Bills GM Brandon Beane, echoing the remarks he made in the 2023 offseason, said that his club is unlikely to hand out any especially lucrative contracts in free agency this year. As Joe Buscaglia of The Athletic (subscription required) observes, Buffalo is projected to be roughly $49MM over the 2024 salary cap, which obviously puts a damper on the team’s spending ability.
“I don’t think you’re going to see any splashes,” Beane said. “Even if I found something that was exciting to me, I don’t think it would fit within our cap parameters. I think everyone needs to understand that we’re going to be shopping at some of those same stores we were shopping last year. We’re not going to be on Main Street of New York City or whatever all those high-end shopping centers are. It’s not feasible to where we’re at.”
In Buscaglia’s view, the only surefire way to alleviate the Bills’ cap problems would be to undergo a full roster overhaul as they did in 2017 — the year before quarterback Josh Allen was drafted — and 2018. However, with a star QB like Allen in place, the team is not going to punt on a season just to get right with the salary cap, as Buscaglia opines.
As a result, Buffalo will not be able to swim in the deep end of the free agency pool, and the team may also be forced to part with some of its own top free agents. Indeed, Buscaglia expects most of Buffalo’s high-profile FAs to at least test the open market.
That list includes wide receiver Gabe Davis, who emerged as a key big-play threat for Allen after being selected by the Bills in the fourth round of the 2020 draft. Over his four-year tenure in western New York, Davis posted 27 touchdowns and a 16.7 yards-per-reception rate (though that comes with a modest 54.5% catch percentage, which is typical for a home run hitter). Unfortunately, Davis was forced to sit out the Bills’ two playoff contests at the end of the 2023 campaign due to a PCL injury sustained in the regular season finale against the Dolphins, and even before that happened, 2022 fifth-rounder Khalil Shakir had shown an ability to serve as a capable, cost-controlled complement to Stefon Diggs.
Davis, who will turn 25 in April, confirmed that he plans to test free agency next month (via ESPN’s Alaina Getzenberg). He suggested that he would be receptive to a new deal with the Bills, but he said that there were no extension talks between him and the club last season.
Notably, while Davis’ injury was originally classified as a PCL sprain, Ryan O’Halloran of the Buffalo News says that the UCF product actually suffered a torn PCL. There is presently no indication as to whether that ailment will impact Davis’ free agent prospects.
Defensive tackle DaQuan Jones, meanwhile, is one of a number of Bills defensive linemen who are out of contract, and like Davis, he said he has not had any talks with the club about a new deal (as relayed by Buscaglia). Jones signed a two-year, $14MM contract with Buffalo in March 2022, and after playing 16 regular season contests in his first year with the team, he was limited to seven games in 2023 thanks to the pectoral injury he sustained in Week 5. The 32-year-old veteran, who has been a consistently strong and mostly durable starter throughout his career, returned to play the final two games of the regular season and both of Buffalo’s postseason matchups, and he said he is looking forward to his return to the open market.
Jones’ fellow DT Jordan Phillips, on the other hand, is considering retirement, per O’Halloran. Phillips, who stepped into the starting lineup following Jones’ injury, suffered a dislocated wrist in a Week 15 win over the Cowboys and ended the season on IR as a result. Now 31, Phillips enjoyed his finest season as a member of the Bills in 2017, posting 9.5 sacks over 16 games (nine starts). He parlayed that performance into a lucrative three-year contract with the Cardinals the following offseason, but his time in the desert was marred by injury, and he was released in March 2022. He has spent the last two seasons back in Buffalo, but he conceded that “this might be it” for his playing career.
Safety Micah Hyde may also hang up the cleats, as Mark Gaughan of the Buffalo News reports. Hyde, a Packers draftee who began a long and productive stint as a member of the Bills in 2017, played in 14 games in 2023 after being limited to just two contests the year before as a result of a neck injury. In the view of Pro Football Focus, he was not quite as sharp as he had been throughout most of his time in Buffalo, though he was still an above-average defender.
Hyde, 33, said he had no issues with his surgically-repaired neck over the first half of the 2023 season, but he sustained a stinger in Week 9 and another in Week 14, and he conceded that it was a difficult year for him physically. Although he has medical clearance to play, he has not yet decided if he wants to do so.
The Bills also have several key edge rushers on expiring contracts: Leonard Floyd and A.J. Epenesa. Floyd, who signed a one-year contract with the team in June, posted 10.5 sacks in his first Buffalo season, the fourth consecutive year in which he has recorded at least nine sacks. As he prepares for his age-32 campaign, Floyd acknowledged that he will follow the money in free agency, though he still wants to sign with a contender.
Of all of the soon-to-be FAs mentioned above, it could be that Epenesa has the best chance to return to the Bills. The 2020 second-rounder has posted 6.5 sacks in back-to-back seasons, and as ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler writes in a subscribers-only piece, Buffalo — in keeping with its usual desire to retain homegrown talent — may talk extension with Epenesa before free agency opens.