For the second straight offseason, the New England Patriots are attempting to poach the best restricted free agent on the Buffalo Bills roster. Last year, New England successfully signed wide receiver Chris Hogan without giving up any compensation to the Bills.
This time around, it's running back Mike Gillislee -- the primary backup to star runner LeSean McCoy. According to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com, the Patriots have signed Gillislee to an offer sheet for two years.
According to the report, Gillislee would make a total of $6.4 million over the two years, and the first year pays out a total of $4 million.
The Bills now have five days to match the Gillislee offer sheet. If they do not, due to the restricted free agent tender the Bills issued to the running back, the Patriots would owe them a fifth-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft. The Patriots currently have two fifth-round picks, possessing 163rd and 183rd overall in this year's draft.
In two seasons with the Bills, Gillislee has rushed for 844 yards and 11 touchdowns, while averaging 5.7 yards per carry. Gillislee turns 27 in November.
Joe B's Take
The New England Patriots have done it again.
Last time around, they made the Chris Hogan contract so unsavory that the Bills were willing to lose him for nothing due to their cap situation. This time around, they coupled a proposition of taking up a little over 20.1-percent of their remaining cap space.
According to the NFLPA Public Salary Cap report as of today, the Bills have approximately $10.8 million in cap space. If the Bills were to match the offer, that would leave them a total of approximately $8.6 million in cap space.
Making matters a bit more palatable for the Bills, though, is the fact that the Patriots would give up a fifth-round pick in this year's draft if Buffalo does not match the offer sheet. In addition, the Bills would also gain just a shade over $1.2 million in cap space which -- given their situation -- would be a welcomed addition if they had to walk away.
Despite how fondly fans grew of Gillislee, and how he essentially came out of nowhere, it might just be in the Bills best interest to take the draft pick based on their salary cap situation.
The Bills have only six picks in the upcoming draft, with a plethora of holes to try and fill in the draft process. And I wouldn't even put it outside of the realm of possibilities that the Bills might have only given Gillislee that level of a tender to try and bait a team to get them an additional draft selection.
Gillislee is a good talent that really came on for the Bills over the past two years, but you have to remove the emotion from the situation.
The Bills would be on the hook for $4 million this year for a backup running back, who by the end of the contract he just signed will be 28 years old. If they decline, they get a fifth-round pick, an extra $1 million in cap space, and they can use the pick on a 21-to-23-year-old running back with a longer shelf life, longer contract, and for less money.
LeSean McCoy is going to be the bread and butter of this team. As he goes, the Bills go. And quite frankly, a backup runner that costs this team $4 million this year is a luxury with a salary cap situation that can't afford luxuries. It's their own fault for getting themselves into this hole, but now they have to operate with smart business decisions, and not compound the previous errors with poor decisions.
The Bills could keep him if they really wanted to, but from a business standpoint, it probably makes the most sense to move on.