The Buffalo Bills are coming off a disappointing season and will have the least amount of salary cap space available among all 32 NFL teams.
The Bills entered the 2015 season with big goals as their defense was coming off a sensational season in 2014, but the defense took several huge steps backwards under first-year head coach Re Ryan and the team finished with an 8-8 record. Buffalo has now missed the playoffs 16 consecutive years and is currently $209,715 under the salary cap according to Over-the-Cap.
The Bills do have options to “free up” some more money. One option, and what seems to be almost certain, is that the team waives veteran defensive end Mario Williams. By releasing the 31-year old the Bills would save $12.2 million in cap space.
Williams performed well in his first three seasons after signing his six-year, $96 million contract back in 2012. Williams totaled 38 sacks in his first three seasons, including 14.5 in 2014, but registered just 5.0 sacks last year. He also voiced his displeasure with Ryan’s scheme throughout the season and was accused by an anonymous teammate of giving “zero effort” last season per the Buffalo News.
ESPN is reporting if Williams is cut loose, the Philadelphia Eagles could be a possible suitor for 2014 All-Pro selection. There likely be plenty of other teams interested as teams are always looking for elite pass rushers.
Update: Williams told Josina Anderson of ESPN that he would be willing to take a pay cut in order to stay with the Bills.
“Yes most definitely. I love my team. I love my teammates. Everything has been fine. It’s just a matter of if there can be a better understanding of being able to do what we do..at least meet half way. That’s all, meet halfway.”
Williams may not be the only player to get purged as the Bills try to better their salary situation. Leodis McKelvin, Kyle Williams, Corey Graham, Dan Carpenter, Keith Urbik, Jarius Wynn and Anthony Davis also could face the same fate as Williams due to their salary. Marquise Goodwin and Duke Williams are also not sure bets to return to the team this coming season.
McKelvin has spent his entire eight-year career with the Bills but is due $3.9 million ($4.6 million cap hit) this upcoming season, which is a lot for a fourth string cornerback who only saw action on 35.6 percent of the snaps. The 31-year-old has been inconsistent at corner the past three seasons and has missed 14 games during that span.
Kyle Williams is scheduled to make $5.0 million this upcoming season, which makes him a candidate as well as the fact that he only appeared in six games due to a PCL injury. The 32-year old defensive tackle is very good at clogging the middle and excellent versus the run. Williams registered 14 tackles and 1.0 sack.
Corey Graham is likely the least likely of the 10 players mentioned to be cut. The 6-foot safety had one of his best seasons of his career, if not the best. The 30-year-old, who is slated to make $3.38 million, registered 127 tackles and had two interceptions. Graham graded out as the 48th best safety according to Pro Football Focus.
Urbik ($1.78 million) has spent the last six years with the Bills. The 30-year-old guard played all in all 16 years the past three years, making 29 starts during the span with four coming this past season.
Dixon ($1.15) has been with the Bills the last two years. The 28-year-old recorded a career year in 2014, rushing for 432 yards on 105 carries (4.1 yards per carry). Dixon only carried the ball 21 times for a total of 44 yards last season, losing playing time with the emergence of third year back Mike Gillislee.
Goodwin, 25, is attempting to qualify for the 2016 Olympics in track and field as a sprinter or long jumper. The athletic wide receiver didn’t make much impact on the football, catching two passes and returning two kicks.
Williams is a role player as a safety. The 25-year-old recorded 25 tackles and 1.0 sack along with one pass defended.
Jarius Wynn, a 6-foot-3 defensive end, did not play in 2015 due to a knee injury. The 29-year-old is a pass rushing specialist who totaled 18 tackles and 2.5 sacks in 2014 for Buffalo.
A final option to cut payroll is for the Bills to convert tight end Charles Clay’s contract as SB Nation suggested. Buffalo could save $7.5 million in salary cap by simply changing Clay’s 2016 roster bonus to a signing bonus. In addition, the team could possibly re-work linebacker Manny Lawson and running back Jerome Felton’s contract.
Update: The Bills did in fact restructure Clay’s contract converting Clay’s $10 million signing bonus to a roster bonus thus creating $7.5 million in salary cap room.
Tyler Dunne of the Buffalo News is reporting that the Bills will talk to quarterback Tyrod Taylor’s agent about the possibility of an extension. Taylor, 26, initially signed a three-year contract last winter with the Bills, but the third year of that deal was voided after he spent most of the 2015 campaign as the team’s starting quarterback. His cap number for 2016 also received a bump to $3 million based on a salary escalator.
[Photo by Bill Wippert/Associated Press]