The Buffalo Bills have one game left on their 2015 regular season schedule, and when Sunday's finale against the New York Jets concludes, it'll usher in an offseason in which significant personnel changes are expected. As such, these six players - all of them have had big roles with the Bills this season - could be making their final appearance in a Bills uniform.
Pending free agents
LT Cordy Glenn: A second-round pick out of Georgia in 2012, Glenn will have started 61 out of a possible 64 games at left tackle for the Bills once his four-year rookie deal concludes. The fact that he has started 48 straight games for the Bills is remarkable considering he had a kidney removed before the 2014 season began, and that also explains a down year that he has since rebounded nicely from.
Along with 2012 first-round pick Stephon Gilmore, the Bills landed two legitimate franchise cornerstones at the top of that draft class, and they're going to have to pay a pretty penny to keep both around over the next year or so. Whaley has already come out and said that the team will make re-signing Glenn a high priority.
LG Richie Incognito: It felt a little bit like the line-needy Bills were taking a flier on the infamous Incognito back in February, when they signed him to a one-year deal. That may have been the case, but the move paid off magnificently for the Bills, as Incognito has performed at a consistently high (though not perfect) level while playing every snap this season; he's one of only two Bills players to have been on the field for all of his unit's plays this year. Though he'll turn 33 before his next training camp, the Bills have made it clear they'd like to make Incognito back, perhaps on a short-term, yet lucrative deal.
Potential cap casualties
DE Mario Williams: By now, you've probably read all about how this will be Williams' final game with the Bills. It has been a tumultuous year for the 2014 first team All-Pro, to put it mildly; he has repeatedly questioned the way in which his defensive coaches have utilized him this season, to the point where his own (anonymous) teammate(s) are ripping him for his effort and public complaints. It's safe to say that when the Bills made him the richest defender in NFL history in March of 2012, nobody really foresaw his tenure in Buffalo ending in this fashion. If and when the Bills do make his release official this offseason, they'll save a whopping $12.9 million against the 2016 salary cap.
LB Manny Lawson: It's tough to put Lawson on a list like this, because Buffalo's defensive coaches clearly like the guy. While not an impact defender by any stretch, Lawson is exactly what the team wants in anyone playing a significant role that isn't an elite playmaker: he's smart, assignment-sound, and versatile to a fault. In his three years with the Bills, Lawson has lined up at defensive end, outside linebacker, and even inside linebacker. Coaches love working with players that can do whatever you ask of them.
The only reason Lawson makes this list is because of his contract. He's entering the fourth year of a four-year free agent deal signed before the 2013 season, and the Bills could free up $2.65 million in cap space by releasing him. Don't be surprised if the Bills approach Lawson, 32 next summer, about a (slight) pay decrease this offseason. Heck, they could even offer him a short-term extension that provides cap relief.
CB Leodis McKelvin: Projected as a starter heading into the 2015 season, a setback recovering from a 2014 ankle injury that required surgery provided rookie Ronald Darby with an opportunity to start. Darby took the position and ran with it, leaving McKelvin twisting in the wind when he returned to the field. Now, McKelvin is either the Bills' fourth cornerback or their fourth safety when everybody is healthy, and that's not going to fly when the team could save $3.9 million against the cap if they release him. McKelvin, for his part, has made it clear that he'll do whatever it takes - switching positions full-time or even taking a pay cut - to stay in Buffalo, but with the Bills expected to address the safety position this offseason, the eighth-year defensive back may not be in the team's plans.
K Dan Carpenter: He was one of Ryan's favorite public whipping boys as the regular season began following a bad preseason, but as Carpenter's struggles continued throughout the year, Ryan backed off a bit, supporting his kicker while not guaranteeing him anything beyond 2015.
Carpenter is in danger of recording just the second sub-100 point season of his career this year (he's at 93 points with one game remaining), and while his field goal numbers don't look terrible (20-of-24 overall, 9-of-12 from 40 yards and beyond), it's his five missed extra points (33-of-38) that could cause the team to look around this offseason. That's doubly true considering that Carpenter is one of the higher-paid kickers in the game; the Bills could save $1.7625 million against the cap by cutting Carpenter and taking their chances with a new kicker in 2016.