The Buffalo Bills haven't been big players in NFL free agency this offseason, as they have struggled against the salary cap. According to NFLPA records, they entered this week with a salary cap of just under $157.5 million to spend, and roughly $146 million already committed to the Top 51 players on the roster for cap space, totaling $11.5 million in cap room.
Today, the amount of committed space stands at $152.8 million, and Buffalo has less than $5 million to spend.
Before the free agency period began, Buffalo used restricted free agent tags to keep the rights to Chris Hogan, Corbin Bryant, and Jordan Mills on $1.671 million tenders. The combined $5.01 million must count against the Bills' cap for now, but the players could still be signed by other teams, freeing up a space on the roster and against the cap, but creating another hole needed to be filled. These signings brought Buffalo's cap spending to $149.5 million on the Top 51, as three (roughly) $500,000 contracts were replaced by the combined figure for the three RFAs.
After signing Richie Incognito to a three-year, $15 million deal this week, the Bills moved closer to having no money to spend despite a relatively team-friendly deal and a cap hit of just $3.25 million in 2016. The contract knocked another (roughly) $500,000 contract out of the Top 51, but added $2.75 million net to the figure, bringing the spending to the $152.8 million figure.
But the contracts currently on the books aren't the only ones that need to be accounted for. Buffalo will need approximately $2 million in cap space to sign rookies. The majority of the rookie contracts won't crack the Top 51 contracts, so not every one of the rookies drafted will factor into this. Subtract that $2 million, and Buffalo is left with effectively less than $3 million in cap space.
When you look at the contracts doled out to recently departed Bills, it's easy to see why they weren't re-signed. Ron Brooks signed for $2 million per season, and the two-year deal Nigel Bradham signed in Philly was probably cap-prohibitive for the Bills, as well. Role players like Bacarri Rambo and Stefan Charles weren't offered a restricted free agent tag because it would have added more than $1 million to the cap number after bumping down a lower-paying contract.
Ideally, the Bills will sign Stephon Gilmore and Cordy Glenn to long-term contracts soon, which would free up more salary cap space to plug holes at right tackle, safety, and linebacker. Gilmore's deal can be re-worked at any time, but Janoris Jenkins' big contract from Wednesday will certainly drive up his value. Glenn's timeline is more finite, as the two sides have until July 15 to reach an agreement and lower his $13.7 million figure.