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
- Part 3: Eight notable veterans, varying widely in cap hits and playing time, are examined
This morning, we’ll continue by taking a look at the pool of Bills players who were significant contributors to last year’s 14-4 team, with brief discussions on the state of their contracts and the quality of the player pool on the whole.
We’re talking about 11 players today
Sure, the Bills had more than 11 players on rookie deals during the 2022 season. But these 11 were the ones who received anything close to consistent playing time. We’ll rank those ten players below by snap count percentage.
- Gabe Davis, WR (85.4% of offensive snaps): In his first season as a full-time starter, Davis was boom-or-bust, turning in several big plays but struggling with drops and overall consistency for much of the season. He also battled through a lingering ankle injury. He’s entering the final year of his rookie deal, with a current cap hit of $2.92 million.
- Damar Hamlin, S (80.5% of defensive snaps): The second-year pro was tapped to replace veteran Micah Hyde after his Week 2 injury, and Hamlin was a near-constant on-field presence for the Bills until Week 17. Then his cardiac arrest incident occurred, and as he recovers, his playing future is very much up in the air. Hamlin is on the books for $980,119 next year.
- Spencer Brown, RT (78.2% of offensive snaps): A starter since his rookie season, Brown missed most of the preseason this past summer after offseason surgery, then missed two games after the Bills’ bye week with an ankle issue. He struggled in Buffalo’s playoff loss to the Cincinnati Bengals, but general manager Brandon Beane spoke highly of him in early offseason press-conference comments. Brown has a cap hit of $1.32 million in 2023.
- Kaiir Elam, CB (45.4% of defensive snaps): The 2022 first-round pick struggled to lock down consistent playing time as a rookie, but by the end of the season had at least entered a timeshare with Dane Jackson at boundary corner. He had some strong performances, but all parties will be looking for bigger and better things in 2023, when his cap hit is $3.11 million.
- Greg Rousseau, DE (44.1% of defensive snaps): Rousseau likely would have ended up much higher on this list had he not missed three-plus games with a high ankle injury. He had seven total sacks on the season, four of which came in the first four weeks of the season, when he enjoyed a strong start playing across from Von Miller. Rousseau’s 2023 cap hit is $3.17 million.
- Tyler Bass, K (42.2% of special teams snaps): The 2020 sixth-round pick is coming off of a career year, in which he converted 30-of-34 field goal attempts, 48-of-50 extra point tries, and finished tied for sixth in the NFL in scoring for the regular season with 129 points. His 2023 cap hit is $2.79 million, which could conceivably be changed by a well-earned contract extension.
- Boogie Basham, DE (37.0% of defensive snaps): The 2021 second-round pick was a part-time player in his second season, appearing in 15 games. He recorded a sack in the Bills’ playoff win over Miami, but will likely need another year of emphasis on defensive line rotation to see significant playing time next season. His 2023 cap hit: $1.53 million.
- A.J. Epenesa, DE (35.7% of defensive snaps): Buffalo’s top draft pick in 2020 (second round) set a career high by logging just under 36% of defensive snaps last season. He also set a career high with 6.5 sacks, and was clearly trusted more on passing downs than rushing downs. His cap hit for next year, the final year of his rookie deal, is $1.87 million.
- Christian Benford, CB (35.4% of defensive snaps): Benford beat out Elam for playing time early in each player’s rookie season, and he saw consistent, significant playing time right up through the Bills’ Week 11 road win over the Detroit Lions. At that point, an injury kept him out of the lineup for the remainder of the season. The team will contemplate moving him to safety next season, when his cap hit comes in at just under $919,000.
- Khalil Shakir, WR (25.4% of offensive snaps): Shakir is a name to watch heading into 2023, as he made the most of limited rookie-year playing time, and looked particularly good later in the season. He should be given a chance to compete for the slot receiver role next season. The 2022 fifth-round pick has an upcoming cap hit of just under $957,000.
- James Cook, RB (24.8% of offensive snaps): Cook also made the most of limited rookie-year playing time, more noticeably than Shakir given the positions they played. He averaged 5.7 yards per carry on 89 totes, caught 21 passes for 180 yards, and scored three touchdowns (and a fourth in the postseason). With a $1.33 million cap hit, Cook could start the new league year as the only running back under contract on Buffalo’s roster — and could also be in line for a role increase next season, regardless of what happens around him.
There are a few other names on this list — tackle Tommy Doyle, and linebackers Terrel Bernard and Baylon Spector the most notable among them — that bear watching entering 2023, but only as potential back-end roster guys.
Coming up next
We will wrap up this series tomorrow with a big-picture look at the signed members of the roster, how the team might approach getting under the $224.8 million cap, and their potential approach to offseason player acquisitions.