buffalo.
Coming up next
With all of the big-name veterans accounted for, the next article in this series will examine Buffalo’s top contributors that are still playing on rookie deals. It’s not an insignificant list, but one that the Bills will want to make larger heading into the 2023 regular season.