Jump to content

Buffalo Bills free-agency tracker: Every signing, extension, restructure, trade and more


Recommended Posts

The NFL free-agency floodgates open with the new league year beginning Wednesday. Meanwhile, the Bills’ Super Bowl window is still open. The moves and decisions made over the next few months could help Buffalo over the hump — finally. Need to keep track of every notable move the Bills make? This will be the place to do so. This article will be updated with every Bills re-signing, restructure, external signing and trade along with analysis, reactions, grades and more from The Athletic’s Joe Buscaglia and Tim Graham.

March 15

Bills agree to terms with QB Kyle Allen

The Bills are signing QB Kyle Allen, a league source tells The Athletic. The Bills and Texans essentially swap backup quarterbacks this offseason with Case Keenum agreeing to sign with the Texans and the Bills replacing him with Allen, who has 19 career starts.

Buscaglia’s analysis: Allen comes to the Bills after bouncing around the NFL over his five seasons with three different teams and most notably started 12 games for the Panthers in 2019 while they were going through a losing year and eventually fired then-coach Ron Rivera. In his games since 2019, Allen’s teams in Washington and Houston have lost five of his six starts and he’s thrown six touchdowns to five interceptions. Allen will “compete” for the backup quarterback job, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, and unless they make any other moves, that will be with Matt Barkley.

Over the last two seasons, the Bills prioritized investing in a quality, experienced backup quarterback in case Josh Allen needed to miss any time. But with Josh Allen starting every game over those two years and the Bills not having a ton of cap space, they moved away from that in 2023. Kyle Allen is also one of Josh Allen’s good friends, and the Bills have prioritized having good synergy in the quarterback room with all parties focused on helping Josh succeed. Although it might be a legitimate downgrade from backup options Mitchell Trubisky or Case Keenum should Kyle Allen have to play, Allen at least provides the quarterback room chemistry the Bills covet.

Bills agree to two-year deal with Jordan Poyer

The Bills have agreed to bring back free-agent safety Jordan Poyer, a league source told The Athletic. NFL Network first reported Poyer was expected to return to Buffalo. Poyer was a first-team All-Pro in 2021 and has been a three-time team captain. He ranked No. 16 on The Athletic’s list of top free agents this offseason.

Buscaglia’s analysis: Following the exit of linebacker Tremaine Edmunds in free agency, the Bills were facing some legitimate concerns on defense if they didn’t bring back Poyer in 2023. Poyer’s return immediately catapults them back into a potential high-end defense this season, as the Bills will also get Micah Hyde back to continue their prolific partnership. There might be some concern over Poyer’s age (31) and all the games he missed last year, but when he’s on the field, Poyer has been as reliable and as good as it gets within the team’s defensive scheme. His return will go a long way in their hunt for Super Bowl glory in 2023.

Graham’s thoughts: Surprise, surprise. When I spoke with Poyer at the Pro Bowl last month, he sounded like a man who’d played his final game for Buffalo. The three-time captain spoke about making extra trips to One Bills Drive after the season to say goodbyes and soak in the place where he created so many great memories for himself and the organization.

The main takeaway from Poyer’s season — the fact he repeatedly proves he’s among the nastiest mothers in the game — hurt him on the open market. Poyer played through incredible circumstances. He came back from a hyperextended elbow in training camp, sprained his ankle in Week 2, suffered rib injuries in Week 4, missed only one game and then played at Arrowhead Stadium with a still-healing collapsed lung. Poyer wasn’t cleared to fly to Kansas City, so he and his family rode 15 hours there and then 15 hours back to Orchard Park after beating the Chiefs.

But one GM’s admiration is another GM’s skepticism when considering Poyer will turn 32 next month. The market wasn’t lucrative enough to coax him away from Buffalo. Now he’s back and alongside Micah Hyde, who missed all but two games after season-ending neck surgery.

