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Cordy Glenn contract projection for 2016 NFL free agency

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Cordy Glenn has started 61 out of 64 games for the Buffalo Bills over the last four years. Let's take a look at what it might cost for the Bills to retain the pending free agent's services for 2016 and beyond.

Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

Serving as the Buffalo Bills' starting left tackle from his first NFL game, Cordy Glenn has rightfully been identified as a key free agent priority for the Bills and GM Doug Whaley this offseason. Glenn has been a consistently solid, if not elite, starter at one of the game's most valued position. In his four years with the team, Glenn has started all 61 games (out of a team total of 64) he has played, and will turn 27 years old in September.

Glenn could potentially enter the free agent market following a season in which he played all 16 games as the left tackle of the league's most productive rushing attack. Needless to say, if the Bills want to retain the services of Glenn for 2016 and beyond, it will cost them plenty of cash to do so.

Looking at left tackle contract comparisons for Glenn shows two distinct tiers, with two elite outliers (Trent Williams and Tyron Smith).

During the 2014 offseason, two players who, like Glenn, had just completed their age-26 season as starting left tackles signed new contracts. Those two players, Eugene Monroe and Jared Veldheer, inked very similar five-year contracts, valued at $37.5 million and $35 million, respectively, while Monroe received a larger portion of his contract guaranteed. These two contracts represent the lower of the two tiers, and appear to be significantly lower than the market value for a new Glenn contract.

While the Bills could attempt to argue for a contract closer to those signed by Monroe and Veldheer, a much more realistic comparison is the two contracts signed by Anthony Castonzo and Nate Solder before the 2015 season. Castonzo and Solder were each entering their age-27 season, and signed extensions averaging over $10 million per year - even though they found themselves in a more restricted situation than Glenn. Both 2011 first-round draft picks were under team control for the 2015 season at the relatively low salary of $7.44 million.

The ever-savvy Patriots negotiated an interesting two-year, heavily-guaranteed extension for just over $20 million. The three-year contract (including the remaining option year) equaled $27.5 million, and included $19.4 million in guaranteed money for 2015 and 2016. In 2017, Solder's $6.5 million salary, $500,000 roster bonus, and $31,000 workout bonus are not guaranteed. The short-term contract appeared to be great business by New England (Solder suffered a season-ending injury in October), who locked up their blind-side protector for a few years without having to make a massive long-term commitment.

Castonzo received a contract that could very well form the basis for what Glenn and his agents ask from the Bills (or whoever else wants to sign him). Below is the cash breakdown of Costanzo's contract:

2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Age 27 28 29 30 31
Yearly Cash $18M $7M $10M $8M $8.25M
Total Guaranteed $18M $7M $10M $0 $0
Total Cash $18M $25M $35M $43M $51.25M

The salary cap hits:

2015 2016 2017 2018 2019
Age 27 28 29 30 31
Signing Bonus $2.8M $2.8M $2.8M $2.8M $2.8M
Salary $4M $2.5M $1M $6M $6.25M
Roster Bonus $0 $4.5M $9M $2M $2M
Yearly Cap Hit $6.8M $9.8M $12.8M $10.8M $11.05M
Total Cap Hit $6.8M $16.6M $29.4M $40.2M $51.25M

Although these numbers may appear somewhat high for Bills fans, Glenn's durability, consistency, and level of play make them very realistic. Like Glenn, Castonzo was a four-year starter and had started 66 of his team's possible 70 games during the first four years of his career. Neither Glenn nor Castonzo had been honored with a Pro Bowl appearance during the first four years of their career. Unlike Castonzo, Glenn has the leverage of being able to enter the free agency market if an extension is not reached.

With Castonzo's sizeable contract serving as a guide, and acknowledging that outside factors could cause the timing of payments to change, here is a contract projection for Glenn: five years, $55 million, with a $15 million signing bonus, $21 million guaranteed at signing, and $37 million in total guarantees (with "rolling" guarantees solely for injury but later fully guaranteed). The cash breakdown:

2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Age 27 28 29 30 31
Yearly Cash $18M $9.25M $10.25M $8.75M $8.75M
Total Guaranteed $21M ($18M in 2016, $3M in 2017 salary) $9M ($3M signing, $6M on 3/17) $10M $0 $0
Total Cash $18M $27.25M $37.5M $46.25M $55M

Now, the breakdown by payment type with salary cap hits:

2016 2017 2018 2019 2020
Age 27 28 29 30 31
Prorated Signing Bonus $3M $3M $3M $3M $3M
Salary $3M $3M $3M $7M $6.5M
Roster Bonus $0 $6M $7M $1.5M $2M
Workout Bonus $0 $250k $250k $250k $250k
Yearly Cap Hit $6M $12.25M $13.25M $11.75M $11.75M
Total Cap Hit $6M $18.25M $31.5M $43.25M $55M

The above structure would provide the Bills with a very low 2016 cap hit, which could be put to good use in a cap-strapped year for the organization. The large roster bonuses in 2017 and 2018 would provide Glenn with the security that comes with receiving a large payment prior to the beginning of the season, and would allow the Bills to convert such bonuses to lower Glenn's cap hit in a given year. If the Bills believe that they will have available cap room in 2016 after analyzing all of their other needs, the 2016 salary could be increased, while the 2017 and 2018 numbers could be lowered. Additionally, the front-loaded contract ($37.5 million over first three years) matches up with Castonzo, who received $35 million over his first three years.