Up until the start of free agency (March 10th), I will be doing off-season simulations for each team in the league in draft order. The off-season simulation entails free agency: cutting players and restructuring contracts, re-signing players, and signing free agents; and the Draft.
Despite the Bills narrowly missing the playoffs, they’re in great shape for the future with $32.2m in cap space. I made a few moves to free up an additional $11.6m ($43.8m total). There aren’t really any players on the Bills roster who have a high cap charge and aren’t playing to that number. However, they can save $833k by cutting Anthony Dixon and $660k with no dead money cutting Deonte Thompson. to free up extra room I restructured Mario Williams’ (saves $8.6m) and Leodis McKelvin’s (saves $1.6m) contracts.
The Bills have a bunch of key players hitting free agency, but C.J. Spiller will likely find a job elsewhere, and Jerry Hughes will get more money on the market than what the Bills would offer. Although, I did re-sign Da’Norris Searcy to a $5.6m/year, 35% guaranteed, 5-year contract, and Brandon Spikes to a $6m/year, 30% guaranteed, 4-year deal. Searcy got a top-20 deal among safeties but it’s worth it to keep him off the market where he’d likely command more, and currently the Bills are being noncommittal to Spikes, but they’d be silly to not keep him, and that’s what it’ll cost. I also re-signed Jarius Wynn, who has value as a rotational pass rusher and a run defender, for $1.5m/year, 20% guaranteed, 3 years. That brings us to free agency where I made a killing by filling up the roster with quality players.
Since the Bills will be playing a 3-4-type base defense, I needed to get a premiere pass-rushing outside linebacker. Jason Worilds is the best one on the market, and I payed him more than any there team offered at $9.8m/year, 30% guaranteed, 6 years. After this off-season, that could possibly peg him as the second-highest paid 3-4 OLB. Next, I needed a quarterback with whom E.J. Manuel will compete for the starting job. I tried signing Sam Bradford for $5.3m/year, but the Jets offered about $2m more. Instead I signed drake Locker to a 2-year, $4.8m/year, 30% guaranteed contract. I made an upgrade at tight end by bringing in Vernon Davis for $6.3m/year, 35% guaranteed, 3 years. Hopefully his one-year slump was just that. I also signed Randy Starks, an above-average defensive tackle, who will keep the defensive front strong when Marcell Dareus and Kyle Williams rotate out, for $5m/year, 30% guaranteed, 2 years. The Bills need a big upgrade at wide receiver. My plan was to draft a starter on the outside in the second round of the Draft, so I got a nice slot receiver in free agency, Cecil Shorts, to a lucrative slot receiver contract ($5.1m/year, 40% guaranteed, 4 years). With some of the extra money I had, I signed two backups: John Jerry ($2.1m/year, 25% guaranteed, 2 years) and C.J. Wilson ($1.85m/year, 30% guaranteed, 2 years). Jerry has a bunch of starts under his belt, and Wilson has had some nice success in Oakland. After all of these moves I still had $13.8m left over. With that money it would be wise to extend the contracts of cornerback Stephon Gilmore and left tackle Cordy Glenn. They are both franchise pieces entering the last year of their contracts, and extending them now would soften the cap blow in subsequent years.
Here’s how the Draft went:
Round 2, Pick 18 – WR Sammie Coates
Round 3, Pick 17 – RB Ameer Abdullah
Round 5, Pick 1 – FS Gerod Holliman
Round 5, Pick 19 – T/G Corey Robinson
Round 6, Pick 18 – DT Marcus Hardison
Round 7, Pick 17 – OLB Davis Tull
I built up the Sammie/Sammy duo with the Bills’ first pick in this year’s draft, which should give them a solid foundation at wide receiver for many years, something the team has been lacking for a long time. With C.J. Spiller gone and Fred Jackson’s advancing age, I got who could be the team’s next feature running back in Ameer Abdullah. Gerod Holliman played safety in college, but the Bills need another good slot cornerback, and that’s where Holliman could be at his best. He has great ball skills and cover ability, but struggles a lot in the run game. It’s very possible that the Bills would have to trade into the fourth round to select him, though. With their second pick in the fifth round, I got Corey Robinson. Another backup lineman was needed, and he could play both tackle and guard. Extra depth on the defensive line never hurts. Marcus Hardison has potential, but needs coaching. Rex Ryan is exactly the guy who can realise that potential. With their last pick, I got the Bills a pass-rushing outside linebacker in Davis Tull. I actually wanted to get one a little earlier, but with the last three picks I see them going OL/DL/OLB in any order.
Here’s how the depth chart shakes up after all of these moves:
This OTI Piece was written by Eli Bookstaber. Eli, born and raised in Silver Spring, Maryland, is a huge follower of all things NFL and an avid fan of the Redskins. He writes the weekly Power Rankings as well as “Bookie’s Playbook”, where Eli breaks down the X’s and O’s of various plays and things of the sort. He welcomes all feedback on his articles, and you can always talk to him about anything NFL-related. You can follow him on Twitter @Ebookstaber, but be prepared. He never shuts up.