The Buffalo Bills made significant strides in the 2014 season, finishing above .500 for the first time in a decade. The team has talent and depth at nearly every position, which has created competition throughout the roster. While the Bills currently have $23.5 million in cap space, Kyle Orton’s retirement will free up $5.5 million of his $7 million ’15 cap number and the news that C.J. Spiller’s player option was voided freed at least $2.2 million.
With an estimated $31.2 million in cap space heading into the 2015 offseason, the Bills are in great position to not only re-sign key free agents like Jerry Hughes, Da’Norris Searcy and Brandon Spikes, but to be players in 2015 NFL Free Agency as well. The Bills aren’t stuck with any “crippling” contracts on the roster, but there will ultimately be some cap casualties that will allow Doug Whaley to bolster the offensive side of the ball in free agency.
G Kraig Urbik
2015 Cap Number: $3.675 million
Dead Money- $1.4 million
Cap Savings- $2.275 million
Doug Marrone’s departure as head coach may help Urbik’s chances to remain with the team, as he found himself in “The Doughouse” for the majority of the former disciplinarian’s tenure with the team. The Bills brought in Chris Williams last offseason, who started the season, before replacing him with fifth-round rookie Cyril Richardson. After Richardson failed, Urbik was finally inserted into the lineup and performed better than the two players before him. While guard is a glaring need for the Bills, the 29-year old Urbik probably isn’t viewed as a player necessary to take the team to the next level.
LB Keith Rivers
2015 Cap Number: $2.2 million
Dead Money: $500k
Cap Savings- $1.7 million
The Bills brought in veteran outside linebacker Keith Rivers last year to provide depth and bolster the run defense, but when Kiko Alonso suffered a torn ACL Rivers emerged as the starter. After playing 159 defensive snaps in the team’s first six weeks, Rivers played just 33 snaps the remainder of the year. While $2.2 million isn’t that big of a cap number, the team will have Kiko Alonso, Nigel Bradham and Preston Brown playing for a combined $2.5 million.
G Chris Williams
2015 Cap Number: $3.35 million
Dead Money: $2.625 million
Cap Savings: $725k
Signing Chris Williams to a four-year, $13.15 million deal last year was a head scratcher at the time, but the former first-round pick didn’t do anything in the three games he played to deem himself worthy of being on the 2015 roster. In those three games, Williams graded out as ProFootballFocus’ No. 65 guard of 72 qualifiers. Releasing Williams would leave the Bills with Cyril Richardson as the only true guard on the team, but it’s probably best to cut their losses.
2015 Cap Number: $760k
Dead Money: $100k
Cap Savings: $660k
Ron Brooks could be a player the Bills move on from this offseason, as the former fourth-round pick hasn’t developed into a serviceable defensive player since being selected in the 2012 NFL Draft. He’s a quality special teams player, where he recorded nine tackles this year, but the team invested enough last season to move on from the 26-year old.
TE Chris Gragg
2015 Cap Number: $600k
Dead Money: $30k
Cap Savings: $570k
Chris Gragg was the Bills’ seventh-round pick in the 2013 NFL Draft. He was an intriguing prospect coming out of Arkansas, but his route running and overall athleticism leave a lot to be desired. The team brought in several tight ends throughout the season, making it obvious that they aren’t happy with the production at the position. Marquies Gray was signed late in the season, catching eight passes for 118 yards in addition to playing special teams, a valuable trait for bottom-of-the-roster players that Gragg doesn’t offer.
In previous seasons, these cap casualty lists have typically listed a player on the Bills’ roster with a large cap number (See: Stevie Johnson, Mark Anderson, Ryan Fitzpatrick, etc.). In 2015, the team’s salary cap is actually very manageable, as just four players have a 2015 cap number over $5 million. The Bills don’t really need to cut players, but with contracts needed for free agents such as Jerry Hughes and Da’Norris Searcy, coupled with looming extensions for Marcell Dareus, Cordy Glenn and Stephon Gilmore, the team could save about $6 million with the moves listed above.