Key Additions: Mike Williams ($6.4M per year), Corey Graham ($4.08M), Chris Williams ($3.28M), Brandon Spikes ($3M), Keith Rivers ($2.03M)
Key Re-Signings: Dan Carpenter ($2.49M per year), Scott Chandler ($2.38M)
Key Losses: Jairus Byrd (Saints), Alex Carrington (Rams)
Major Cuts: Kevin Kolb($3.1M cap savings)
Free Agency Thoughts:
The Bills have always had the reputation of being one of the more money conscious franchises in the NFL and the decision to let safety Jairus Byrd head to New Orleans probably just helped reinforce that position. That’s not to say the Bills were wrong in their approach. Byrd seemed to have no desire to remain in Buffalo and tying him up with the tag, even if just to trade him for a mid to late round pick, could have compromised their ability to be active in free agency. Once they re-signed Aaron Williams it was pretty clear that Byrd was done with the team.
The Bills attacked the lower mid tier of free agency to try to add some pieces to a roster that has not produced a winning record since 2004. While the level of talent that was brought in may not be exciting, especially in light of losing Byrd, the team was already more or less set at the positions that would be big money positions like defensive end/outside linebacker. The team has decent cornerbacks and adding Graham to the mix makes more financial sense than stepping up a tier to the next level of corner.
The Bills probably made two moves that could pay off big in 2014. Brandon Spikes is a higher upside player who star fell sharply when it was clear he was having issues with the Patriots. There are already many teams that don’t value the position highly, so the Bills were able to get him on a pretty reasonable one year contract. If he fails in the summer he can be cut with little cost to the cap with Keith Rivers being the veteran insurance policy.
The second move was a late trade for Buccaneers WR Mike Williams. Though Williams contract averages over $6 million a season over the remaining 5 years, this year he carries just a $1.8 million cap charge. He is due $6.8 million in 2015, but none of that becomes guaranteed until the 3rd day of the 2015 League Year. If Williams is healthy and has his head on straight he can be a nice complementary piece to Stevie Johnson, essentially giving the Bills two high level two’s to carry the load.
The Chris Williams signing is the one that is hardest to make sense out of. While the Bills needed interior line help Williams is not an improvement over anyone on the team. There were much better players available who signed for about $1 million more per year. While by no means is that insignificant the quality of player is much better.
Rivers was a bit of an overpay. In each of the last two seasons he has been a low guarantee, $1 million range player. The Bills paid him over $2 million this season with $1 million guaranteed. As mentioned above he has a role in mind, and is a bit of a jack of all trades, but the contract seems to represent a team happy with a lower cost player even if the contract may represent an overpaid number.
Overall Grade: C
Did the Bills, on paper, improve tremendously? No, but for a team that is far away they are better off signing a Williams and Spikes for one year tryouts than forking over more money for more proven talent. The two things I disliked about the offseason were moving on from Byrd for nothing and minimizing cap charges in 2013. The Bills, who have a little over $12 million in cap space, probably could have used a little more of a cash model for some of the more questionable signings like C. Williams and Rivers. Perhaps they are leaving that for extensions to CJ Spiller and Jerry Hughes. Still there is some upside here and they paid little for it which makes for a pretty average free agent period.
Jason is the founder of OTC and has been studying NFL contracts and the salary cap for over 15 years. Jason has co-authored two books about the NFL, Crunching Numbers and the Drafting Stage, which are widely circulated in the industry and hosts the OTC Podcast. Jason’s work has been featured in various publications including the Sporting News, Sports Illustrated, NFL Network and more. OTC is widely considered the leading authority on contract matters in the NFL.