Free Agency Review: Buffalo Bills

Key Additions: S Micah Hyde ($6.1M), S Jordan Poyer ($3.25M), K Steven Hauschka ($3M), Patrick DiMarco ($2.1M), WR Andre Holmes ($1.7M), G Vlad Ducasse ($1.2M), DE Ryan Davis ($1M)

Key Re-signings: LB Lorenzo Alexander ($3M), C Ryan Groy ($2.5M), T Jordan Mills, ($1.9M)

Key Losses: CB Stephon Gilmore (Patriots), S Corey Graham (FA), LB Zach Brown (FA), WR Marquise Goodwin (49ers), Robert Woods (Rams), CB Nickell Robey (FA), DE Leger Douzable (FA), CB Corey White (FA), S Aaron Williams (FA), FB Jerome Felton (FA), S Robert Blanton (FA), DT Corbin Bryant (FA), K Dan Carpenter (FA), LS Garrison Sanborn (Buccaneers)

Estimated Cap Space: $11 million

Dead Money: $9.9 million

Estimated Salary Per Year: $153 million for 61 players

Snaps Gained/Lost in Free Agency

Role2016 Snaps2017 SnapsChange
Offense11,32311,802479
Defense11,7207,657-4,063
Special4,8993923-976

Player Signings

Micah Hyde- 5 years, $30.5M, $14M guaranteed

Hyde is a young, versatile player and given the Bills defensive issues I think this is a good signing. The price is pretty fair for a jack of all trades types and falls in line with this tier of safety or “prove it” type of corner. While the guarantee and some of the cash up front is a bit on the high end they were in a position where they needed to ensure he wasn’t going back to Green Bay so they probably needed to do it.  This is a solid move that is better than some of the other DB moves this offseason. Grade: B+

Jordan Poyer- 4 years, $13M, $6M guaranteed

There are a few ways to look at this deal. One is the annual value of the contract. Given where the market ended up going after the initial wave of signings this is probably a bit on the high side, though the Bills will control the rights to the player for 4 years rather than getting into a 1 year contract. The guarantees, though, are very high. The Bills basically went into a guarantee package that would normally come for players paid $1-$2M per year higher and was probably influenced by the deal they did with Corey Graham a few years which was also generous with the guarantees. Grade: C-

Lorenzo Alexander- 2 years, $5.95M, $4.1M guaranteed

This is a terrific deal for Alexander who is 34 years old. Alexander was great last season but the expectations would not be the same this year and there is also the question of a different coaching scheme as well. The guaranteed salary on this contract is very good and probably double what it needed to be. There are no per game bonuses in the first contract year and hardly any in the second year. Grade: C-

Steven Hauschka- 3 years, $8.85M, $4M guaranteed

The Bills clearly needed a kicker, but did they really need to spend this much when there were multiple options available for less than $2 million? The Bills paid Hauschka the 5th largest first year cash salary among all kickers, the 6th most guaranteed, and the 5th largest signing bonus.  He’s not really coming off a great season either with 6 missed extra points and 2 FGs missed inside 30. This just seems like they re-opted into Dan Carpenter Grade: F

Ryan Groy- 2 years, $5M, $3.5M guaranteed

The Bills put a ROFR tender on Groy and opted to match the deal he signed with the Rams. The first year value still comes in under the 2nd round tender so they probably made the right move. The salary is in line with a lower level starter and the Rams pretty much gave him the same deal they did with Tim Barnes. As long as the Bills have a spot for Groy to play next year, whether it be center or guard, this contract should work out fine. Grade: A

Patrick DiMarco- 4 years, $8.4M, $4.8M guaranteed

Normally I’d be pretty negative on any fullback signing for much more than the minimum, but the Bills are a different offense than most teams and I would expect them to use the position much more often than others and DiMarco is a fine player. This is hard to grade because most of the market is non-existent so its difficult to compare. The guarantee is clearly on the high end for the size of the contract, but if they had their eyes on two guys and this one cost over 50% less it’s hard to argue.  Grade: B

Andre Holmes- 3 years, $5.15M, $2.45M guaranteed

There are worse players to take a shot in the dark on than Holmes who at one time looked like was going to be a good second/third target. He’s much cheaper than the two guys the team lost and the dropoff may not be that significant. Again the knock here is the same as the other deals- the guarantees are high given the size of the contract. Again I can point to another bad deal they did they probably impacted this and that was the deal for special teamer and WR hopeful Marcus Easley. If this had a lower risk involved on the guaranteed portion it’s a solid deal.  Grade: C

Jordan Mills- 2 years, $3.8M, $400K guaranteed

There are probably a number of people unhappy with this contract because Mills isn’t very good, but I doubt the Bills are hoping that he’ll be their starter. For a backup veteran tackle the contract is perfectly fine and there is almost no risk involved given the minimal guarantee.  Grade: C

Overall Thoughts

While not an exciting offseason I think this was a realistic approach to free agency for the Bills. Sometimes the hardest thing for a team to do is to look at themselves in the mirror and realize that they are not very good and act accordingly. If this was last season the Bills would have been more active in adding name value talent, keeping higher prices players, and not cutting guys they needed to cut so it’s a step in the right direction.

The Bills probably did the right thing by keeping Tyrod Taylor on a renegotiated contract to try to make the most out of the sunk costs on the team. You can quibble with a few things they did with the contract, most notably I’d say not including an option for 2018 to try to work the comp system, but all in all they made the best out of a bad situation. Adding DiMarco and keeping Groy should accentuate their strengths and Hyde is young enough to stick around when/if the team gets better in the future and they made sure they would control his rights if that happens. The only thing that made no sense at all was the kicker contract.

While the team has nobody to throw the ball too, given the questions about Taylor’s play and eventual negotiations for Sammie Watkins, the Bills could not go out and sign one of the second tier players to a longer term deal. I don’t think matching the deal for Woods, Britt, or even third targets like a veteran Ted Ginn made any sense for the team. Pryor would have been an intriguing name but I doubt Buffalo was on his radar for a one year contract.

There are still some free agents out there who will likely be signed by the Bills. They have a massive loss of defensive snaps from last season and outside of a miracle are not making up that many snaps in the draft.  My guess is they will be bargain shopping for the next few months, especially after the draft. When you look at the list of their player losses most are still free agents so it would not be surprising if they were brought back once before the summer.

Overall I think the Bills handled things the right way even if this is not the free agent haul fans would have hoped for. I’d be concerned with some of the valuations and structures of contracts the Bills continue to use, but at least for lower cost contracts those are not as much of a concern as they are with the Dareus type contracts. If Taylor plays well and the Bills can use up some clock on offense they could at least be on the outside of the wildcard chase for this season. If he doesn’t nothing they did this offseason should really hurt them in the future.

Overall Grade: C+

Questions about this article? Reach Jason Fitzgerald on Twitter at @jason_otc