Releasing Von Miller, trading young CB among 'creative ways' Bills could free salary cap space

Bleacher Report recently listed three "creative ways" the Buffalo Bills could free up salary cap space ahead of the 2024 NFL season.
Jan 21, 2024; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Buffalo Bills linebacker Von Miller (40) against the
Jan 21, 2024; Orchard Park, New York, USA; Buffalo Bills linebacker Von Miller (40) against the / Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports

To borrow a recent quote from former Buffalo Bills general manager and Pro Football Hall of Fame inductee Bill Polian, “When you win, you always get into cap issues. That’s what the system is designed to do.”

The sentiment rang true for the Buffalo Bills in the 2024 NFL offseason. Fresh off a fifth consecutive postseason appearance, the team was forced to reshape its roster to reset both its on-field and financial clocks, moving on from long-time starters Micah Hyde, Jordan Poyer, Tre’Davious White, Mitch Morse, Stefon Diggs, and Gabriel Davis while recentering the roster around younger players on more affordable contracts. Though the moves removed future financial commitment from Buffalo’s books, they’ve left the team in a bit of an awkward financial situation in the interim; according to Over The Cap, the Bills currently have just $2.3 million in available salary cap space.

Bleacher Report’s NFL Scouting Department recently wrote an article breaking down “creative ways” in which every team can create additional salary cap space, writing that Buffalo can free up some cash by releasing or trading veteran pass-rusher Von Miller, restructuring the contract of linebacker Matt Milano, and/or trading young cornerback Kaiir Elam.

Of releasing Miller, the outlet writes “Von Miller is the most significant [move]. Parting with him would require eating $23.3 million in dead cap, but trading him after June 1 would offer the best cap savings return. They could clear $8.8 million.

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“Miller, 35, was no longer a starter for the Bills last season and didn't register a single sack. They would still have a solid three-man rotation with Greg Rousseau, A.J. Epenesa and Dawuane Smoot. There are still a few more vets on the market such as Yannick Ngakoue and Markus Golden who would be available for less than $8.8 million.”

The analysis is sound, though it should be noted that the Bills would only free $8.8 million in cap space if they were to trade Miller after June 1; releasing him would only free a measly $280,000. Though Miller is the NFL’s active all-time sack leader with 123.5 career sacks, he’s coming off an underwhelming return from a significant leg injury—do we anticipate another NFL club giving up an asset (even if it is a day-three pick swap) for a 35-year-old rotational pass-rusher on a large contract? It should also be noted that Miller agreed to a significant pay cut to stay with Buffalo earlier this offseason; though just speculation, one could imagine some sort of verbal agreement between the player and Bills general manager Brandon Beane that assured his security on the roster for the 2024 campaign.

B/R also mentions the possibility of trading Elam, writing “A post-June 1 trade would only clear $2 million but every bit counts in the Bills situation. Elam missed most of last season with a foot injury and has struggled when he's been on the field. If he doesn't show improvement in camp, he could be a trade candidate. He should hold some value as a former first-round pick.”

Elam is a reasonable name to throw in trade speculation given how underwhelming he’s been throughout his career, but he does currently project as Buffalo’s primary depth at cornerback behind Rasul Douglas and Christian Benford. It’s difficult to imagine the team receiving a worthwhile trade offer for the 23-year-old—would they really trade their No. 3 cornerback for a day-three draft pick and an additional $2 million in cap space?

Oct 15, 2023; Orchard Park, New York, USA; New York Giants wide receiver Darius Slayton (86) makes a
Oct 15, 2023; Orchard Park, New York, USA; New York Giants wide receiver Darius Slayton (86) makes a / Gregory Fisher-USA TODAY Sports

The last opportunity raised by the outlet is restructuring the contract of Milano, writing “They've already tacked on a void year to his current deal that will cost them $4.9 million in 2027. By doing another restructure and potentially adding another void year, they could save an additional $2.4 million in space.”

The analysis is accurate and it’s a relatively realistic scenario, but to play devil’s advocate, Milano is entering his age-30 season and is coming off a year in which he fractured his right tibia. He’s had lower-body injury troubles in the past; while he’s a dynamic player, deferring any more money on his deal may not behoove Buffalo at this time.

Beane has spoken in the past about valuing financial breathing room in the regular season, and the team appears set to have very little of that come September. Additional moves will likely be made; whether any of B/R’s suggestions are executed remains to be seen.

Kyle Silagyi