Bills roster reset: Where Buffalo stands with cap space and what other needs remain

The 2024 offseason has been muted for team additions, by the Buffalo Bills’ usual standards. They wanted to help their year-over-year cap debt and decided to take advantage of having players in or nearing their 30s with high cap numbers to help their future.

The Bills still made some moves, mainly in the form of re-signings, hoping the mini-reset they enacted could bring another playoff appearance in 2024. Where do things stand as free agency is winding down?

Here is a full-scale roster reset, looking at where Buffalo still has needs, what’s to come and where things stand as of mid-March.

Where are they with cap space?

This has been a popular question since the offseason began and the Bills began making all their moves, but the answer wasn’t possible without a huge caveat. Why? There were too many variables as all the moves rolled in, and pertinent information about the 2024 salary cap was needed with anywhere from three to sometimes six or seven deals. As free agency has slowed and the league has posted contract details, we now have an accurate picture.

At the moment, only one significant deal that we don’t have the 2024 details on yet is floating out there, and that’s the Taron Johnson contract extension. Without that deal, the Bills have a little under $7 million in cap space on their Top 51 by my calculations, with some contract details mixed in from Over the Cap. It is likely to be more than $7 million with Johnson’s new extension, too. Under general manager Brandon Beane, the Bills have made a habit out of securing short-term savings on the current year cap hit when signing a player who still has a year left on their deal to an extension. The Johnson cap hit was $12.41 million untouched, and it would not be a surprise if that number goes down by at least $2 million or $3 million. The Ty Johnson re-signing also hasn’t been identified yet, and neither has the Casey Toohill deal, but those likely will not take away much cap space from their Top 51, as the lowest deals to replace are around the $920,000 area.

The Bills’ cap space does not account for the room needed for the rookie NFL Draft class, which, as their Top 51 is currently constructed, would only be about $2.3 million taken off. But until those contracts are signed, they don’t count to their cap hit. Buffalo has a windfall of cap space heading its way on June 1 when the Tre’Davious White release is finalized, and the Bills could conceivably wait to sign their draft choices until then. So, the need to account for the cap hits of draft picks right now is less necessary this year than in other years.

WR remains a screaming draft need

The Bills freshened up their wide receivers by signing Curtis Samuel and Mack Hollins, but even with two new faces, the work is not over. Samuel comes in as a top-four receiver and a potential option out of the backfield. But as a receiver, his best positions are at slot or Z. Gabe Davis, who signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars, played neither of those roles last year. Hollins is a fit for the Davis role, but as a long-term fringe starter and special teams player throughout his career, he’s likely there just as an insurance starting option. The contract given to Hollins also indicates that. It’s only a one-year commitment for $2.48 million, with only $1.1 million guaranteed at signing. That leaves the Bills with options but still a big void in their top four, particularly in the starting lineup.

In a deep draft class, the Bills indeed have options. They should be able to find a good prospect who fits the X-receiver role at some point. But if they want to take a big swing, setting them up with someone who could eventually become their top receiver after Stefon Diggs moves on in the next one to four years, it’s beginning to look like they can’t wait around. The top four prospects — Marvin Harrison Jr., Malik Nabers, Rome Odunze and Brian Thomas Jr. — would be excellent fits for the Bills’ system. The first two are likely top 10 locks, and Odunze might also go that early. And with Thomas Jr.’s ascending skill set, he could be gone before pick No. 20.

There seems to be a drop-off after Thomas Jr., putting into question whether the value of pick No. 28 would meet the need at receiver without him as an option. The one thing no one should rule out this year, especially as the Bills have 11 selections and likely some additional cap space to work with for 2025, is a big move up the board for one of those top receivers. It might cost them some kind of 2025 draft pick to do it, but for a potential No. 1 receiver for Josh Allen through the quarterback’s Bills career, there is a compelling case that it’s worth it.

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No WR at 28? Some backup plans as things stand

As the attention turns to the draft, the Bills could get frozen out from a receiver prospect who would make the most sense for them, so some backup plans are needed. Safety is a possibility because their projected starters at the moment are Taylor Rapp and Cam Lewis, but they have never invested an early pick in a safety and it’s viewed around the league as a non-premium position. On top of that, there might not be a safety worth taking in the first round, but it remains an option if all else fails. Should the Bills strike a deal with Julian Blackmon, who is visiting with them, according to Bleacher Report, that potential first-round need would dissipate.

But the one position group that should remain firmly on the radar for the draft is along the defensive line. The ideal scenario would be to get a player who can either eventually start at defensive end or be placed next to Ed Oliver at defensive tackle. But with DaQuan Jones signed for the next two seasons, the edge rusher piece should be the preferred option.

