How the Bills can clear cap space, help roster in free agency: Mock offseason, Part 1


Staff member

The start of the new league year is just days away, and the Buffalo Bills will need to be busy trying to keep their Super Bowl window open for a sixth straight playoff appearance. General manager Brandon Beane already did some heavy lifting with a few high-profile releases of veteran players who have shaped the identity of their organization the last five years.

But what will Buffalo do to help its roster this season? There is no shortage of ways the Bills could go about their offseason. However, what makes the most sense from a 2024 perspective, while keeping the 2025 and 2026 cap sheets in mind? And what can they do to best help their 2024 playoff hopes?

We attempt to project how the Bills could approach the next two months in a full-scale mock offseason that includes veteran cuts, restructures, free-agency signings, trades and draft picks.

Part 1 features the upcoming free-agency portion of the offseason, and Part 2, coming soon, focuses on the draft based on previous mock offseason moves and post-draft free agency. We’ll also provide a running log of the Bills’ cap space along the way.

Bills cap space to begin the exercise: -$10.49 million

The contract details of the Taylor Rapp, Mitchell Trubisky and Matt Haack deals have yet to be posted, so for the mock offseason, we estimated their 2024 cap hits based on the reported information. We estimated Rapp’s three-year deal is incentive-heavy with a $2.21 million cap hit in 2024, Trubisky’s deal comes in with a $1.96 million cap hit, and Haack as a veteran minimum deal with a small signing bonus at $1 million.

It is also important to remember the $10.21 million the Bills save by designating the Tre’Davious White move as a post-June 1 release is not available to the team until June 1. We took that out as well for this exercise for accounting purposes but will add it back in Part 2 of the mock offseason.

Bills depth chart before mock offseason​


Note: The offseason salary cap uses the team’s top 51 cap hits, which factor into how much cap room new contracts will take off the books. For example, if the Bills sign a player who has a $1 million cap hit, you subtract the 51st-highest cap hit (e.g. $800,000) from the $1 million, equaling an additional $200,000 on this year’s cap from the new contract. All contract information comes from Over the Cap.

Draft pick allotment​

Every year before free agency begins, it’s critical to factor in the current year’s cap hits of the incoming draft class. Since we don’t know whether the Bills will trade during the draft, using the projected cap hits for the individual slots of current picks is the first step. Over the Cap projects cap hits by draft picks, so that’s what was used for this exercise. With several roster releases Wednesday, seven of the Bills’ 11-pick class, Nos. 28, 60, 99, 129, 143, 159 and 162, qualify for the top 51 and add up to $8.74 million. But only one, No. 28, gets added without another deal replacing it. That total lessens by replacing the six lowest deals on the top 51, so the Bills would only factor in a draft pick allotment of $3.94 million on their cap as it stands.

Cap room after draft pick allotment: -$14.43 million

Players under contract to release before free agency​

The Bills already released White, center Mitch Morse, safety Jordan Poyer, defensive back Siran Neal, wide receiver Deonte Harty and running back Nyheim Hines to create space.

P Sam Martin

The Bills signed Matt Haack, which was somewhat peculiar at this point of the offseason. It could signal a parting of the ways with Martin, who had a strong final month, but was inconsistent in the early stages of the season. On top of that, Martin is 34 years old, and his full $1.55 million base salary guarantees for the season if he’s on the roster five days after the start of the new league year March 13. Even though the cap savings are minimal, the Bills might not want to lock themselves into another year of Martin.

Cap room after the move: -$14.03 million
(No. 192 added to top 51)

Contract restructures​

QB Josh Allen

The sky is blue. The grass is green. Water is wet. And the Bills have to restructure Allen’s contract to get cap-compliant and make moves to help the team this season. This year, they’ll save over $23 million to move 2023 money owed into a prorated signing bonus over the next five years of the deal. With all of the other releases, the Bills put themselves in a position where they didn’t have to restructure many more of their contracts to push more cap obligations to 2025. So for this exercise, Allen is it, and they don’t have to restructure Von Miller, Stefon Diggs, Dawson Knox or Tyler Bass — four contracts they might want to move away from next offseason.

