Offensive veterans vulnerable

The salary cap, which wouldn't fit on the Bills' head before the 2001 season, sits a little loosely atop their dome a year later.

Still, there are a number of veterans who -- like John Holecek, Sam Rogers and Henry Jones last year -- could find themselves looking for work before the roster is set in September.

First, some rough numbers. Buffalo presently is about $1.7 million under this year's salary cap. They can spend up to $5 million on their rookies, but they don't have to and might not. Still, they would need to come up with a major portion of the $3.3-million difference before they can sign Mike Williams, Josh Reed et al. on the dotted line.

And don't forget, the Bills still appear to need help, primarily on the defensive line. Proven pass rushers don't come cheap, so for them to sign even a bargain veteran after June 1 might cost seven figures. Throw in an emergency slush fund to fill holes caused by injury once the season begins, and it's easy to see that Buffalo would probably want to clear about $5 million from their current cap figure.

The Bills can make room by releasing or restructuring the contracts of veterans. The most likely candidates are on offense. Releasing John Fina after June 1 could mean a $3-million difference. We've already talked about how Buffalo could save another million by releasing, reducing or restructuring Riemersma, Jay Riemersma.

Other veterans who could be expendable include Larry Centers, with a cap figure a little over $1 million, because a fullback might not be needed often in the Kevin Gilbride/Drew Bledsoe offense and the team might be set for pass receivers. Also, if veteran linemen Jerry Ostroski or the less-expensive Bill Conaty doesn't win in the scramble for starting positions there, one of them could be forced out when the music stops.

Bottom line: Don't take your eyes off how the roster is developing until the final cut to 53 players.


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