$107,000,000.00. Other than lots of zeroes, what is so special about this number?
That used to be the 2009 NFL salary floor—and in case it is a term you are not used to hearing often, it would be the exact opposite end of the spectrum from a salary cap.
As of today, there is no longer any sort of salary cap arrangement in place for the 2010 NFL season. Teams can spend as much as or as little as they want to on their players for the upcoming season.
That also means that there is no salary floor in place, either.
This past season, all teams were required to spend the minimum, hence the $107 million figure. But now, that figure is a thing of the past—until a new agreement is hammered out with the National Football League Players Association and the league.
We all saw the recent notice that the Bills are raising ticket prices. The team hadn't raised prices in several years, so owner Ralph Wilson decided he needed to keep up with the Joneses—Jerry, that is—knowing full well that there was a chance that the NFLPA labor agreement may not occur prior to the deadline.
So, that begs the question: Will the Bills free agency spending be on a par with what the new ticket price revenue is bringing to the team?
Also, because there will not be any NFL watchdog overseeing how much they are spending on their players, is there anything preventing the Bills from spending less than $100 million to fill out the roster?
Other than to keep the fanbase happy, this appears to be a reasonable question to ask. But how often in the last decade has Ralph been able to truly keep the fans happy?
So far in the offseason, the Bills have opted to release quite a few of the long-in-the-tooth veteran players—recognizing that they had very few to begin with. Gone are Terrell Owens, Josh Reed, Ryan Denney, John Wendling, Richie Incognito, Brad Butler, Gibran Hamdan, Jonathan Scott, and Justin Jenkins.
In addition, Aaron Schobel may or may not be back because of his pending retirement decision.
Those players collectively earned a significant chunk of income. Who will replace them on the roster—and for what amount of money?
So far, those players have been replaced by a two year deal to sign unrestricted free agent Bryan Scott and one free agent, ex-LSU nose tackle Marlon Favorite, who only has NFL practice squad experience.
Last year, the Bills had the salary cap space to bring on board Terrell Owens. It helped the team to sell many jerseys and cause enough excitement to allow the team to continue to sell out its home games. For the record, the Bills roster in 2009 totaled 124.5 MM, and the Bills ranked 25th out of the 32 NFL teams.
But what is the motivation for this season?
They Might As Well Remove the Word "Free" from Free Agency
Free agency is now set to begin. There is not much about it that is free. You have to pay the free agent a salary that is so high that his old team decides it can't or won't match the offer.
In addition to breaking the bank, in many cases, you have to surrender your first-round draft pick, or a second-round pick, or in the worst case, a first- and third-round pick to the team that decided not to match the offer.
If the Bills sign free agent players who do not have any tender offer, that says something about the quality of the players as a general rule of thumb. Or in the extreme case of a Julius Peppers, you have to outbid the remaining NFL teams—or be willing to sign a player that nobody else wanted, a la Terrell Owens with the Bills in 2009.
Because most key free agents have a tendered price tag that goes along with their "free agency status," the Bills would be required to surrender their future in the process by giving up the only way they can control the core building of the team—through the draft.
That is something the team does not want to do, as a rebuilding team like the Bills needs every draft choice it can get its hands on. Besides, looking at some of the colossal busts that happened recently on the offensive line in free agency, free agency is not necessarily a proven way to go—especially because we are dealing with a new administration in place, Chan Gailey and Buddy Nix, who with each passing week demonstrate that they want to place their own identity stamp on the team.
So you can expect more and more of the Dick Jauron-era players to slowly but surely exit the Bills roster.
So if the Bills keep releasing veteran players and bring in younger, inexpensive players, the team could save millions and millions of dollars this upcoming season until a new arrangement is cranked out with the NFLPA.
There is the possibility that Wilson could open up the purse strings and spend like crazy, going after every top-flight free agent.
OK, I admit it: I just wanted to see what that statement looked like in print before I fell off my chair laughing hysterically.
All kidding aside, I am hoping that Ralph, Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey will make the decision to spend wisely, but still make the team as competitive as they can for the 2010 season.
While the team has been historically active on the first day of free agency in the past three to four years, don't be overly surprised if the team is quiet this time around for the first few days.
There is a whole new NFL landscape to figure out—and based on management decisions to keep deleting players who do not appear to be useful, the list of needs continues to grow and grow.
Ralph and others in a position of power will tell you that Ralph is not cheap. I have heard that before. But now he is not required to spend anything, so what will he do?
Stay tuned, Bills fans, but you would be well-advised to not hold your breath in the process.