The Buffalo Bills were the NFL's busiest team Tuesday, making a series of moves that will allow them to get under the NFL's salary cap by the March 9 deadline.
The team assigned left tackle Cordy Glenn the non-exclusive version of the franchise tag, costing $13.7 million against the adjusted 2016 salary cap of $159.737 million. With about $500,000 in projected cap space entering this week, that tag would put the Bills over the limit, necessitating that the team shed some salary.
That's exactly what the Bills did Tuesday by releasing defensive end Mario Williams, guard Kraig Urbik and running back Boobie Dixon. The three moves save the Bills a combined $15.83 million. Subtracting Glenn's cost from that amount and adding it to the Bills' existing cap room (about $500,000, per ESPN Stats & Information) and adjusting for replacement players, the team is now about $1.5 million below its adjusted cap.
That number will grow this week when a restructured contract for tight end Charles Clay, announced by the team last week, is finalized. That adjusted deal is expected to give the Bills an additional $7.5 million in cap space, while the team also could restructure the contracts of defensive backs Leodis McKelvin and Corey Graham.
Barring any unexpected moves, the Bills will be operating with roughly $10 million in cap space as they enter the NFL's free-agent negotiating period on Monday. The team will need to budget at least $5 million of that space for rookies, in-season signings and other emergency purposes, leaving the team with little cap space to operate in free agency.
How can the Bills clear more room? Reaching a long-term deal with Glenn would be one way to lower his 2016 cap number from $13.7 million, as the team could structure a deal that pays him more in 2017 and beyond. The Bills also are looking to strike a long-term deal with cornerback Stephon Gilmore, although Gilmore is in a position of strength, with a guaranteed $11.082 million salary this season and a chance at an open-market deal next spring.
The Bills' next major decision involves guard Richie Incognito, the team's top remaining free agent who, at 32, will likely be signing the last significant contract of his career. The Bills have limited funds to offer him this season, and other teams will undoubtedly be interested in the Pro Bowl guard.
Buffalo also must make decisions on their seven restricted free agents in the coming days. Tight end MarQueis Gray indicated Tuesday on Twitter that he won't be back, but the team will have to make tough calls on six other key role players from last season: wide receiver Chris Hogan, offensive tackle Jordan Mills, defensive linemen Corbin Bryant and Stefan Charles, linebacker Ty Powell and safety Bacarri Rambo. The least-expensive tender for each of those players is expected to be in the range of $1.6 million, further eating into the Bills' limited cap space, if they choose that route.