As all Bills fans know by now, general manager Brandon Beane does not have a lot of salary cap flexibility heading into this 2021 offseason.
Because the coronavirus pandemic has severely reduced the NFL's revenue stream, the figure for this year is expected to fall along with it.
At first, it was thought that the cap would be as low as $175 million, which would have been more than a $23 million drop from the year before. Although the final figure hasn't been determined yet, the league's announcement on Thursday that the floor will be at least $180 million should come as a relief to the Bills, who still will have to shed salary before thinking about entering the free-agent market.
According to Spotrac.com, the Bills would come into 2021 at just $1.5 million under the estimated $185 cap.
That's not a lot of room in a year when they need extra space most. As of Friday, 16 Bills were headed for unrestricted free agency, including linebacker Matt Milano, offensive linemen Jon Feliciano and Daryl Williams and Pro Bowl returner Andre Roberts.
“It’s one of those things you wish we knew a year ago, maybe we wouldn’t have made every move that we did," Beane said. "Maybe we wouldn’t have been so aggressive in some areas."
In Beane's defense nobody could have predicted just how much damage the pandemic has caused, and many teams are in worse shape than the Bills this year.
Unfortunately for them, none of them are in the AFC East. The Jets ($75.5 million under the cap), Patriots ($68.6 million) and Dolphins ($35.6 million) rank second, third and eighth respectively, in cap health. All three could be headed for significant quarterback upgrades
Meanwhile, the Bills have to figure out how to keep from losing some of their best players as well as being able to bid for free agents in order to stay atop of a division they finally managed to conquer for the first time since 1995.
For instance, there's no doubt they're interested in defensive end J.J. Watt. They also are in the market for impact tight ends and running backs. But they don't have the ability to write blank checks the way all three of their division rivals do.
Lots for Beane and coach Sean McDermott to ponder before the start of the new league year less than a month from now.