Caps... Caps for Sale!

Not sure if any of you remember the Children's book Caps for Sale. It was old when I was young, so I may be stretching it. The story goes that a cap peddler loses his caps to a tree full of monkeys. He tries everything to outwit them and get his caps back, but all the monkeys do is imitate him. In disgust the peddler throws his own cap on the ground. So, the imitating monkeys follow suit and throw the caps on the ground. The peddler picks them up and is on his way. Problem solved.


Of course, the Bills and Brandon Beane are not in the business of selling caps, but they will have to sell of some cap space in 2024.

To that point, this is a good place in the offseason to review the cap. The Reserve Futures contracts have mostly been completed, but the real FA moves have not started. This is a good place to baseline the cap. As such, let's look and see where the Bills really are with the cap. There have been many Cap reviews posted recently. They are mostly focusing on the potential moves that can be made to generate cap. Also, all of the posts that I have seen use the Top 51 cap space as a starting point for how much a team is over or under the cap.

The Top 51 is a Lie!!!

So, let's start with the Top 51 Rule. The Top 51 rule is a hard and fast rule that all teams need to abide by once the league year starts in March and until the final 53 rosters are created at the end of August. The rule is that all teams at all times during the offseason need to stay under the cap with the Sum of their Top 51 salaries. However, The Top 51 rule is NOT a good judge of the real cap that a team will need to create to make a 53-man roster. It is just a rule. It has no reality in the real cap once the season starts. The Top 51 does not account for a lot of things, so it can be very deceiving.

  • The Top 51 includes void year contracts. Void year contracts are contracts where the team is paying salary to a player, but that player is not on the team for the current season. So that means that if a team has X void year contracts that are in their Top 51 calculation, then their Top 51 Salaries is really their Top (51 - X) Salaries, so it is really showing how much they are over or under the cap with (51 - X) players. In the Bills' case, they have over $11.6 mil in void year contract salary for 5 players in 2024. 4 of those salaries are in the Top 51 totaling $10.9 mil. So, the Bills "Top 51" that you see on sites like OverTheCap and Spotrac is really their Top 47.
  • The Top 51 does not include dead cap that will be created when cutting players at the Final 53 cuts.
  • The Top 51 if viewed prior to signing our draft picks does not include the salaries of those draft picks. Depending on how many picks you have and what rounds, the picks are in, and who they replace on the roster, signing a draft class can add about $1 mil - $3 mil.
  • The Top 51 rule also does not account for signing the 52nd and 53rd players to the roster... of course. If a team adds two vet minimum players to the bottom of the roster then that is about a minimum of $2 mil added to their cap.
  • The Top 51 rule also does not account for the in-season reserve that every team needs to sign and cut players from the roster for Practice Squad elevations, Injury signings, and any other signings that they may want to do during the season. Beane has always said that he needs about $4 - $5 mil for his in-season reserve.

So, for the Bills in 2024 their Top 51 rule is off by several million dollars. You'll see the actual numbers later in the Post.

Current Cap:


Yikes!! That looks daunting. Beane will earn his paycheck this offseason. Coincidentally, the Bills have exactly 53 players under contract right now + 5 players that are free agents, but the Bills will continue to pay them void year salaries. Because we have 53 active players on the roster, the Net Remaining Cap shows a pretty decent baseline for the real cap. But it is not the full picture yet.

Real Cap Space:

The Real Cap Space needs to also consider making a "reasonable" 53-man roster. Mostly this means that we have to add in the draft picks and any vet minimum FAs to fill in the right number of players at each position and cut players at positions where we have too many at one position. Like for the Bills, we currently have 8 WRs on the roster, but we will likely only have 6 at the final 53 cut. So, with that in mind, I had to cut some current players and keep 7 of the 10 draft picks to make a "reasonable" roster of 53 at all positions.


So, $63 million over the cap is the bare minimum cap space that Beane has to create in order to make a roster with the current players on the roster and 7 new draft picks. He would have to create more cap space if he wanted to replace any of the Expiring Contract FAs.

Expiring Contract FAs:

Here are the list of Expiring Contract FAs. It is a pretty big list. Only a handful are starters, but still if we want to get back to the roster level that we had in 2024, it will take more than $63 mil in cap space.


Scenario 1: Barebones

What moves would we have to do to add zero FAs and just make a barebones 53-man roster with just players on our current roster and our draft class.

Salary Moves:




I like both of these players, but their cap hits are really big. Maybe Beane can re-negotiate a better deal and keep these two, but I don't like predicting that. It takes two to tango. I will just predict the cut and if Beane can negotiate a cap-friendly deal then they can be considered a FA re-signing.

Cap Space:


That was a lot of moves to just get under the cap with the current roster and our draft class.

Resulting Roster:


That's not a horrible roster, but it is not as good as last year. If this is what we had to go into the season with, then we would need more than just 1 or 2 starters out of the draft picks.

Scenario 2: Something is Better than Nothing

This is the amount of room we would have above the Barebones if we Extended Tre and Diggs and made a "reasonable" 53-man roster with our current players and our draft picks.

Salary Moves:


I am reluctant to restructure both Diggs and Tre, but we may have to if we want to do much of anything in FA this year.

The Diggs' restructure generates a bunch of cap this year ($13.5 mil). But if they restructure him this year, then it guarantees that he is going to be a Bill through 2027 (Age 34). I'm sure he will be a decent player through his 34th year. I am not concerned about that. Even if he drops off, he will likely still be a very good receiver for this team. But the issue is that his salary cap hits (after the restructure) will be $32 mil (2025), $33mil (2026), and $27mil (2027). Those are huge cap hits. That will significantly impact our ability to grow this team and get better.

For Tredavious my concerns are different. Tre White seemed to really struggle with the mental recovery of the ACL (from the little that we heard). Now he has a 2nd major long-recovery injury right on the heels (literally and figuratively) of the 1st injury. He may just retire. Not sure where his head is at. Restructuring may not be a real option.



Cap Space:


So, if we made these extra moves then we would have about $18.6 mil to re-sign some of our expiring contract FAs or sign new FAs.

NOTE: that it is effectively more than $18.6 mil because you will end up cutting a player at the back of the roster for every player that you add. For example, if I spend $10 mil on a new FA, but cut a player at the same position that was a cap hit of $2 mil, with a $1 mil dead cap, then the net cap usage is only $9 mil.


Hopefully this was a helpful exercise to show where the Bills really are with their cap space. If you take away anything from this post, just know that the Bills need to generate $12.5 mil more than the Top 51 number that is floating around out there.

It is going to be a hard offseason for Beane, but I will never doubt his willingness to create more cap to keep making moves. He is with the cap like he is with his draft picks. If he wants a particular player, he usually cannot help himself trying to go up and get them.

I'm sure there are many other moves that can be made... Extend Josh, etc... But I think these two scenarios show you what is possible and what it would take.

We'll see. It will be an interesting offseason for sure.

Just another great fan opinion shared on the pages of