The Buffalo Bills are in a very difficult financial position, as they enter an offseason that will either see them continue their push towards that elusive world championship or result in them taking a step back from their record-setting 2020 season. Last week, we looked at the salary cap: what it is, some of the important terms, contract language, etc. If you missed it, feel free to check it out here. This week, we will be looking at what the Bills can do to free up some much-needed salary cap space. Unfortunately for all parties involved, there is no way to gain cap space without cutting some veteran players that saw significant playing time this year. In a usual year, the NFL salary cap would rise about 6%, or roughly $10 million. But due to the pandemic, the salary cap will see a decrease of almost $20 million, putting the Bills, and many teams, in a terrible financial position.
Assuming the cap is at the $180 million mark that has been reported, the Bills will start about $1 million over the cap. Here are five veteran players that, if cut, can save the Bills $30 million in cap space.
1.) John Brown
I was against cutting Brown all year when I heard the rumblings start about this potential move. The Bills’ offense just looked like a different and more dangerous unit when he was on the field, and he was able to provide Josh Allen a vertical threat. However, my opinion changed during a five-game stretch when Brown was sidelined with an ankle injury. In those five games, the Bills averaged 34 points per game, Josh Allen averaged 289 passing yards per game and recorded 13 TD to two INT, and, most importantly, the team went 5-0. In Brown’s absence, Gabriel Davis showed that he was capable of a larger role next year. As important as John Brown was to Josh Allen last year in Allen’s first real season as a starter in the league, this is a time when a business decision has to win out over emotion.
Cap savings if cut: $7,931,250
2.) Mario Addison
Addison was brought in to replace Shaq Lawson and never seemed to stand out on gamedays. In his last three years in Carolina, Addison was an every-game starter, and it showed on the stat sheet: 11, 9, and 9.5 sacks in his last three seasons had Bills fans dreaming of a dynamic front four pass rush when he was signed. This year, Addison started in only seven games and finished the season with only five sacks–his fewest since 2013, his first year in Carolina. It appears that age might be catching up to the Troy University alum. At age 33 and with a big cap hit, Addison should be an obvious place for the Bills to save money this offseason.
Cap savings if cut: $6,162.980
3.) Vernon Butler
Similar to Addison, Butler is another player from the Carolina Panthers pipeline. Butler was forced into a larger role than the team expected when DT Star Lotulelei opted out of the season. Having to play in Star’s one-technique position hampered what Butler could do this year. Brandon Beane signed Butler to a two-year deal and made sure to structure it in a way where he could get out of it after one year with minimal dead cap and a good chunk of cap savings. In his end-of-year press conference, Beane made a point to reference getting bigger along the defensive line as a priority for his team. While it may be difficult to get bigger than 6’4″ and 330 lbs, Butler should be considered as a cap causality given the savings it would bring.
Cap savings if cut: $6,818,750
4.) Quinton Jefferson
Signed on the same day as Butler last offseason, the Bills certainly had bigger things in mind when they inked Jefferson to a two-year/ $13.5 million contract. To many, Jefferson will be remembered as a non-factor on a defensive line that struggled to get to the quarterback and stop the run. That assessment is not totally fair to Jefferson, as he was also forced to play DT due to the opt-out of Lotulelei. Jefferson would have been much better suited as a versatile DT/DE hybrid player. Again, on a defensive line that needs to get bigger and have a rebound year, it seems odd to cut two defensive tackles in Jefferson and Butler, but the Bills can find better players for their system at a cheaper price. Most years that would be considered a short-sighted plan to save cap space, but this year that is exactly the situation the Bills find themselves in.
Cap savings if cut: $6,500,000
5.) Lee Smith
The Bills have kept Smith on their roster because of his excellent run-blocking skillset. With the team taking on a pass-first approach and needing skill players at the tight end position, the Bills should look to free agency or the draft for a tight end to compliment, or even overtake, Dawson Knox. Lee Smith has teased the idea of ending his playing career, but if he does decide to come back for another year, the Bills should move on without him.
Cap savings if cut: $2,500,000
Total savings from cutting those five: $29,912,980
Just like that, the Bills can free up $30 million in cap space which would certainly be enough to bring back Matt Milano, sign a few depth free agents, and afford their 2021 draft class. Last week after the J.J. Watt news broke, I outlined what it would take for the Bills to afford Watt. These five players are included in that plan, as well as one additional offensive starter that would have to be cut if they wanted to afford Watt. As it is, losing five players that saw a considerable amount of playing time on a team that had a 9-0 lead in the AFC Championship game is a tough pill to swallow, and one that might prove costly next season. The number of players that the Bills have to cut will be a storyline to watch all offseason. Regardless of who is cut, you can bet it will be an emotional decision for a team that considers itself, and prides itself, on being a family.
What do you think Bills fans? Do you agree with my plan to save the Bills $30 million? Who would you keep around for next season? Sound off in the comments!