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Buffalo Bills remain spectators as NFL franchise tag deadline passes

To little surprise, the Bills chose not to tag anyone — but where do they sit in terms of cap space ahead of free agency?

New England Patriots v Buffalo Bills Photo by Bryan Bennett/Getty Images

The Buffalo Bills chose not to franchise tag any players with contracts currently set to expire, as Tuesday’s deadline to do so expired at 4 p.m. EST. Franchise-tagging players is an expensive move, and it doesn’t always guarantee that the two sides will work out a long-term contract to keep them in town past the season.

The Bills had three prime candidates for the franchise tag in 2023 — safety Jordan Poyer and linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, and running back Devin Singletary. However, general manager Brandon Beane had previously stated that using the tag on their player was unlikely due to the lack of salary cap space.

  • Had they tagged Edmunds, the 2023 LB franchise tag would have cost them $20.926 million.
  • Had they tagged Poyer, the 2023 S franchise tag would have cost them $14.46 million.
  • Had they tagged Singletary, the 2023 RB franchise tag would have cost them $10.091 million.

The team currently sits at an adjusted cap of $227.7 million, per the tweet embedded below by ESPN NFL insider Field Yates — having rolled over $2.9 million from last season. The Bills are currently around $18 million over their adjusted cap figure of $227.7 million for 2023, with their top 51 players accounting for $224.8 million.

As a franchise, the Buffalo Bills have only ever used the franchise tag five times since the option became available 30 years ago:

1996 — offensive lineman John Fina: Fina was the first player to receive the franchise tag, after which he and the organization worked out a long-term deal that kept him in Orchard Park, NY for six more seasons.

2003 — wide receiver Peerless Price: After signing his tag tender, Price was traded to the Atlanta Falcons for a first-round pick in the 2003 NFL Draft.

2006 — cornerback Nate Clements: The talented CB played one season under the franchise tag before leaving for the San Francisco 49ers and an eight-year, $80 million contract that made him the highest-paid defender in the NFL in 2007.

2013 — safety Jairus Byrd: A decade ago, Bills Mafia had Byrd fever and the team tagged the three-time, ball-hawking safety for the 2013 season. Byrd would depart the following spring, joining the New Orleans Saints — with an unfortunate chronic injury situation.

2016 — offensive tackle Cordy Glenn: The last time the organization used the franchise tag, and it simply allowed the two sides to extend talks toward a new, five-year extension. Glenn was eventually traded to the Cincinnati Bengals in 2018 for a first-round pick. The Bills would leverage that picks to move up and draft quarterback Josh Allen in 2018.

Poyer, Edmunds, and Singletary will now enter NFL free agency. For Edmunds and Singletary, it will be their first chance at signing a second, more lucrative contract. Edmunds has previously expressed an interest in testing the market, while Poyer had hoped to sign a long-term deal to retire with the Buffalo Bills.

This franchise-tag period proved to be a busy one for running backs, with Tony Pollard (Dallas Cowboys), Josh Jacobs (Las Vegas Raiders), and Saquon Barkley (New York Giants) all signing non-exclusive franchise tags.

Losing any of the three players will be detrimental to Buffalo’s success in 2023, but there’s always hope something can be worked out to keep them in a Bills uniform until that moment they sign with a new team. That said, Brandon Beane must now navigate what’s certain to be a very challenging spring for One Bills Drive and him.

You can read more about the NFL franchise tag options (non-exclusive, exclusive, and transition) — and keep up to date on players who’ve been tagged — here.