1 - GM Beane on salary cap situation
On May 9, 2017, Brandon Beane was named General Manager of the Buffalo Bills. On that day, he took over a team that had some players with hefty contracts. Even before the offseason began it was clear he has a plan to get the team’s salary cap situation in a place that he sees as both flexible and responsible.
“I think it’s improving,” said Beane on WGR 550. “We’re not there. We’re better off where this team was a year ago. We’re not where I want to be and where I want to get to.”
The Bills are currently $38 million under the cap, according to overthecap.com. That’s the 13th highest in the NFL.
However, the team has almost $19 million in dead money on the books for 2018. That’s the most in the league.
“We’ve got some dead money and we’re still working through that and that happens when you have some of the deals we did with bigger contracts like Marcell [Dareus],” said Beane. “But we want to get away from that because the more money we have on the field, the better off we’re going to be actually paying the players who are on the field.”
In 2015, the Bills signed Marcell Dareus to a six-year, $96 million contract extension. That was obviously before Beane’s time in Buffalo.
The Bills traded Dareus to the Jaguars on Oct. 27, and in return got a fifth-round pick in the 2018 draft. It was a financial decision by Beane, as it clears out cap space in the future.
From the Dareus deal, the Bills have a cap hit of over $14 million in 2018. That’s where a majority of the dead money comes from next season.
Beane’s plan will pay off in the future, as Dareus is off the books completely in 2019 and beyond.
“I think in 2019 you’ll see it even better than what we’re heading into this year,” he said. “So we’re not out of the woods yet.”
2 - Buffalo’s rookie class ranked above average
Almost nine months ago the Buffalo Bills were in Philadelphia for the 2017 NFL Draft. Little did they know, the six players they selected would play significant roles in their rookie seasons.
The Bills rookie class was ranked above average, according to ESPN.com. That was better than 19 other teams, who were either graded average or below average.
The team should be pleased with the early returns from its six selections. Three of those players -- cornerback Tre’Davious White, offensive tackle Dion Dawkins and linebacker Matt Milano -- were starters at the end of the regular season.
From the Bills six selections, ESPN chose a best rookie and a most improved rookie. White took the honors as MVP of the rookie class, while Milano was the most improved.
The voting for NFL defensive rookie of the year probably will come down to White and Saints cornerback Marshon Lattimore. White led all NFL defensive rookies with 1,052 snaps this season, and his four interceptions were tied with New Orleans’ Marcus Williams for second most behind Lattimore’s five interceptions. White ranked third among rookies in pass breakups, with 11, and Lattimore ranked fourth, with nine.
Milano had a quiet training camp and practiced mostly with the second- and third-team defense. He did not play a defensive snap until Week Four when starting weakside linebacker Ramon Humber suffered a thumb injury, but that proved to be the spark for Milano. He took over the starting job from Humber in Week 13.
Buffalo will pick eight times in the 2018 draft. Hopefully they hit the nail on the head in this year’s draft just like they did in 2017.
3 - Leonard Johnson: It has been the best year of my career
He served as Buffalo’s nickel cornerback this season and was a big part of the team’s surging secondary. For Leonard Johnson, a six-year veteran, it’s a year he won’t forget.
The cornerback, who signed a one-year, $855,000 contract with the Bills in 2017, was determined to make Buffalo his destination. Prior to the season, Johnson called newly hired Bills head coach Sean McDermott and told him he was ready to come. In 2016, he played under McDermott, who was the defensive coordinator in Carolina at the time.
“I told my mom and my coach, I’ve been in the league six years, by far it has been the best year of my career,” said Johnson.
This season, Johnson played in 15 games and started in seven of them. It was the most starts he had in a year since 2013. He fit in seamlessly to Buffalo’s secondary, as they only allowed 14 passing touchdowns, which was the second-fewest in the NFL.
The 5-10, 194-pound CB finished the regular season with 51 tackles. That marked the second-most tackles of his career. Additionally, he added seven passes defended, one fumble recovery, and one forced fumble.
The playmaking ability of Johnson showed during the season. His most memorable moment of the year came in Week Eight against the Raiders. In the final minute of the first half, he forced a fumble on Oakland’s DeAndre Washington. It was recovered by rookie Matt Milano and returned 40 yards for a touchdown to break a 7-7 tie. The Bills went on to win 34-14.
Johnson’s first year in Buffalo was filled with highs, but his future is uncertain as he’s a free agent in 2018. Though, it seems like he wants to build off of a strong season in Buffalo.
“Yeah, you never really know. I would love to be back and play in this secondary. I think, collectively, we did a great job,” he said. “It is a performance-based business so I’m anxious to see how it’s going to play out. I got a lot of great feedback from my coaches. It’s just one of those things. You pray to God that everything works out in your favor. I want to make Buffalo home for the next two, three years.” SOCIAL MEDIA POST OF THE DAY