For one, the Bills have an insulated depth chart at defensive end with Greg Rousseau, A.J. Epenesa and Von Miller all available as starting options, which would take the pressure off the rookie having to start from the first day of spring workouts. If he did earn a starting job, that would be the best-case scenario, but the Bills don’t have to force it. Second, the Bills should take advantage of what is trending to be their final year with Miller due to his currently untenable 2025 cap hit and potential cap savings to move on next year. Although Miller took a step back in 2023, he remains an asset in developing young players. He takes a vested interest in doing so, and the Bills would have their rookie work with a future Hall of Fame player, hands-on, every day for an entire season.

Bills could become a big post-June 1 free-agent player

The Bills have been extremely conscientious of their spending in the first part of free agency, with an eye on keeping the 2025 salary cap in a much healthier position by next March. Still, with some cap space to play with after the Taron Johnson extension, on June 1, that cap number will be boosted by another $10.2 million — the savings the Bills cleared when they designated White as a post-June 1 release. That might have been a part of their plan all along, and looking back on something Beane said at the NFL combine, it might have been a hint of what was to come.

“Sometimes you get a guy, a Leonard Floyd on a one-year deal, that thinks they’re going to get (a dollar amount), they don’t, and we find the opportunity in May or June to add them,” Beane said in late February. “So even if we don’t do it now doesn’t mean it’s over. There’s usually people floating around even after the draft.”

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Leonard Floyd was a standout signing for the Buffalo Bills late last offseason. He signed with the San Francisco 49ers this offseason. (Eric Hartline / USA Today)

Bringing up Floyd, who was Beane’s best signing last year, brought in on June 6, was quite interesting. Perhaps he now feels the post-draft, early-June area is an underrated market to add a veteran player with a little desperation to get a deal done. It might lead to some good value and also doesn’t count against the compensatory formula. Plus, it gives the Bills the benefit of seeing what happened in the draft for their own needs. Beane has envied the NBA structure to an offseason when the draft comes before free agency, and that window gives him a chance to use the draft to his advantage. Veteran players get released after the draft, too.

So, if the Bills have somewhere around $15 million to spend by that time, look out. They could go big-game hunting for whoever remains on the market. The worst-case scenario is they just add some middle-of-the-road, one-year types to fill out the depth chart or take the cap space and roll it into 2025. However, the Bills likely have a plan for what to do with that extra $10.2 million in cap space once it becomes available.

Other positions to monitor for draft and free-agent purposes

Running back: The Bills need a third running back to join James Cook and Ty Johnson. It’s always more cost-effective to throw a Day 3 dart at a running back and hope he vastly outplays his spot while having him on a cost-controlled four-year deal. If the Bills strike out in the draft, there likely will be a pool of veterans to choose from in free agency on a one-year deal.

Interior offensive line: With the removal of Mitch Morse and Ryan Bates, the Bills are light on the interior. Their top and only backup from last year is Alec Anderson. They like Anderson, but not so much to ignore the position from here on out. Interior offensive line will be a sneaky draft need, and depending on how committed the Bills are to having David Edwards in the starting lineup, it could wind up as an under-the-radar Day 2 or early Day 3 option. The ideal scenario would be to find a player who can play center and guard, let him learn to begin the year and then eventually put him in the lineup for Edwards — either at left guard or by sliding Connor McGovern back to left guard and putting the young player at center when he’s ready.



Connor McGovern anticipates move to center as Bills’ new tip of the spear

Offensive tackle: The same top three returns from last year, but with a catch. Spencer Brown is a free agent after the 2024 season, meaning the Bills might want to invest a draft pick in a tackle. At the very least, I’d expect them to comb the veteran one-year prove-it-deal group of tackles after the draft if they don’t get a young player to develop.

Three-technique defensive tackle: Oliver needs a backup. Whether that’s a veteran free agent on a one-year deal, a young developmental three-technique or one of each, the Bills need to address it.

One-technique defensive tackle: Jones needs a backup. His two-year deal to stay in Buffalo is a two-year commitment, but the Bills should still consider investing a draft choice into a young one-technique prospect who could become the starter. Jones will be 33 in December, and though he was excellent last year, the Bills have to prepare themselves for a drop-off at any point over the next two seasons. A stop-gap free agent after the draft could also be an option if they strike out.

Boundary cornerback: The Bills don’t have their true fourth cornerback on the roster just yet, making a lower-costing free agent and a draft pick a possibility. With Rasul Douglas here this year and Christian Benford and Kaiir Elam signed through the next two years, the Bills don’t have to force an early selection on the position in the draft, though. Unless they move Elam, they’ll likely want to find out about the 2022 first-round pick this year before making another significant investment in the position.

(Top photo of Brandon Beane: Stacy Revere / Getty Images)

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