Safeties are crucial in Sean McDermott’s defense. Poyer’s return is a boon, especially with questions surrounding Damar Hamlin’s football future. If Poyer and Hyde remain healthy, then they are one of the NFL’s elite duos. Their leadership also will help whomever replaces play-communicator Tremaine Edmunds navigate a defense that will be without Leslie Frazier, the coordinator who’s taking at least a year off supposedly to recharge his coaching battery.

Bills agree to deal with WR/PR Deonte Harty

Saints WR/PR Deonte Harty is expected to sign a two-year, $13.5 million max deal with the Bills, a source tells The Athletic. The deal includes a $9.5 million base agreement and $5 million fully guaranteed.

Buscaglia’s analysis: The Bills made their first splash to add a playmaker, though it’s not likely the one fans had in mind. Harty enters the equation as an outright speedster who specializes in yards after the catch, something the Bills lacked in both areas. At the NFL combine, Beane mentioned the run after catch being a huge component of what they’d look for at skill positions, and Harty certainly fills those responsibilities. The deal is a projection for Harty rather than spending on 2022 results, as he only had two catches last year, but his 570 yards on only 36 receptions in 2021 is a significant selling point. Harty will be 25 for most of the season and has some untapped potential for a dynamic passing offense.

The contract was at first a little jarring based on some of the numbers, but it effectively boils down to a one-year commitment and a cap hit of only $3.745 million in 2023 for offseason purposes. The details in full, from a league source:

Deonte Harty contract details with Bills

There is a $2.75 million signing bonus due immediately and Harty’s $2 million base salary in 2023 is fully guaranteed, but there will be a decision point a few days after the new league year in 2024. Harty will be owed a $500,000 roster bonus if still on the roster, but should the Bills cut him before that comes due, they can save $3.99 million on the 2024 salary cap. Several incentives could earn Harty up to $2 million more annually, which include tiered markers for receptions, receiving yards, yards per punt return, touchdowns, playing time and postseason awards. Basically, the Bills took a lower-than-mid-level swing on an exciting young piece with potential who they could walk away from easily in one year. His one-year cap hit in 2023 is around the range of an early-round receiver on their rookie deal.

The real wonder is what this does for the rest of their offseason at receiver. First, this could spell bad news for Isaiah McKenzie, who the team could save around a little under $2 million on the cap ($2.7 million non-dead cap minus the entering Top 51 contract) to cut him. The Bills could always hang on to him for now as free agency continues to unfold, but they do have a natural decision point on March 19 when they would owe him a $250,000 roster bonus. It also wouldn’t be a surprise if they flat out keep him as one of the team’s six receivers in 2023 while he battles for a gameday active spot. However, the Harty signing and McKenzie’s fate with the team do not impact their potential to add another receiver this offseason significantly, whether through free agency, trade or the draft. They have a long-term need at the position outside of Stefon Diggs, and it won’t be surprising for them to find another piece to have a deep and versatile receiver room for 2023.

March 14

Source: Bills restructure WR Stefon Diggs’ contract

The Bills have restructured WR Stefon Diggs’ contract, converting his base salary into a bonus and creating $5.4 million in cap space, a league source tells The Athletic. The Bills restructured QB Josh Allen and LB Von Miller’s contracts on March 13.

Source: Bills plan to issue a restricted free agent tender to CB Dane Jackson

Note: Jackson was officially tendered on March 15

Analysis: The Bills didn’t need to do much at cornerback this offseason but brought back one of their most trusted depth pieces in Jackson. He was a critical piece in helping the Bills get through the first three months of the 2022 season while Tre’Davious White rehabbed his knee and Kaiir Elam was figuring things out as a rookie. By the time both were ready to take their place in the lineup, teams had begun to figure Jackson out and attacked him with 50-50 balls.

