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Buffalo Bills Salary Cap Spending by Position

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When Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane arrived in Buffalo in early 2017, their first task was rebuilding the teams’ defense. After developing one of the best units in the league, the cash flow was then directed towards the offense. Four years later, with both units developed and rebuilt and the team fresh off on an appearance in the AFC Championship Game, it is safe to say that Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane have done their job. After the initial spending spree on the defense, where else have the Bills’ brass allocated their money? Let’s take a dive into where the money is being spent on the roster for the fast-approaching 2021 season.

While it might make sense to use the AAV (Average Annual Value) when looking at positional spending, for this exercise the cap hit is a much better metric to use. The AAV rarely coincides with the annual cap. For example, Matt Milano signed a 4 year, $40 million deal this spring. The AAV is $10 million (40 divided by 4), but the amount of money (cap hit) that the Bills are actually paying him this year is $7.8 million. After all, Brandon Beane isn’t called a cap wizard for nothing. Thanks to his crafty maneuvering of the salary cap, he was able to retain nearly every player of importance going into the 2021 season. Based on their total cap hit for 2021, here is how much the Bills are spending per position.

PositionTotal 2021 Cap Hit (in millions)
Defensive Line$44.1 M
Offensive Line$38.1 M
Wide Receiver$32.3 M
Defensive Back$30 M
Linebacker $25.1 M
Quarterback$11.1 M
Running Back$6.2 M
Tight End $3.6 M
K/P/LS$3.5 M
All numbers courtesy of Spotrac

The first noteworthy position on here is Quarterback. This is the last season that Josh Allen will not have one of the richest contracts in the league. If we do this exercise again next year, you can bet that quarterback will be in the top half of this chart. As Beane has preached for a few years now, while the Bills had Josh Allen on a rookie contract, they were able to take advantage of available cap space and spend money in other places.

I also found it noteworthy that Running Back and Tight End were at the bottom of the team’s spending for this year. Not coincidentally, those were the two positions a lot of Bills fans hoped would be addressed two weeks ago during the NFL draft. This is not to say that spending money on a free agent negates a need in the draft; some free agents don’t pan out. However, as long as the Bills are unwilling to shell out big money to Tight Ends or Running Backs in free agency, filling those needs in the draft, you can expect to see those two positions at the bottom of the teams’ spending for years to come.

Buffalo has had its fair share of clueless GMs over the past twenty years. Irresponsible monetary decisions and poor drafting plagued the once playoff-starving franchise. Previous GMs seemed to avoid a philosophy of fielding an attacking, high-scoring offense during the drought years; something that is obviously needed in the NFL today.

When Brandon Beane took over, he quickly outlined his vision and indicated that, without a franchise quarterback in place, a football team is in purgatory and can only go so far. But searching for the franchise quarterback comes a delicate balance, as one cannot forsake the rest of the team while searching for “the one.” By the looks of the numbers above, you would have thought this was one of Rex Ryan’s “ground and pound” teams. Despite Beane’s dedication to bulk up his lines, he has remained steadfast in his commitment to bringing an explosive offensive to Buffalo. Just this year, the Bills’ offense broke numerous franchise records and there is no reason to think they won’t be a top unit in the league again.

All of this to say that Beane should be commended for his ability to multi-task while building his football team. Instead of having an old-school, one-track mind approach to his roster, Beane was able to build up the two lines of his team while simultaneously swinging trades for All-Pro Wide Receivers and drafting offensive talent that put the Bills one game away from the Super Bowl. Not too bad for the reigning executive of the year, is it?

Let’s hear from you Bills fans…what do you think of the spending on each position? Has Beane overpaid for a position? Has he ignored another? Sound off in the comments!

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