by Paul Wanecski
The Buffalo Bills come into the 2015 season with a bit of a predicament. After an exciting start to the off-season, bringing in two quarterbacks, resigning part of the "Cold Front" defensive 4, trading way 2013's leading tackler, and also bring in the NFL 2013 leader in rushing, the team finds itself in a precarious situation. So what happens now? 2015 could be the year that propels the Bills to the first playoff berth in nearly two decades. No matter how you view the moves made in the 2015 off-season, you have to respect the aggressiveness the team has had.
The Cold Front:
Mario Williams - A surprising amount of speculation from One Bills Drive about the possibility of Mario restructuring his contract. We say surprising because Mario has been so productive the last few seasons, so his play would not indicate that a pay cut or restructuring would be reasonable. He is set to count 19.4 million against this years salary cap, a number that rises to 19.9 in 2016 and down to 16.5 in 2017. Unless Mario will be extending his contract another 2 years, it is unlikely that restructuring will be needed, as it will only increase his salary cap figure next year, which is when they would need the salary cap space to sign Marcell Dareus.
Marcell Dareus - Now that Suh has signed his deal with Miami, Dareus and his agent will want to talk extension. While the Bills are not required to sign him, they could use the Franchise Tag the next two seasons to retain his services at a hefty price (which is also impacted because of the record setting deal Suh signed). Long story short, Dareus will be a Buffalo Bill for the next two seasons without question.
Kyle Williams - Signing an extension was definitely great news. Most people inside NFL circles anticipated the Bills would release him for the salary cap space after this season. His price tag this year will remain 6.2 million, next year 7 million and the final year at 10.5 million. He has not restructured his upcoming years, only extended his contract.
Jerry Hughes - Clearly the organizations biggest offseason priority, Hughes has solid cap numbers this and next season before he jumps into the 10 million per season group. 2015 he plays for 6.1, 2016 for 7.5.
The Back End:
Stephon Gilmore - The Bills will need to decide by May if they will be picking up his 5th year option. That option will not impact his 2015 cap number of 3.8 million, however, his salary next season would exceed 11 million unless he signs a contract extension.
Nigel Bradham - All signs are pointing to this being his final year with the Bills. He is set to only make 1.6 million. With Rex Ryan, he could be an absolute monster if moved inside next to Preston Brown. He will be highly sought after next off season, so, if you were planning on getting a Bradham Jersey at the Bills Store, you may want to wait.
The Bills already have over 54 million dedicated to next seasons defense and the squad is no where near full. You may see some productive players moved for salary cap reasons next offseason. Players contracts to watch are:
Aaron Williams, Corey Graham and Leodis McKelvin - Williams plays under and affordable 3.9 million price this year, which will increase to 6.1 million next season. Unless his production increases, he may find himself a casualty. Corey Graham did a bit of everything when asked last season. He carries over 4.6 in cap space in 2016, so he better be a starter. McKelvin had his best season as a pro while under Mike Pettine in 2013. Last season was cut by an ankle injury (which was pretty gruesome). Little word about his progress has come out and that isn't a wonderful sign for his future.
Matt Cassel and Freddie Jackson - Unless Cassel is capable of fooling another franchise that he is a starting quarterback, you have to assume that he and his 4.15 million salary is only a one year commitment. Actually, they could release him at any time to free up significant cap space. Jackson on the other hand is a player fans would love to play forever. Unless he returns for near veteran minimum, I doubt he will be able to stay with the Bills past 2015.
Cordy Glenn - We hope this isn't a shock, but you may want to sit down just in case. This is Cordy Glenn's contract year and with the financials for 2016, it isn't looking good for a top tackle deal to be signed. It was anticipated that the Bills would address the offensive line depth at the start of free agency, but, that just didn't happen. We haven't heard anything positive on a pending extension at his point. Actually, we have heard nothing at all.
EJ Manuel - Entering what is essentially his contract year, EJ has a 5th year option that could be picked up at the end of next season. While he could play exceptionally well under Greg Roman, it could also be the last chance he has to show what he is capable of. The 5th year option is near impossible to guess, as it is based off average salaries at his position. We can tell you that it would be a shock to see it south of 14 million. Go ahead, let that sink in for a moment. Of course, this is significantly down the road, as the extension would impact the 2017 season.
With all that being said, the cost of the front four, loving called the "Cold Front" will ripple through the organization for the next 3 seasons. We hope the team makes the right decisions, but players like Gilmore, McKelvin, Graham, Bradham and Glenn may be nearing the end of their young Bills careers.