by Mario Granata and Paul Wanecski
As the window to place the franchise tag on soon-to-be free agent Jerry Hughes closed on March 2nd, many of the Buffalo faithful are scratching their heads as to why he wasn't signed to a long term lucrative deal or at least returning for one more season. The Bills are more concerned with the big picture specifically when it comes to their current roster and the salary cap. True, they are a projected 33 million under the cap this season due in part to cap roll over, but there are just as many questions in 2016 as there are in 2015 for the Buffalo Bills. The upcoming free agents for next year reads like a who’s who in Western New York.
As it stands right now, the top paid Bills for 2016 are DE Mario Williams (19.9 million), DT Kyle Williams (7 million), S Aaron Williams (6.1 million), C Eric Wood (6 million), CB Leodis McKelvin (4.9 million), and CB Corey Graham (4.7 million) account for $48 million of the Bills projected $91 million dollar cap hit for 2016. That is a substantial sum considering that all of these players, with the exception of Aaron Williams, will be 30 or older.
The Bills could initially move some of Mario Williams base salary (11.5 million) to a bonus to help with some free agency moves but that seems unlikely since he will be 31 at the start of the 2016 season.
Kyle Williams’ salary is all base, so they could perform a very unpopular move and cut him freeing up 7 million to make room for some younger talent, seeing as he will be 33 in 2016.
2016 Free Agents:
Headlining the list is DT Marcell Dareus. Dareus will probably not talk about resigning with the Bills until the whole Ndamukong Suh saga plays out in Detroit, as Suh will set the market value for defensive tackles. If Buffalo decides to cut ties with Kyle Williams, they could use that to sign DT Stephan Charles, who is also set to be a free agent in 2016.
CB Stephon Gilmore could also be a free agent in 2016. Since Gilmore was selected in the first round of the NFL draft, the Bills have until the start of his forth season to determine if they will add a 5th year on his rookie contract. Depending on his 2015 campaign will go will determine what he feels he is worth. Too many times in the NFL, players who are in a ‘contract year’ end up playing extraordinary. Good news for the Bills in 2015 and bad news for them in 2016.
LT Cordy Glenn was a steal for the Bills in the 2nd round of the 2012 draft, but sooner or later he will want elite cash for his services. Unlike Gilmore, since he was not selected in the first round, the Bills do not hold a team option for a 5th year. That makes 2015 the season that will determine what he will want in 2016. Joe Thomas signed a 7-year, 80 million dollar contract with Cleveland, so expect Glenn to expect the same.
LB Nigel Bradham becomes a free agent as well in 2016. If the Bills are successful with the combination of Preston Brown, Kiko Alonso and Bradham in 2015, they will look to keep that unit together and so will Bills’ fans. Another player who could increase his value with a stellar 2015 season, Bradham has shown sparks of being a premier player and if he plays well, he will expect the cash.
Other players that are free agents for the Bills in 2016 include RB Bryce Brown and CB Nickell Robey. Brown has yet to show what he can do, and will more than likely get the chance this season, as RB Fred Jackson will not be a Bill in 2016 (also a FA in 2016). Robey has endeared himself to the Buffalo faithful for his ‘never give up attitude’ and if what Mike Pettine did with him is any indication of what he is capable of, just imagine what Rex Ryan has up his sleeve for the little guy.
True, the Bills could benefit from having Jerry Hughes on the roster, and his non-stop motor is something that defensive coordinators covet, but with the looming free agents that have to be signed by the Bills in 2016, it might not be in the best interest of the Bills, long-term, to throw the house at him.