With the NFL salary cap set at $120 million for the upcoming season, teams now have a somewhat clearer picture as to how much money they can potentially spend.
I should emphasize the word somewhat. The salary cap floor percentage has been reported to be around 90 percent of the cap, but it's also could be higher.
As of right now, the Buffalo News reports that the Bills are $38 million under the full cap number.
That's pretty exciting for Bills fans, as we could add some major building blocks and re-up some that are already in place.
This is what I would do if I were sitting in the leather chair in my spacious GM office.
While I probably should do a conservative estimate for my dream scenario, with the Bills spending to the cap floor, I'm going to run with the scenario that Ralph Wilson wants to go for broke in hopes of seeing a championship team develop soon. While this might be a pointless exercise with so much ambiguity in the new rules at this point, it's still fun!
1. Draft Picks
It's hard to put a figure on the new rookie contracts with a wage scale soon to be in place. However, it was reported that Cam Newton would be scheduled to earn around $22 million over four years. So first-round pick Marcell Dareus' hit will probably be around $4.75 M. Our conservative math says that $7.5 million of the cap goes to our rookie class, though it would most likely be less than that (the salary cap only applies to a team's top 53 players on the roster).
Money left to spend: $31.5 million
2. Offer WR Steve Johnson an extension
Steve Johnson is a legitimate starter in the NFL, as evidenced by his 1,000-yard season last year. However, I don't view him as a No. 1 wide receiver and he shouldn't be compensated like one. I'd offer him five years at $25 million. If we can lock him up now, we won't have to get into a bidding war next year once his contract expires. He'd want the security and significant pay raise from the $550,000 he's slated to make this season. If he passes on the organization's showing of good faith, I'd let another team overpay for him next year.
Money left to spend: $26.5 million
3. Give CB Drayton Florence a Band-Aid deal
I really dislike giving 29-year-old players big extensions. Florence had a good season and was one of our better defenders last year, but finding a fair price might be tough. He already fizzled out in Jacksonville after the Jags overpaid for him in free agency. He's going to want a raise from his two-year, $6 million contract the Bills signed him to initially.
I know I'm going to be kicking myself at the end of the deal, so I'm going to try and get creative with this one. I would like the contract to be announced at four years, $21 million. That way Flo's agent can feel good about himself, though the deal will really be a three-year pact worth $14 million. I'd give him a $4 million signing bonus that will be put in the first year, with his $3 million in base salary for 2011. We're then off the hook for guaranteed money. The next two years have $2.5 million base salaries, with $1 million in roster bonuses.
The final year of the deal is essentially a cut year. Flo will have a base of $3 million and a $4 million roster bonus.
The cap hit this year is pretty high, but it'll prevent us from heading to cap jail down the road.
Money left to spend: $19.5 million
4. Let Poz Walk
I realize this will be extremely unpopular, but I really don't feel that Paul Posluszny is a good fit for the 3-4. He racked up tackles last year, but he doesn't shed blocks well enough. Great guy that you love rooting for but if the Bills lock him up, it will be a mistake.
5. Sign OG Marshal Yanda to six years, $30 million
With money to spend, I'm pouring it into the offensive line. Yanda is underrated because he's been forced to play right tackle due to injuries. When given the chance to play guard, he's been very effective in pass protection and run blocking. With current right guard Eric Wood moving over to center, Yanda would be a great addition to the team's biggest weak spot. On average, his cap hit would be around $5 million.
Money left to spend: $14.5 million
6. Sign OT Matt Light to three years, $15 million
The Patriots Way is letting its veterans walk, allowing younger players to step in. The writing is on the wall for Light to leave New England. He did make the Pro Bowl in 2010, though he probably didn't deserve it. I would love to add a locker room guy with his big-game experience into the fold. Light would be hurt (and motivated) if he's not retained, and we could provide him with an outlet for proving Bill Belichick wrong twice a year for the rest of his career.
With Light playing left tackle, Demetrius Bell can play right, which I feel fits him better. Fourth-round pick Chris Hairston will provide solid depth, though I think he'll have a better career if he shifts inside to guard. Now that veterans are filling out the lineup for the next few seasons, it buys me some time to find young guys in the draft while making us competitive immediately.
Money left to spend: $9.5 million
Adding two legitimate, all-around offensive lineman, the Bills should be able to muster an effective running game for the first time in a long time. Last year's first-round pick, running back C.J. Spiller, will actually have some running room to start taking advantage of his enormous talent, and Fred Jackson should continue to find ways to be productive. This offense could be very effective if it wasn't so one-dimensional.
At this point, I could live with the rookies logging significant playing time on defense. I'd give Kelvin Sheppard every opportunity to start from opening day. I graded him out to be a guy with some talent, but he has to prove he can overcome his lack of speed (which is why he didn't receive a starter's grade from me).
His football intelligence allows for him to play faster than he is, but I want to figure out ASAP if that's fast enough for the NFL. It's sad to see Poz leave, but I think it's the right decision for the club. I have high hopes for Shep.
I also tried to leave a little breathing room to either extend Fitzpatrick or save for a rainy day. I doubt he would leave or drive a hard bargain, so I feel I could take my time with him to fully gauge his long-term value to the team. I think he's a great stop gap QB, but I'm not sold on the franchise-caliber idea.
I considered adding quarterback Tyler Thigpen, someone who has been successful in Chan Gailey's offense before. However, I'm still incredibly high on last year's seventh-rounder, Levi Brown, and I want to give him the No. 2 spot and see how he develops with increased reps.
Wilson can't be too mad at me. I did leave some money left over.
UPDATE: Paul Posluszny signed a 6 year, $42 million pact with the Jags; Bills re-sign Drayton Florence to 3 years, $15 million