The Bills' Salary Cap

Bills' GM Tom Donahoe is on the hotseat this offseason and season. His biggest decisions have been heavily laden with risks more often than not. However, the one thing that many credit him for is "getting the Bills out of a cap mess." But how has Donahoe fared in this regard and where has it left the team speaking capwise currently. It is one thing to get a team's cap under control, but it is entirely another to field a competitive team while doing so.

Obviously if a team is noncompetitive, then it does not matter what their cap situation is other than regarding how to correct it. This is the situation that the Bills are presently in.

Of the team's $85.5 million worth of cap space, a dozen players consume nearly 60% of that precious cap space. This is likely not very much different from other NFL teams, but what is different is in the types of players occupying those top dozen slots.




Cap Hit

Troy Vincent




Eric Moulds




Sam Adams




Chris Villarrial




Lawyer Milloy




Trey Teague




London Fletcher




Jeff Posey




Takeo Spikes




Aaron Schobel




Nate Clements




Mike Williams






(Source of Cap data:


Of the dozen players consuming the most cap space, eight are 30 or older and none of those players, arguably, provide performance in accordance with their cap hits. Mike Williams consumes nearly $10 million in cap space and is playing nowhere near that level. The three players deemed worthy of their cap hits are Takeo Spikes, who is playing up to but not greater than his compensation and cap figures, Aaron Schobel, the same, and Nate Clements who will be a free agent following this season.

Of the eight players 30 or older among the top dozen cap hit players, seven of them are signed beyond this season and "not getting any younger", ergo, only diminishing in their contributions to the team with many already in such a status.

Schobel and Spikes still have a couple of seasons of prime play left, but the rest of the "money core" of the Bills will continue to age and deteriorate skill wise with Clements potentially walking in free-agency next season and who-knows-what-to-expect with Mike Williams.

Getting a team "out of cap hell" is only half of the equation. The trick is to do it while maintaining a competitive football team. That half has been conspicuously missing under GM Tom Donahoe's tenure. Needless to say, having one without the other is like having a brand new car without gas to run it on. It looks great on paper, but it has no practical value.

The bottom line here is that it is very difficult to be competitive in the NFL with such cap management. The best teams in the league consistently leverage their player decisions to get more from their dollar spent. The Bills, along with some other teams with the Redskins leading the charge, specialize in getting less for their money tending to rely on past history rather than expected future performance when making key player decisions.

Unfortunately for Bills fans, this situation represents yet another cap mess and will require time to bail out of. Players such as those above, can usually only be released in the later years of their contracts due to signing bonuses making such release prior to then untenable. To shed some light on this, the combined cap hits for the players in the list above that are 30 or older this season is $28,408,116. If all eight of those players were to be released, the cap savings would be a paltry $3 million. The "dead cap" money would be about $21 million. Such management severely hampers and ties-the-hands of the team.


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