(WKBW) — The Buffalo Bills are hitting the reset button on the tight end position.
Following a frustrating season with a lack of positive results, the Bills announced the release of tight end Charles Clay from the roster on Friday afternoon. Clay had one year remaining on the five-year contract he initially signed with the team in the 2015 offseason.
The release of Clay provides the Bills with roughly an additional $4.5 million in cap space in 2019. During 2018, his last with the team, he was mostly underwhelming while collecting only 21 receptions for 184 yards. Had the Bills kept him on the roster, he would have accounted for a $9 million hit against the salary cap.
In his four seasons with the Bills, Clay amassed 178 receptions for 1,822 yards and nine touchdowns.
Joe B's Take
- After a tumultuous season in 2018 for Charles Clay, his release from the Bills was an imminent one. Had Clay been a bit more productive in 2018, or had the Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott regime signed him, this might have been a bit more surprising.
However, with how the season progressed for Clay, the writing was on the wall before too long.
It began in the final quarter of the season with the Bills when the team started cracking into Clay's time on the field. When healthy, the Bills were giving Clay nearly 75-percent of the team's offensive snaps, but after the veteran player continued to let them down as the season went on, it became a priority for the team to get the young Jason Croom on the field more to see what they had.
It all came to a head when the Bills made Clay a healthy scratch against New England for their Week 16 road game, showing their strongest signal to that point that Clay's days in Buffalo were numbered. And while the Bills had plenty of cap space heading into the 2019 offseason to work with even with Clay on the roster, having that little production with the caliber of contract he was signed to was a non-starter for the Bills.
In short, they had to move on. And really, this was the first chance the team had to move on from Clay. When the Bills originally signed Clay to a free agent contract, they inserted various poison pills to keep the Miami Dolphins from matching the offer as a transition tagged player.
Those poison pills that former GM Doug Whaley and company inserted into the contract ended up biting the current Bills regime because they couldn't have saved a single dollar against the cap at any point until this very offseason -- four years into the deal. And in today's NFL, having contracts that handcuff teams that extensively are unheard of for non-star players.
Even when he was productive for the Bills, the contract was still an albatross considering they never received a game-changing type of talent at tight end. The separation between these two sides was in the cards as soon as it was financially viable -- which it was in the 2019 offseason.
Now at tight end, the Bills have to overhaul the group completely. The lone holdover signed for 2019 is Jason Croom, and despite showing some flashes of potential, he also fumbled twice -- in crucial moments -- on only 16 receptions. The Bills will likely continue to develop Croom while seeking a new starting option.
The Bills should consider utilizing both free agency and the draft, with plenty of still young players with upside available on relatively cheap potential contracts in free agency. Even if they sign a middle-tier free agent at tight end, the Bills should consider selecting a young player to develop, and maybe even start, at all stages of the 2019 NFL Draft.
The revamping of the tight end position was a long-time coming, and just as the rest of the roster is going through, it now joins the total cleanse that Beane and McDermott set into motion when they initially took over in 2017.