The Buffalo Bills are way over the 2024 salary cap and they’ll need to make some moves in order to be cap compliant. Personnel-wise, the easiest way to do that is to restructure some contracts to bump cap hits into the future. No extensions, no cuts, just shifting money around and accounting.
Salary cap restructured contracts, explained
In a straight restructure, the player gets paid the same amount of money they would make during the season, so it’s an easy “yes” for them. They get the money now instead of in weekly game checks.
The NFL allows teams to pro-rate signing bonuses over multiple years, up to five. By converting game salary to signing bonus, the team can spread out that hit over multiple seasons. They still have to account for it on the cap, just not in the current year. It’s almost like credit (without the interest), where you buy now and account for it in a later budget.
Here’s an example using round numbers. Brian the Buffalo is scheduled to make $11 million in salary in 2024. I’m going to restructure his contract to spread out his cap hit. He needs to make $1 million in minimum base salary, but now I can spread out the remaining $10 million over five years. So in 2024, his cap hit would be the $1 million salary plus $2 million of his new “signing bonus,” and his cap hit would drop from $11 million to $3 million. The remaining $8 million will be accounted for over the next four years, $2 million per season.
The downside is it will be harder to move on from the player later, because when a player is traded or cut (or retires), the “dead cap” of that pushed money immediately is owed on the current salary cap. So with players who are up there in age and you’re worried about a drop off, or players you might have to cut for performance, you may not want to push cap into the future. The bill always come due; when you pay that money to a player, it will eventually be counted.
A practical example of this is when Drew Brees retired and he had to wait until June to make it official. That allowed the Saints to spread out his big cap hit into two seasons. Something similar happened with Eric Wood when he was forced to retire but they couldn’t announce it until the summer.
Buffalo Bills contract restructures, ranked by probability
QB Josh Allen
Save $17.9 million
The Buffalo Bills are 100% going to do this to Josh Allen’s contract and lower his cap hit from $47 million to $29.1 million. He’s 28, he has a long contract and a lot of years in front of him playing at a high level. No-brainer.
DT Ed Oliver
Save $1.2 million
Oliver is 27 and going to be around for a long time. This is an easy call even if it doesn’t create a bunch of space.
OG Connor McGovern
Save $2.3 million
McGovern played pretty well this year and he’s only 27. Would not be a surprise to see them bump some cap down the road.
TE Dawson Knox
Save $2.76 million
Normally, his production does not match his salary (even if you take out the injury) so I’d say he’s more of a cut candidate than a restructure. But his 2024 salary and roster bonus are already fully guaranteed. He averaged just 8.5 yards per reception, 15.5 yards per game, and scored just two touchdowns — all career lows. Dalton Kincaid has passed him. How much production is your second TE going to give you and are the Bills going to roll out 2-TE sets? Doesn’t matter. Pushing this dead cap into the future isn’t going to hurt them. Right now his dead cap in 2025 is $7.8 million — well below the $15.4 million cap hit for him still being on the team. So if they push dead cap into the future, they’ll still be able to absorb it a year from now when we revisit it.
LB Matt Milano
Save $2.125 million
With Milano playing at a really high level, you don’t feel weird about pushing cap into the future, even if he’s going to be 30 shortly.
K Tyler Bass
Save $1.3 million
Now we’re getting to the iffy territory. Are you sure Bass is going to be on your roster in two years? Sort of... Right now, his 2024 season is already fully guaranteed, so he will be here in the fall unless he implodes. Looking ahead to 2025, he has a $3 million dead-cap hit against a $4.67 million cap hit if he’s on the roster. Restructuring now would add $1.3 million to that 2025 dead-cap number, meaning it would cost $4.3 million in cap space to release him in 2025. It would still be under his cap hit if he stays, but it wouldn’t be enough to cut him and sign his replacement. We’re dealing with such a small sum and such an important position, I don’t think it would prevent them from moving on, so I think this restructure probably happens.
CB Tre’Davious White
Save $3.7 million
This number is attractive, but only if you think Tre is going to return to the starting lineup following two major leg injuries. He’s only 29, but his cap hit is $16.4 million in 2024 and they owe him $13.5 million in cash in 2024. I think the Bills are going to keep him based on how head coach Sean McDermott talked about him at the end of year presser, so it wouldn’t be the end of the world. But if you give him the money up front, he needs to play significant snaps in 2024, in my opinion. As disrespectful as it is, it’s probably more likely that they offer him a pay cut restructure with incentives for snaps or games played instead of paying him his 2024 salary entirely up front. They could also cut him and save $6.1 million on their cap in 2024 or split the dead-cap hit between 2024 and 2025 and put $10.2 million into their 2024 space. He’s due a $1.5 million roster bonus on March 17, so that is a key date in the cycle.
OG Ryan Bates
Save $1.1 million
The Bills were incredibly healthy on the offensive line this year, so their $5.9 million insurance policy (Bates) didn’t see much work. They could save $3.4 million in cash and $1.4 million in cap space by cutting him. I think that’s more likely than a basic restructure to push more money in to 2025. He could also take a pay cut with incentives to earn the money back based on snaps played, but that’s a different article.
This is the type of move the Bills generally tend to wait on until August. When the season starts, NFL teams go from the top 51 contracts counting, to all the contracts counting. Typically, the Bills wait until August and make a small move like this to create some wiggle room.
DE Von Miller
Save $12.1 million
Between the injury concerns and the potential for a suspension, not to mention his advanced age, I don’t want to push anything into the future with Von if I’m the Bills. Right now, the out on his contract is clearly after the 2024 season. If they restructure, that pushes it to more likely after the 2025 season. With a restructure, his 2025 dead-cap hit would be $3 million higher than if he was on the team. They could do a partial restructure, and only move part of his salary cap hit into the future instead of the $12 million. That kind of half measure is something they could pull off.
WR Stefon Diggs
Save $13 million
I’m dubious that this happens, despite how much money it saves. Diggs is on the wrong side of 30 and if you do this move, you won’t be able to cut or trade him even next offseason — his dead-cap number would be considerably higher than his cap number if he were on the team. He’s signed through his age-34 season, but I’d think at some point before that, the Bills will want to get out from that contract. Even if this move saves a lot of 2024 cap space, I think the ramifications down the line make this a bad move. Peter King at FMIA predicted this week that the Bills come to Diggs and ask for a pay cut. It’s not out of the realm of possibility, but we’ll address that in a future article.