free agency, the Buffalo Bills have made their first five cap casualties of the offseason. And among those names, it's clear that the special teams department will be receiving an overhaul in 2017.
Kicker Dan Carpenter is the first big name to be let go this offseason by the Bills. Carpenter spent the past four seasons with the Bills but struggled with accuracy in each of the last two seasons. In 2016, Carpenter went 19-of-25 and also missed five extra point attempts.
Joining Carpenter, cornerback Nickell Robey-Coleman has also been released by the organization. Robey-Coleman played a prominent role for the Bills, having been the nickel cornerback for the team for much of his four seasons in Buffalo. He made 167 total tackles and picked off three passes over the last four years.
In addition to Carpenter and Robey-Coleman, the Bills have also released long snapper Garrison Sanborn, tight end Gerald Christian, and defensive back Phillip Thomas. Sanborn had been one of the longest-tenured members of the team, spending the past eight seasons with the Bills.
Joe B's Take
The Bills need to cut costs for the 2017 season, and the majority of these moves were done to do just that. Before today, they had only around $18 million in cap space.
The writing for Carpenter was on the wall after another season full of disappointment, and never really getting out of his own head with all the misses during the season. Given his cap number and production, this was a move that the Bills had been expected to make. All in all, cutting Carpenter will save them around $2.4 million in cap room, according to Spotrac.
Robey-Coleman was a terrific story out of USC, undrafted due to his size, but still earned a prominent role on the defense when he was a rookie. Last year, his play dipped and his height was exposed as teams continue to get bigger at slot receiver.
Robey-Coleman was starting to lose time on the field near the end of the season. He's more of a man-to-man cornerback anyway, which makes his fit in Sean McDermott's defense not necessarily ideal. Robey-Coleman's release will save the Bills around $1.6 million on this year's cap.
Sanborn has been as steady a hand as you can find as a long snapper in his eight seasons ago, but with so little cap space due to the roster, the Bills had to cut cost where they could. Sanborn would have cost the Bills around $1.1 million on this year's cap. By releasing him, while they'll still take a small dead money hit ($137,500 according to Spotrac), that, plus Reid Ferguson's cap number -- another long snapper the Bills have on the roster -- comes out to around $500,000 less than what it would have cost to keep Sanborn around.
With all the moves, the Bills cleared around $6 million of cap space for their Top 51, and now have approximately $24 million to operate through the rest of the offseason -- assuming Tyrod Taylor's option is picked up on Saturday.
The trouble is, the Bills have only 45 players signed currently. That gives them just about $4 million per roster spot in 2017 to stay under the cap with their Top 51, and that doesn't even include wiggle room likely needed as the bottom contracts/draft picks begin to become more expensive.
Even with the added cap space, the Bills are still in a precarious position with loads of needs, and not a lot of cap space to help fill them all. They will need to depend on the draft quite a bit.