Bills to Jay: pay cut or be cut

For Jay Riemersma to be back with the Bills this season, he'll almost certainly have to take a pay cut. He's scheduled to make $2.525 million this season. That's about a quarter-million less than the salary-cap hit (about $2.75 million in unamortized bonuses) the Bills would feel if they were to release him now. But it's also more than a million higher than the 2002 cap savings they would realize if he were released after June 1, splitting that bonus money over two salary-cap years.

Riemersma's current salary is also about a quarter-million more than the going rate for a franchise tight end. He is one of the NFL's highest-paid tight ends, but now he might not even be the best tight end on the Bills' roster. And newcomer Dave Moore is averaging just over $1 million per year on his new three-year contract.

All of the factors seem aligned against Riemersma. If he were released, he would find the market slow -- and nonexistent for a tight end seeking $2.5 million this season. If fact, he might have a difficult time signing for more than the minimum for his experience level, which would be closer to $700K.

Reportedly, the Bills already have sought to cut Riemersma's 2002 salary in half. He would be well served to accept such an offer if it's made again, or to extend his contract past 2003 -- when he is scheduled to make $3.5 million! -- at more modest salaries.

Meanwhile, Moore seems perfectly willing to share time with Riemersma, possibly in two-tight end offensive sets.

"It will come down to how well our play action works," said Moore, "how our running game is, how Drew Bledsoe uses us, whether we use one or two tight ends. It depends on how our season unfolds, how you're trying to get wins.

"In Tampa, we did a lot of play action. I was able to catch a lot of touchdowns because of play action and the running game."

In fact, Moore displayed an unselfish nature. The 11th-year veteran said, "Everybody wants to contribute. When the game's on the line, you want to be the guy that's going to make the play. But if at the end of the game it's on the line and I have to block a 300-pound defensive end to help us win, I want to do that too."

Now, so that the Bills can sign draft picks and post-June 1 free agents or have some salary-cap leeway to improve the team -- not to mention keeping his own job -- it's up to Riemersma to be similarly unselfish.


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