The Buffalo Bills and the rest of the National Football League are into the teeth of the offseason with unrestricted free agency right around the corner, which means the Bills have plenty of decisions to make in the next few weeks.
General manager Doug Whaley met with the local media Thursday at the NFL Combine, and offered up some interesting tidbits throughout the scrum.
Five takeaways from the conversation:
1) “It’s possible” to fit both Glenn and Incognito under salary cap
- The Bills are doing everything in their power to try and clear up enough room to keep their two key free agents: left tackle Cordy Glenn and left guard Richie Incognito. To do so, they may need to carve out anywhere between $15-to-$20 million in cap space on top of the money they have to set aside for draft picks (approximately $8-to-$10 million) and restricted free agents. They’ve already restructured Charles Clay and saved an assumed $7.5 million on the 2016 cap. But, before that, they were operating in the negative for 2016 by just a shade under $1 million, which means they’ll have to clear a substantial amount of money. Incognito can likely be had for a longer term to lessen the cap hit of the first year of his contract, whereas Glenn may only be able to be kept if the Bills franchise tagged him for a little more than $13 million. Clay is a start, but the Bills are still nowhere close to being flexible enough to re-sign both Glenn and Incognito as of February 25.
2) The Bills will be bringing in a QB
- This is the first time we’ve heard Whaley commit to bringing in another player at the quarterback position. The GM referenced the fact that both Tyrod Taylor and EJ Manuel are entering the final year of their respective contracts, and simply stated that they will bring in a quarterback this offseason. He didn’t specify the avenue, whether it would be through the draft or through free agency, but someone will be brought in. Keep an eye on all those Day Two to Day Three quarterbacks in the 2016 NFL Draft, because with a lack of cap space, there could be a rookie coming to One Bills Drive in the not-so-distant future.
3) Mario return isn’t ruled out; current contract “prohibitive”
- Mario Williams told ESPN that he’d be open to taking a pay cut, but hoped for a compromise in defensive scheme with coaches on Wednesday. Later that day, head coach Rex Ryan told reporters that they would be fully committing to his defensive scheme — which wasn’t necessarily a good indication for the defensive end. On Thursday, Whaley said they were open to bringing Williams back into the fold. However, with a $19.9 million cap hit, Mario would almost have to take a pay cut to be brought back. Whaley subscribed to the same line of thinking:
“That [original cap hit] would be prohibitive. Can it happen? There would have to be a lot of other things to juggle around and shuffle around for it to happen. But, like I said, we’re going to try and find a solution that’s best for the Buffalo Bills.”
Translation: Without a pay cut, Mario Williams likely won’t be brought back for 2016.
4) Tyrod extension not ruled out
- Taylor is entering the final year of his contract, and carries a cap hit of $3.13 million for 2016. However, the question the Bills have to ask themselves is this: Is it more beneficial to overpay for Taylor now for security’s sake, or to take the wait-and-see approach and let the year play out? That’s something that has to be heavily weighed, because the jury on Taylor being the franchise quarterback is still out. When broached on the subject today, Whaley didn’t rule out a possible extension.
“If it makes sense for them and for the Buffalo Bills, it wouldn’t preclude us from doing it, but it would have to make sense.”
With the type of money that Kirk Cousins is likely going to get this offseason, it would be interesting to figure out how much of a gap exists between how much the Bills value Taylor, and what Taylor’s value on the open market would dictate. At this point, it’s not one of their main concerns — that should be totally devoted to figuring out the salary cap.
5) Another avenue for cap relief: Stephon Gilmore
- Another way to do that, besides restructuring Clay and potentially releasing Mario Williams, would be to sign Stephon Gilmore to a long-term contract extension that gives them loads of cap relief in 2016. With the Bills picking up Gilmore’s fifth-year option, the cornerback will be paid a guaranteed amount of just under $11.1 million — which also is Gilmore’s cap number in 2016. Whaley didn’t rule out extending Gilmore — who is very much a part of their future plans — to alleviate some cap pressure that exists in 2016. If they successfully broker an extension, they could backload the contract and give Gilmore a ton of money up front, and free up even more cap space to try and re-sign their own.