Could COVID-19 Cost the Buffalo Bills Matt Milano AND Dion Dawkins?

The Buffalo Bills 2020 roster cut-down day could be the craziest in team history. The Buffalo Bills transactions that day will provide Brandon Beane’s insider insight into the state of the NFL’s financials heading into 2021.

This week the NFL and NFLPA announce a deal that would make the salary cap floor in 2021 $175 million dollars. Now, this is a FLOOR meaning it can obviously go higher and is unlikely to go lower. With the amount of financial trouble, this would put a majority of NFL teams in, it is highly unlikely this happens, but with the NFL set to lose $5 billion dollars from no fans in the stands, it is a possibility.

If the $175 million dollar cap holds, the Buffalo Bills will find themselves with $15.5 million dollars to play with. That is the money they will have available for the entire off-season and is also the likely dollar amount range both Dawkins and Milano will be looking to be paid in.

The Bills are hardly in any real trouble, but they are at risk of losing some of the cornerstone players Sean McDermott drafted in his first season as Bills Head Coach. This year’s salary cap was $198 million, this floor would decrease that by $23 million dollars. The Indianapolis Colts are one of a few teams who will be well under ($91 million to be exact) the new estimated cap and could move to snag some marquee players like Milano or Dawkins.

On the flip side, a team like the Eagles who have been pushing the envelope in free agency and have their franchise QB under a new deal are estimated to be $71.5 million over the salary cap. They would not be the only team in this predicament. That is what would lead you to believe that NFL owners won’t allow the cap to get that low. The NFLPA would also likely not want players being released in massive droves with hardly a market to sign them places to anything remotely close to their prospective worth. However $5 billion dollars is A LOT of revenue and even if the two sides both want the same thing there may not be any alternatives.

That is why roster cut-down day 2020 could be the craziest and most important date on this NFL’s off-season calendar. Typically NFL teams are allowed to roll over unused salary from one year to the next. The more marquee players with big contracts that are “cutable” (lack too much dead cap hit) that teams release, the more they can roll over into 2021. If teams start chopping veteran players in droves before the regular season it will be a scary sign that they are preparing for the worst in 2021.

The Buffalo Bills were sitting pretty with one of the deepest rosters in the NFL. They have a plethora of veterans in almost all position rooms. That could all be for not if Brandon Beane and Co. want to salvage cap space to retain the younger more marquee players whose contracts are coming up.

Let’s take some time to assess the Buffalo Bills roster and look at some players that could be on the chopping block. Not because they aren’t good enough to make the 53 man roster, but because the Bills really may need to carry their salary over until 2021.

Trent Murphy – LDE

Cutting Murphy would cost the Bills $2.25 million in dead cap but save them $7.5 million to roll over into 2021. With Quinton Jefferson, Mario Addison, AJ Epenesa, and Daryl Johnson in the fold this would be an easy decision for the Bills front office. McDermott may want to keep the veteran who knows his system in a COVID-shortened off-season but not at the risk of losing Dawkins or Milano in 2021. He can make it work with the others listed.

Estimated 2021 Cap after release (w/ 2020 rollover): $23 million.

Lee Smith – TE

While the Bills would incur a higher dead cap hit, $2 million, than saving, $1.75 million, every penny may count in 2021. The Bills kept four tight ends last year due mainly to injuries. Cutting Smith and elevating Tommy Sweeney to TE#3 seems like an easy move for the Bills.

Estimated 2021 Cap after release (w/ 2020 rollover): $24.75 million.

Spencer Long – IOL, Daryl Williams RG/RT

While the Buffalo Bills offensive line depth is one of the biggest reasons to be optimistic about the 2020 regular season, would the Bills be willing to risk some of their depth for 2021 cap relief?

Evan Boehm was an under the radar IOL signing this off-season with a ton of NFL experience at a much cheaper price tag. The Bills still have holdovers Ryan Bates and Ike Boettger entering their second and third year in the Bills system respectively. If Cody Ford looks stable at right tackle Ty Nsekhe becomes the swing tackle and there is the promising UDFA Trey Adams behind him. The Bills would be taking a big leap of faith in their ability to develop some youth, but the risk could be worth it in terms of savings. Long would incur a $700k dead cap hit but a $2.5 million dollar saving. Williams would incur a $250k dead cap hit but save the Bills $2.25 million dollars.

Estimated 2021 Cap after release (w/ 2020 rollover): $29.5 million

TJ Yeldon – RB

With Devin Singletary and Zack Moss in the fold, the Bills could feel comfortable parting ways with Yeldon. They would incur a $400k dead cap hit and save $1.5 million dollars.

Estimated 2021 Cap after release (w/ 2020 rollover): $31 million

Patrick DiMarco – FB

With only UDFA Reggie Gilliam in the fold the Bills will likely have to ask themselves the question: can we make it work without a true fullback? If the answer is yes cutting DiMarco saves $1.375 million dollars with a dead cap of only $525k.

Estimated 2021 Cap after release (w/ 2020 rollover): $32.375 million

Dean Marlowe – CB/S

The Bills are deep in the secondary. Siran Neal, Jaquan Johnson, Dane Jackson can all fill the role hed by Marlowe. While he is a great depth piece releasing Marlowe would save the Bills $1 million.

Estimated 2021 Cap after release (w/ 2020 rollover): $33.375 million

There are other names to consider but these stick out as being the most likely. Adding in the rest of the usual cut-down guys the Bills could easily roll over enough money to give themselves $40ish million dollars to play within 2021 with a $175 million dollar cap. That is enough to resign one of the two in Dawkins and Milano and possibly both if they get creative. Remember they will have the rest of their roster to fill as well.

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