This past week, our friend Mike Florio over at Pro Football Talk published an article outlining some surprise moves that the Bills could make to free up a ton of cap space and signal a youth movement within some key positions. The two men in question are Jerry Hughes and Cole Beasley. One of them was the Bills’ best pass rusher last season and the other received a First-Team All-Pro vote. Naturally, cutting either of those two men would be controversial, but is it worth pocketing the savings and moving on? Let’s take a look.
Statistically, Hughes is coming off of a “just okay” campaign for the Bills. His 4.5 sacks was second on the team. He lead the team with 11 QB hits, added two forced fumbles, and had that memorable touchdown in the division-clinching win in Denver. However, the stats didn’t tell the complete story. As any Bills fan could tell you, Hughes carried the Bills defensive line and lead their front four pressure throughout the season. Without Hughes on the field, the Bills wouldn’t have made it to the AFC Championship last season. If the Bills were to cut Hughes it would free up $6.35 million in salary cap space.
What could the Bills do with that money? I suppose it could help finance the long-rumored Zach Ertz trade that will surely make another round on Twitter one of these days. More seriously, the Bills could use it for Josh Allen’s contract extension which will be the largest contract the team has ever handed out.
A more ominous sign for Hughes than the cap savings is the fact that the Bills made it a point in the draft to get younger and reload their defensive line with fresh legs. The way that Sean McDermott appreciates veteran leadership I just don’t see the Bills moving on from Hughes. Part of the reason they kept Trent Murphy in 2020 was because of what he brought to the locker room. Hughes is still a very valuable player both on and off the field. I would advise against it this time around, but I wouldn’t be shocked if they eventually move on from the longest-tenured Bill. McDermott and Beane set the tone early for me – nothing shocks me with those two men after their first summer in town trading away Sammy Watkins and Ronald Darby halfway through training camp.
It almost seems frivolous writing a blurb on the Bills cutting Cole Beasley. He’s coming off of a career season and is widely considered the best Slot Receiver in the game. Beasley and Allen have a special connection. Breaking them up for the sake of cap savings, especially in a year with Super Bowl aspirations, would be idiotic. If the Bills did cut Beasley, who is in the third year of his four-year contract, they would save $5.3 million on the cap. This move is a no-brainer in that the Bills should absolutely NOT consider this. And I doubt they would. The front office realizes Beasley’s importance to the success of the team. Even with the addition of Emmanuel Sanders, the Bills should be fine keeping Beasley on the roster, passing up the cap savings.
The only wild card in this is the headlines that Beasley has made during the offseason. If the Bills front office sees Beasley’s views on vaccinations and the NFL’s COVID restrictions as a distraction, something that could hurt their team, then they will move on from him. The current regime is not afraid to act swiftly if they feel a move is in the best interest of their football team. (See the aforementioned Watkins trade, among others.) Personally, I do not believe it will come to that. I think Cole Beasley (or any other player who speaks up) will not be a distraction to the team.
If the Bills were cash strapped, then these would be more agonizing decisions. But with the team well under the salary cap right now (approx. $9 million), they should not waver from their dedication to build on last year’s success for the sake of saving money. The Bills have their most realistic chance to win a Super Bowl in 30 years. I think both Jerry Hughes and Cole Beasley are integral parts of that dream. The cost of cutting both of them is $11.5 million is savings. The cost of having them both around for one more year could be priceless come February.