Regardless, they know they can trust Jackson in the scheme in the event of injury, and his return keeps the door open for switching Christian Benford to safety. Financially, the tender is likely the original round designation, which costs the second-least of the restricted options for the one-year pact. The original round tender of $2.743 million, should Jackson sign it, would likely be the second-highest one-year total they’ve issued a free agent so far this offseason, behind only Connor McGovern.

The Bills could still negotiate a different deal with Jackson to lessen the cap hit, so there still is at least another step involved. However, they protected themselves with the right of first refusal if a team signed him to an offer sheet. And if they don’t, under the original-round tender rules, the signing team would owe the Bills a seventh-round pick — the round Jackson was drafted in 2020.

LB Tyrel Dodson re-signs on one-year deal

Buscaglia’s analysis: The Bills continued to bring back some of their roster depth with Dodson, who went from an undrafted rookie in 2019 to being active every week for the last two seasons. Dodson gave the Bills some snaps on defense when Tremaine Edmunds had to miss some time, though his best contributions came on special teams. Dodson turned into an every-snap core-four special teams player in 2022 and will compete to keep that role again in 2023.

On defense, the Bills also know that Dodson can step in if they need him to, so it’s a good insurance policy if they can’t find another linebacker to replace Edmunds in the starting lineup. Dodson had some trouble during extended opportunities, particularly in coverage and against play-action passes, but looked like a solid run defender. With Dodson’s return, the Bills now have five linebackers on their roster as Matt MilanoTerrel BernardTyler Matakevich and Baylon Spector round out the rest of the group.

March 13

QB Josh Allen, LB Von Miller restructure contracts

The Bills created just under $32 million in cap space by restructuring the contracts of Josh Allen and Von Miller, a league source tells The Athletic.

Buscaglia’s analysis: The Bills were operating in the red for the 2023 salary cap by at least over $10 million and needed to clear cap space before the new league year started on Wednesday. They didn’t have any obvious players to release for cap savings, which made the restructures of Allen and Miller essential. General manager Brandon Beane said the Bills had a tiered approach for which players they would restructure first, and Allen and Miller were the two most obvious that hurt the Bills the least long term.

It gives the Bills some breathing room to go after some free agents. Already with an agreement in place for free agent guard Connor McGovern, the Bills could look to sign a linebacker, safety, running back, wide receiver and backup quarterback in the coming days. They might not have enough cap space to sign all those positions, but also have the option to restructure the contacts of receiver Stefon Diggs and cornerback Tre’Davious White among others.

LB Tremaine Edmunds agrees to deal with Bears

Tremaine Edmunds will sign with Chicago for four years at $72 million, including $50 million guaranteed, a league source tells The Athletic.

Buscaglia’s analysis: The Bills will miss Edmunds sorely. The writing appeared on the wall with Edmunds once the Bills announced the contract extension for star linebacker Matt Milano through 2026. The days after the NFL combine usually give teams a good idea of what the market for their upcoming free agents will look like, and that Milano decision likely signaled the Bills knew they were priced out on Edmunds.

As highly as they value the linebacker position, carrying two linebackers for four seasons with humongous cap hits likely would never be a long-term solution. Now they’ll have to decide how to proceed without Edmunds starting next to Milano for the first time since 2018. The Bills will likely explore free agency to find a suitable replacement for Edmunds if only a short-term one.

Graham’s thoughts: Edmunds had a weird standing among Bills fans. While he had a sterling league-wide reputation, he didn’t truly win over his own fans until maybe last season. Maybe.

Buffalo traded up in 2018 to draft him 16th overall, but he didn’t make those game-changing plays that mark an inside linebacker’s greatness. In 74 games, he recorded 6.5 sacks, 18 quarterback hits, five interceptions, zero forced fumbles and two recoveries. Bills fans always craved more zing. But he brought a holistic impact to the defense because of his 6-foot-5, 250-pound frame gave quarterbacks serious problems, breaking up 35 passes. He went sideline to sideline and amassed 32 tackles for losses. He was a captain. He went to a couple Pro Bowls. All this while entering the NFL as a 20-year-old (he graduated high school a year early and left Virginia Tech a year early) and starting immediately. His combination of youth and experience is rare. Jets coach Robert Saleh called him an “avatar” and a “unicorn.” So, as I wrote back in September, the Bills likely weren’t going to be able to afford him. They couldn’t pay what another team was willing, and the Jets had set the market in 2019 with the C.J. Mosely deal followed by the Ravens’ Roquan Smith extension in January.

