It was a busy week at One Bills Drive, as Brandon Beane and the decision makers focused their attention on player retention and the salary cap as the team nears free agency. There were a ton of moves this week, both directly from the Bills and from the league, that have implications on Buffalo’s cap situation for next year and beyond. Let’s break them down:
Micah Hyde signs 2-year extension
The Bills locked up their starting safety for an additional two years. Hyde, who was set to be a free agent at the end of the upcoming season, will now be around until at least the 2023 season. This move doesn’t have any impact on the Bills 2021 salary cap, but it will in the next two-years, obviously. The deal was a two-year extension worth $19.25 million. While we will have to wait a little longer to get the numbers for his next two seasons, it is a safe bet that Beane structured it in a similar way. I would suspect a cap hit around $6-$7 million, which is a great number for one of the best safeties in the league. Micah Hyde has done wonders since coming to Buffalo, and he deserves every penny of his contract.
Linebacker Andre Smith re-signs
The Bills were able to bring back one of their core special teamers on a two-year deal that is worth up to $3 million. This past season, the Bills were paying him just under $500K, so his new deal will be a small pay raise for the linebacker who appeared in 12 games in the 2020 campaign. The $3 million ceiling on the contract can be achieved through performance incentives and roster bonuses.
Mitch Morse restructures contract
This was a big one and something that I previewed in my article last week (so naturally, Brandon Beane must be a frequent reader of Buffalo Fanatics…right?!?) It was an expected move and even better for the Bills and one that Morse wanted to do on his own. According to reports, the contract restructure was not the result of an ultimatum by the Bills, but rather something that Morse wanted to do to help out the team knowing the tough financial situation they are in this offseason. The move saved $2 million on the Bills’ cap number for the 2021 season. That number doesn’t jump off the page but would be enough to retain a depth or special teams player or increase an offer to a free agent by just enough to convince them to sign. This was a veteran move by a player who understands the window of opportunity his team has in the next few seasons. Morse will have an opportunity to earn back some of the pay cut through performance incentives.
Matt Milano not tagged
Matt Milano has been headed for free agency since Brandon Beane said that he “earned the right to test the open market” in his season-ending press conference. These words from Beane, which were almost verbatim what was said about Shaq Lawson last season, were a pretty good indicator that we would not see Milano back in a Bills uniform. The Bills could have forced him to be back by applying the franchise tag to him, but the deadline came and went on Tuesday without the Bills applying the tag to Milano or any of their players for that matter. At this point, Matt Milano is expected to fetch about $15 million on the open market, and all signs point to Milano having played his final down in blue and red.
Dak Prescott signs extension
The final piece of significant information that impacts the Bills this week is the signing of Cowboys quarterback, Dak Prescott, to a multi-year extension, a deal that was in the works for a few years. When the negotiating was all said and done, Dak and the Cowboys agreed to a 4-year $160 million contract with $128 million guaranteed. Dak’s cap hit this year is $22 million but balloons to an unbelievable $44 million in 2023. Assuming the cap bounces back to the $200 million range in the next few years, Dak would account for just under 25% of his team’s salary cap. Dak’s contract is the next in the line of silly NFL contracts with an insane amount of money guaranteed. As soon as the contract details were released, Bills fans looked with interest knowing that Josh Allen will probably draw something similar. I will do a piece on Josh Allen’s potential contract in the coming weeks, but this is a good indication that Allen will be in for quite the payday when the time is right, and more importantly, the Bills will have to plan for their franchise quarterback to account for a large part of their cap over the next few years.
With one week to go until the start of free agency, teams were just informed Wednesday morning that the salary cap will be $182.5 million. After adding in rollover from last year the Bills officially have $188.3 million at their disposal for contracts this season. Brandon Beane has wasted no time securing the future with resigning Hyde and key special teamer Smith, as well as looking to the present with his restructure of Morse. The decision to restructure Mitch Morse bought the Bills a little breathing room going into some of the busiest weeks of the offseason. Looming decisions lay ahead, hang on Bills fans … it should be a fun few weeks!