Cap room after the move: $9 million

Players to extend for additional cap space​

NCB Taron Johnson

Immediately after he signed his first extension with the Bills, Johnson outplayed it by a significant margin. Johnson is only entering his age-28 season, meaning he has at least two or three more prime years remaining. Especially with both safeties out the door over the next two years, investing in one of the most indispensable pieces of the defense should be a high priority this offseason. The new deal gets Johnson $13 million per season from 2025 through 2027, $19 million of which would be guaranteed. The deal likely has Johnson in Buffalo through the 2026 season, his age-30 season, though it could exit the deal after 2025 if they wanted to. And by that time, the Bills will need to pay the next wave of their core defensive starters. The deal also gives the Bills a $3.31 million boost in cap savings in 2024.

Taron Johnson mock offseason contract
Cap room after the move: $12.31 million

Internal free-agent decisions​

2024 Bills free agents
Tender ERFA Quintin Morris

Terms: One year, $985K

Morris has been a core special teams player over the last two seasons and provides excellent depth. The exclusive rights free-agent tender is a locked-in minimum amount the player must sign. This is an easy call.

Cap room after the move: $12.17 million
(No. 192 removed from top 51)

Re-sign DT DaQuan Jones

Terms: One year, $6 million

Jones is the perfect blend of being an essential defensive piece to the Bills in 2024 while still being cost-effective. Jones is 32 and coming off a long-term injury, which should drive his price down. He thrived in the Bills’ defensive scheme, and knowing how well it worked last year, it could set him up for another chance to get paid next offseason. Of all the re-signing options, Jones is easily the most important for next season. The defensive tackles room is bare without a starting option at one technique. And by all of the Bills’ roster chopping, they don’t need to use any void years to get this done.

Cap room after the move: $7.05 million
(No. 162 removed from top 51)

Re-sign DB Cam Lewis

Terms: Two years, $5 million ($1.75 million guaranteed)

Lewis became one of their best special teams players and has developed nicely into a backup nickel corner and safety option. Having that functionality is reason alone to get him signed past 2024. Putting him in place gives them a possible starting option at free safety if things don’t go well in free agency or the draft. But the best-case scenario is his being the ultimate backup defensive back in 2024. His contract is essentially just a one-year deal juiced up to two in case he becomes an indispensable piece.

Cam Lewis mock offseason contract
Cap room after the move: $5.94 million
(No. 159 removed from top 51)

Re-sign WR Trent Sherfield

Terms: One year, $1.28 million ($65K signing bonus, $1.05M cap hit due to veteran salary benefit)

Sherfield didn’t live up to a strong spring and preseason during the regular season, but he played all three positions, played special teams and quickly became a presence in the locker room. He also grew pretty close to top receiver Stefon Diggs, so bringing back Sherfield, even if just for the spring and summer and trying to get him back to the practice squad, could be quite meaningful to the wide receivers unit. If he does make the team, ideally, he would be its fifth, sixth or seventh receiver.

Cap room after the move: $5.78 million
(No. 143 removed from top 51)

Re-sign QB Kyle Allen

Terms: One year, $1.22 million ($20K signing bonus, $995K cap hit due to veteran salary benefit)

Don’t rule out a Kyle Allen return just because Trubisky is back. Allen might wind up becoming the Bills’ new Matt Barkley with how close he is to Josh Allen. This is a deal intended to get him to the practice squad in 2024.

Cap room after the move: $5.71 million
(CB Ja’Marcus Ingram removed from top 51)

Allow Gabe Davis, A.J. Epenesa, Leonard Floyd, Tyrel Dodson to leave via free agency

The decision to move on from these four players is rooted in a cap space issue and the need to get younger and cheaper at their positions. Plus, the Bills could be in line for one to three compensatory picks in 2025 with how much attention Davis, Epenesa and Floyd could get.