Edmunds was super important to Buffalo’s defense, but committing to Milano and matching Chicago’s offer was impossible.

CB Cam Lewis re-signs for one-year deal

Lewis was originally a restricted free agent, but the Bills didn’t issue him a tender and allowed him to test the market as an unrestricted free agent. Lewis ultimately returned for a fifth season in Buffalo after signing as an undrafted free agent in 2019.

Lewis turned into a strong special teams contributor last season, and they also moved him from cornerback to safety in late August. He struggled during his appearances at safety, and it’s noteworthy that they listed him as a cornerback in the official re-signing release. Lewis entered the league as a cornerback and best fits the Bills’ scheme at nickel. He’ll likely have to again battle for a spot on the 53-man roster this summer.

Buscaglia’s grade: C

QB Case Keenum agrees to two-year deal with Texans

The Bills will be in the market for a new backup quarterback with Keenum intending to sign to the Texans, according to multiple reports. The Browns traded Keenum to the Bills for a seventh-round pick last offseason and the 11-year veteran played in two games in 2022 for Buffalo.

Connor McGovern agrees to three-year deal

Former Cowboys guard Connor McGovern and the Bills agreed to a three-year deal worth $23 million, a league source tells The Athletic.

Buscaglia’s analysis: The Bills make a middle-tier move to address their need on the offensive line with McGovern, formerly of the Cowboys. The 25-year-old McGovern played 812 of his 908 offensive snaps last season at left guard, according to Pro Football Focus. Given that left guard is the position that the Bills have both a vacancy and are looking to improve this offseason, McGovern will likely slot in between left tackle Dion Dawkins and center Mitch Morse. He’s had good pass-blocking success but has been a bit of a liability as a run blocker. The Bills’ offensive strength is as a passing team and they veer heavily toward throwing, so he should fit into that part of their game well. On the flip side, coach Sean McDermott has wanted to get more effective as a running team, and this signing might not help with that.

At the time of the agreement, McGovern’s $7.67 million per year average would be the 17th highest amongst guards in the NFL. It would represent their heaviest investment in the guard position, and considering its overall replaceability through the draft, the money initially seems a bit high for a middle-tier guard. However, early contract figures don’t often offer the full picture of the structure, which could impact the actual cap numbers the Bills must work within the first year or two. So, there is a chance the Bills could have more flexibility in the deal than the initial numbers indicate.

Buscaglia’s grade: C-plus

It could become a B if the contract details alter the original numbers.

RB Nyheim Hines reworks contract

Hines, whom the Bills traded for last season, reworked his contract to reduce the cap hit of $4.79 million to $3.5 million in 2023, according to ESPN. Hines receives a $1 million signing bonus. The signing bonus’ cap hit will be spread out over the current year and next year. The move saves the Bills approximately $1.3 million against the cap.

Buscaglia’s analysis: The Hines pay cut was a necessary component of the Bills’ offseason. Hines played only 80 offensive snaps after being acquired at the trade deadline and gave his best contributions as a kickoff and punt returner. Aside from those positive plays, his $4.79 million cap hit was untenable for someone they couldn’t figure out how to use on offense. By reducing his cap hit in 2023 and only adding minimal dead money to his cap hit next year, the Bills can still move on in 2024 with a lot of cap savings. The Bills still retain their flexibility to acquire a running back this offseason to pair with James Cook, either through free agency or the draft.

