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How the NFL Draft Impacts the Buffalo Bills Cap Situation



After acing his first three tests on player retention, free agency, and maneuvering the salary cap, Brandon Beane will have his next test Thursday night with the start of the 2021 NFL Draft. The Bills currently have $3.7 million in available cap space as of today. (That does not include the re-signing of OL Ike Boettger, as contract details are not yet known.) With the addition of around 12 players, both drafted and undrafted, by the end of the weekend, that number is sure to get closer to zero, if not over the cap limit. I wanted to take a look at just how much the Bills rookies might cost them and what it means for the Bills’ cap situation.

The NFL has language in their collective bargaining agreement that speaks to who exactly counts against the cap during the offseason and the regular season. During the offseason, the Top 51 salary cap hits are the only ones that count against the cap. But during the season, the entire 53 man roster and their respective salary caps count against the overall cap. Spotrac, the leader in sports for everything related to contracts, already has a breakdown of the Bills’ estimated expenses based on their current draft order. *Note: if the Bills move out of these positions, then the figures would change. Naturally, if they move up you can expect a higher cap hit and if they move down, a lower.

Here is the breakdown that Spotrac has on their website:

Courtesy of Spotrac

As you can see, the Bills will be getting their rookies on pretty favorable deals for the 2021 campaign. Gone are the days when first-round picks were able to haul in $20-30 million guaranteed before stepping onto an NFL field. As seen above, the total 2021 cap hit for their draft class is an estimated $6.7 million. After replacing some of the lower contracts that are currently in the current Top 51, this draft class would add $3.4 million to the Top 51 cap number. With that estimate, the Bills would have nearly $300,000 left in available space.

The tight salary cap situation has been something to monitor all offseason, and it may play a role in deterring Brandon Beane from trading too far up into the 1st round. As it is, once the 53-man roster salary cap takes effect, the Bills will have to shed some more salary to get under the number. The overwhelming sentiment among Bills fans is to trust Brandon Beane at all costs. So, regardless if he trades up and takes on more salary or trades down to accumulate more draft capital, Beane has the unwavering trust of many, including mine. The rookie salary cap situation should not play into the Bills’ decision-making at all this weekend, and knowing how “Big Baller” Beane operates, I doubt it will.