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Paying the Bills: Some Valued Players Must be Jettisoned Before Their Time

Difficult contract decisions loom for so many top players, which makes this season that much more important.
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As of Sunday, the Buffalo Bills have just $5 million in salary cap space, according to the NFLPA.

Also as of Sunday, they are still trying to figure out the long-term futures of some of their top established performers, like safety Jordan Poyer, linebacker Tremaine Edmunds, tight end Dawson Knox, running back Devin Singletary and defensive tackle Ed Oliver.

Then there is the multitude of veterans brought in this year on one-year contracts. Offensive linemen Rodger Saffold, Greg Mancz, Greg Van Roten and David Quessenberry; wide receivers Jamison Crowder and Tavon Austin; tight end O.J. Howard; running back Duke Johnson; and defensive tackle Jordan Phillips fall into this category.

Remember the names. Not all of them will still be with the Bills for the 2023 season. Some may even be gone before they play their first game this season.

There's not much relief in sight, either. Next year, the Bills already are on the books for a higher total cap hit ($236.7 million) than this year ($231.8 million), with quarterback Josh Allen, cornerback Tre'Davious White, tackle Dion Dawkins, wide receiver Stefon Diggs and defensive end Von Miller combining to account for $108 million, or nearly half of that total.

Needless to say, general manager Brandon Beane has his work cut out.

So does the coaching staff in trying to lift the play of the rookies and get the young players they've been patient with to take the leaps expected of them while still on cost-controlled contracts.

For example, part of the reason they have cap issues now is because they didn't see enough from last year's rookie edge rushers Greg Rousseau and Boogie Basham or A.J. Epenesa, a second-round draft pick in 2020, to risk not pursuing Von Miller and Shaq Lawson in free agency.

General manager Brandon Beane has been meticulous about constructing arguably the finest roster the Bills have had in the NFL free agency era. And it may never be as strong again as it is expected to be this year.

For that reason, this coming season becomes that much more crucial for them to finally get back to the Super Bowl and win it for the first time.

For his part, Epenesa seems to understand his role and that of all the young players the Bills hope they don't have to cut for performance issues.

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"We've got to believe in ourselves and we've got the confidence in ourselves to know that we can make plays and we can take that next step," Epenesa said. "That's really what it's about. We're all looking forward to this camp. When we get pads on, we can really show the strides we've taken.

"Boogie's lost some weight, Greg's gotten bigger and stronger. I myself have gotten bigger, faster, stronger. So all three of us have been putting in a lot of work and we're excited to put pads on and show people what we can do."

Epenesa knows time is running out on many more than just him.

That has created a sense of urgency they hope will turn the 2022 season into one like no other.

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Nick Fierro is the publisher of Bills Central. Check out the latest Bills news at www.si.com/nfl/bills and follow Fierro on Twitter at @NickFierro. Email to Nicky300@aol.com.