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Buffalo Bills salary cap space not an issue after first wave of free agency

The Bills have more cap space than they can spend.

The Buffalo Bills available amount of salary cap space has fluctuated massively over the last week, but keeps returning to about the same level when all is said and done. Between players they signed, players they released, and Tyrod Taylor’s contract restructure, the needle has moved all over the place but keeps settling around the $20 million mark.

Setting the table

A week ago, Buffalo had roughly $18.2 million in cap space according to Spotrac. That included Tyrod Taylor’s option being picked up along with a $15.9 million cap hit. While Buffalo only had 45 players under contract, and they could restructure contracts for Cordy Glenn and Marcell Dareus to get enough cap space to fill the roster with quality players if they wished.

Cap space: $18.2 million

March 6 releases

Buffalo’s purge on Monday, releasing five players in a mixture of performance and salary cap moves, netted them about $6 million in cap space by releasing kicker Dan Carpenter ($2.4 million), cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman ($1.65 million), long snapper Garrison Sanborn ($950,000), tight end Gerald Christian ($540,000), and safety Phillip Thomas ($540,000).

Updated cap space: $24.2 million

Restricted Free Agent tenders

Buffalo felt strongly enough about running back Mike Gillislee (link) and offensive lineman Ryan Groy (link) to give them restricted free agent tenders. Both received the original round tender, which means if another team signs them away, Buffalo would receive draft pick compensation equal to the round in which the player was originally drafted and it gives the Bills the right to match the offer. Both of the tenders are worth $1.79 million. Buffalo chose not to tender defensive end IK Enemkpali and punter Colton Schmidt, their other two potential restricted free agents.

Updated cap space: $20.6 million

Tyrod Taylor restructures contract

The Bills are keeping Tyrod Taylor but instead of his $15.9 million cap hit in 2017, it dropped to roughly $9.7 million. Buffalo is kicking the Tyrod Taylor contract down the road with a big jump coming in 2018 and potentially bigger one in 2019 if he plays well. Still, they saved $6.2 million in 2017.

Updated cap space: $26.8 million

Bills release more guys

On Wednesday and Thursday, Buffalo continued to re-shape their roster by releasing WR/ST Marcus Easley and S Aaron Williams. Easley’s release saves Buffalo $1 million in cap space. Williams was designated a post-June 1 release (though there was some initial confusion on this), which means Buffalo gets no immediate cap relief until June 1. On that date, they will add $4.2 million in salary cap space. You have to feel for both, who weren’t able to contribute due to horrific injuries. On Friday, safety Corey Graham was added to the list adding an additional $4 million in cap space.

Updated cap space: $31.8 million plus $4.2 million in June

Bills add free agents

Buffalo didn’t just add cap space this week, though. They spent a lot of it. Not on guys like Robert Woods or Stephon Gilmore, who departed for rich contracts elsewhere. Here are the guys they signed and their 2017 cap hits based on what we know.

Projected free agent spending: $16.2 million
Updated projected cap space: $15.6 million plus $4.2 million in June

Looking ahead

Buffalo has plenty of cap space now and even with a big signing or two in the near future will be able to fit the rookies’ estimated $6.5 salary underneath the cap. It’s also important to note than once Buffalo surpasses 51 players under contract, only the top 51 will count in the salary cap calculation, so signings on the back end of the roster will either not count in the top 51 calculation or only increase the cap by a couple hundred thousand dollars as a really low cap number is bumped by a low cap number.

Buffalo could also easily add up to $14.7 million more in salary cap space by restructuring contracts for Marcell Dareus and/or Cordy Glenn. That would bring their total over $30 million before rookies.

The maximum realistic potential cap space Buffalo could have after possible restructures, post-June 1 cuts, and rookie salaries are applied is roughly $28 million. They probably couldn’t spend that much right now if they wanted to.