Moves when unrestricted free agency begins March 13​

Sign FS Geno Stone

Terms: Four years, $31 million ($13.75 million guaranteed)

The amount of cap space it has opened up, specifically without touching either the Miller or Diggs contracts, will afford Buffalo two to three medium-sized swings. It’s the same story as last offseason, when the Bills went for Connor McGovern, Leonard Floyd, Jordan Poyer and Deonte Harty as their biggest business in the open market. We’ve got Jones as one so far, but the most significant contract they’ll strike in this mock offseason belongs to former Baltimore Ravens safety Geno Stone.

At the safety position, the Bills aren’t scared off by players who might lack athleticism compared with others in the league. They prefer instincts and ball skills over everything else. And despite lacking the foot speed some other safeties have, Stone has instincts that have helped him be an excellent starter for one of the league’s best defenses last season. Those instincts, plus his ball skills, helped him to seven interceptions in the regular season. Stone was a Day 3 pick out of Iowa who had to work his way up to earn respect with his team, let alone the league. Then, even after a great season in the NFL, he’s still being overlooked in free agency. Sound familiar at all?

The Bills struck gold in 2017 when they signed then-26-year-old Micah Hyde, their eventual long-term free safety, who signed for a modest amount before thriving in the Bills system in that season and beyond. Stone, who turns 25 in April and would slot in as their free safety, could be their next modest swing who could yield big results in a safety-friendly system. The deal would land Stone in the top 15 in average annual value at his position but looks much better over time if he takes to the scheme well. The contract contains a low 2024 cap hit and has an out after 2025, but if the Bills are looking for potential impact on a budget and a way to make their dollars go the farthest, Stone is a fantastic option who is just entering his prime. And they wouldn’t have to rely on an inexperienced player at free safety.

Geno Stone mock offseason contract
Cap room after the move: $2.63 million
(OL Alec Anderson removed from top 51)

Sign CB Levi Wallace

Terms: One year, $2 million ($1 million guaranteed)

With Dane Jackson as a free agent who could do better on the open market than expected and White no longer with the team, the Bills have an opening for a veteran cornerback to compete with Kaiir Elam for top backup duties. The Bills love going with a player they know fits their scheme, and with Wallace’s only turning 29 in June, they know exactly what they’re getting on the field and in the locker room. Coach Sean McDermott loves Wallace, and having the cornerback work with Christian Benford and Elam would be an ideal solution after the Bills jettisoned so many veteran defensive backs from the team this offseason. Wallace’s deal likely would fall well below the qualifying 2025 compensatory formula contract line.

Cap room after the move: $1.55 million
(DE Kameron Cline removed from top 51)

Sign DT Maurice Hurst

Terms: One year, $1.75 million (Fully guaranteed)

Due to other more pressing needs, the Bills likely won’t be able to find a player in the draft late to be a good rotational three-technique for the 2024 season. That leaves it to free agency, and Hurst is a compelling fit for that role. He’s slightly undersized but plays bigger than his weight and is at his best getting upfield. He should work well in a 25 percent to 35 percent role behind Ed Oliver.

Cap room after the move: $717K
(OT Ryan Van Demark removed from top 51)

Sign RB A.J. Dillon

Terms: One year, $2 million ($1.625 million guaranteed)

Without Hines on the roster, the depth chart contains James Cook and Darrynton Evans. The Bills will likely want another veteran runner with more power to his game, which could pave the way for Dillon to be in a small role this season. At 247 pounds with some pass-catching ability, Dillon would be the ideal short-yardage back who would keep things slightly unpredictable on offense. With the running backs market expected to take a nosedive this free agency, the Bills can get him on a good deal. Dillon, like Wallace and Hurst, would sign well below the projected qualifying 2025 compensatory formula contract line, which was at $2.5 million last year. If not Dillon, Alexander Mattison could be another cheap option.

Cap room after the move: -$298K
(QB Kyle Allen removed from top 51)


Coming soon: Part 2 — 2024 Bills mock offseason draft and post-draft signings​

Spoiler: It’s important to remember that their free agency acquisitions likely won’t be done before the 2024 NFL Draft. See you all for Part 2.