Well, four days into NFL free agency, the Bills have been more active than might have been expected for a team up against the salary cap. They re-signed six of their own, adding four from other teams – two of whom create inherent questions – and making one trade.
The three major re-signings were recounted in this space on Wednesday: linebacker Matt Milano, offensive tackle Daryl Williams and center/guard Jon Feliciano, all agreeing to substantial home-team discounts. In addition, Buffalo re-signed free agent running back/special teamer Taiwan Jones and two of its three restricted free agents: guard Ike Boettger and cornerback Levi Wallace.
But, oddly, the player who wasn’t tendered seemed the most obvious to retain, punter Corey Bojorquez. More on that in a moment.
Meanwhile, though Buffalo tendered Boettger – meaning it could match another team’s offer to retain him – it didn’t do so with Wallace, letting him become an unrestricted free agent at 4 p.m., Wednesday. Oddly, only after that deadline did the Bills re-sign him.
The Bills also had four-free agent signings, two of them curious, Saints wide receiver Emmanual Sanders and Dolphins punter Matt Haack, former Seahawks tight end Jacob Hollister, plus outcast Bears quarterback Mitchell Trubisky as an upgrade in the backup role for a modest $2.5 million investment, making Matt Barkley expendable.
To make salary cap room, general manager Brandon Beane waived veteran wide receiver John Brown and defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson, both of whom subsequently signed with the Raiders.
IT MIGHT be argued that Sanders was signed as Brown’s replacement.
But there’s this. Sanders, 34, signed for $6 million this season with incentives valued at $500,000 more. Brown, soon to be 31, got a one-year salary for $3.75 million from Las Vegas with $5.5 million possible via incentives.
Since Sanders and Brown are effectively the same player, what sense did it make to sign the former rather than the latter who knows the system, is faster, three years younger AND cheaper? That’s especially true for a player who will be the third or fourth wideout behind Stefon Diggs, Cole Beasley and possibly Gabriel Davis.
Then there’s Haack (pronounced HAWK) who, last season, averaged 44.7 yards per punt (24th in the league) with 39.8 net (20th) and 26 kicks inside the 20.
Contrast that with Bojorquez who had the fewest punts in the league (41) but led the NFL in gross average yardage (50.8) was fifth in net (44.0) with 18 inside the 20, though having 40 percent fewer attempts than Haack.
The most likely reason for not-tendering Bojorquez would seem the Bills felt he would be offered a contract they would be hard-pressed to match. Still, a punter with his numbers is a tough weapon to lose.
BEANE was also creative in finding more salary cap room, convincing center Mitch Morse, defensive linemen Mario Addison and Vernon Butler and linebacker/special teams ace Tyler Matakavich to take pay cuts, to be made up in future seasons.
And, oh yeah, he traded veteran tight end and locker room leader, Lee Smith, to the Falcons for a late-round draft choice in 2022.
Buffalo lost wide receiver/kick returner Andre Roberts (Houston) and offensive tackle Ty Nsekhe (Dallas) to free agency and the fate of seven other former Bills remains uncertain.
It’s possible elusive wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie will be re-signed, especially with Buffalo needing a kick returner in Roberts’ absence.
However, six others – Barkley, tight end Tyler Kroft, defensive end Trent Murphy, cornerback Josh Norman, guard Brian Winters and running back T.J. Yeldon – are likely to end up ex-Bills.
And, if you’re wondering, the 86th annual NFL Draft is booked for April 29-May 1 at Cleveland.
(Chuck Pollock, a Times Herald senior sports columnist, can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org)