Before anything else, know this: Devin Singletary is a great running back, and will have earned whatever contract he goes on to sign. Tragically, that contract won’t be with the Buffalo Bills.
We should start by recognizing his effect on the organization. When Singletary came to the Bills, he was a scrappy, young third-round pick fighting for snaps in camp between two veritable Hall of Famers in LeSean McCoy and Frank Gore.
Now, he’s the number one back on a Super Bowl-contending offense. He became Josh Allen’s right hand man in the backfield, as the dynamic duo has unintentionally split carries. When the offense took its leap in 2020, Singletary stood his ground and proved that he was worth the faith put in him. Now, the time has come to prepare for our final goodbyes.
Devin Singletary’s Contract Conversation
Based on average annual value and total contract value, Devin Singletary is the cheapest running back on the Bills. Cheaper than Zack Moss, James Cook, or even Taiwan Jones. This season, which is by far the most expensive year of his rookie contract, Singletary carries only a $2.8 million cap hit. Based on his production, he’s far exceeded that value with Buffalo.
However, when 2023 rolls around, he’ll be getting paid for his entire body of work thus far. That’s where the issue lies. With the way the running back market looks right now, Singletary is one perfectly ordinary season away from securing himself a three-year deal worth up to $18 million. Just this offseason, James Connor signed a three-year deal with the Arizona Cardinals worth $21 million ($7M annually). Statistically and situationally comparable, Connor is the perfect example of the kind of deal we can expect Singletary to take.
The Buffalo Bills Budgeting Breakdown
Since taking over the team in 2017, Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane have yet to make a significant investment at the running back position. They cut LeSean McCoy, the major RB investment of the previous regime, and went with the rookie in Singletary in order to save money in August 2019. After this season however, Singletary will himself be an unrestricted free agent. Based on their previous free agent signings and draft investments, this front office is unlikely to retain an expensive player at a position they consider a luxury. If he were to stay, Motor would need to accept a deal worth significantly less than he’s proven himself to be.
Think about the cost of potential contract extensions for Ed Oliver, Jordan Poyer, Gabriel Davis, and many others. The organization uses Tremaine Edmunds on every down, and hopes to retain him too. Considering this, are McDermott and Beane truly willing to drop the cash on a running back, when their track record shows they’re historically unwilling to do so? Especially after spending $52M on a four-year extension for TE Dawson Knox, Singletary’s fellow 2019 draftee?
Things are tight, financially. Both now and in the future. The Buffalo Bills cap situations are in no way enticing. We do not find ourselves thrilled at the prospect of choosing who to lose this upcoming offseason. Here are the numbers as they currently stand:
|2022 Cap Space||$3,286,126|
|2023 Cap Space||-$5,065,415|
The Bills, with only 37 players under contract for 2023, negative $5M to spend. There are, of course, restructures and cuts to be done to make room and additional TV revenue to consider, but we can only kick the can down the road so far before it catches up to us. Everyone must be paid eventually. With this in mind, the luxury of a second contract for an above-average running back is difficult to justify.
The Bills may find a way to make it work. They may choose to let someone else go instead. Perhaps Brandon Beane can find a way to pay him more without incurring a significant salary cap hit. Realistically though, this season is the end of the road for Devin Singletary and the Buffalo Bills.
So, for his fourth and final act as a Buffalo Bill, let’s do him justice. As the incumbent RB1 in this offense, he’ll be getting plenty of snaps. In fact, this could be the best year of his career behind a newly-revamped offensive line with a hard-nosed OL coach in Aaron Kromer. For all the Singletary fans out there, appreciate every snap this season. With each surprisingly shifty cut, and each unexpected first down, take a moment to appreciate it.
It’s been a fun ride. The Bills may be getting off, but worry not: Devin Singletary will keep the Motor running.
*Figures accurate as of 09/13/22.
The Buffalo Bulletin on Buffalo Fanatics is a weekly editorial by Iestyn Harris. Check back regularly for hot topics, riveting discussion, and, occasionally, some actual insight.
Featured Image: Al Bello/Getty Images