Sam Martin re-signs on three-year deal

Buscaglia’s analysis: The Sam Martin contract is effectively a one-year commitment that could last as long as three years. Martin winds up with a solid signing bonus for the position, but the Bills will only pay $500,000 more than the league minimum on the 2023 salary cap. They have an easy out for 2024 and can save $1.25 million on the 2024 salary cap if none of Martin’s incentives are reached. This is a very sensical deal that is effectively a pay-as-you-go contract that puts pressure on Martin to perform every year.

After the Bills went through a tumultuous end of the summer regarding their then-punter Matt Araiza, Martin came in and provided the team with the on-field consistency they lacked at the punter position. Although Martin doesn’t have the biggest leg, he balances it with a heady approach to maximize his yardage, all while giving the Bills solid hang time and accuracy on most of his attempts.

He also came in and worked quite well with kicker Tyler Bass as a holder on field goal attempts. Although three years seems unexpected, it may boil down to the contract structure as to how long of a commitment it actually is for the team. However, the one thing that is quite likely is that the first-year financial commitment means Martin will be the Bills’ punter in 2023.

P Sam Martin's new contract with Bills

Buscaglia’s gradeB-minus

LB Tyler Matakevich re-signs one-year deal

Buscaglia’s analysis: Matakevich returns for at least one more season with the Bills and will instantly return as one of their top special teams players. The last contract Matakevich signed with the Bills was lucrative by special teams standards, but he didn’t make them regret it.

In three seasons with the team, Matakevich missed only one game and played almost every single core-four (kickoff, kickoff return, punt, punt return) special teams snap along the way. They’ll depend on Matakevich in his age-30 season to lead the way with Siran Neal as the special teams unit will likely have quite a bit of turnover this offseason.

Buscaglia’s gradeB-minus

March 12

LB Matt Milano signs two-year extension 

Buscaglia’s analysis: Milano’s two-year extension, which runs through 2026, clears around $6 million in cap space for the Bills this offseason. Milano, 28, posted 99 tackles (72 solo), 1 1/2 sacks, three interceptions and a career-high 11 pass breakups in 15 games last season.

Milano has been an impact defender since he entered the starting lineup halfway through his rookie year in 2017, but he had one of the best and healthiest seasons of his career in 2022. Milano is the prototype of what the Bills covet in their linebackers, possessing the speed and instincts to make impact plays both as a run defender and in coverage.

The decision to extend Milano was the most significant sign that the team was preparing for life without Edmunds. Linebacker is such a vital position in their system that the thought of losing both after the 2024 season would have been a big setback. With Edmunds gone, they can rely on Milano to be their marquee linebacker for the long term.

Buscaglia’s grade: B-plus

March 3

G Ike Boettger signs one-year deal

Buscaglia’s analysis: The Bills got little from Boettger on the field in 2022, but don’t let that fool you — they weren’t planning on it. He rehabbed all year from a torn Achilles that occurred in late December 2021 and took almost the entire season before he returned to the 53-man roster. He played only six snaps.

They wanted to keep Boettger in-house for late-season depth but also because they knew it could result in a re-upping for 2023. And they were right, signing him to a one-year deal for the veteran minimum base salary ($1.08 million), with a small roster and signing bonus.

They trust Boettger in the starting lineup, and well over a year removed from the injury, he could compete for a starting guard role in 2023. He needs to prove he can still be a starter, but he’s with an organization he’s invested in and is comfortable with, which could set him up for a bigger payday in the following offseason. Worst case, he comes back as dependable depth.

The Bills also love Boettger in the locker room, so that was a bonus to the re-signing. Their work on the offensive line isn’t done this offseason, but this is a good and efficient start.

Buscaglia’s grade: B-minus

  • Like 1

“There he goes. One of God's own prototypes.

A high-powered mutant of some kind, never even considered for mass production.

Too weird to live, and too rare to die.”

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Join the conversation

You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

Reply to this topic...

×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

  Only 75 emoji are allowed.

×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.


  • Create New...