Buffalo Bills feeling the pain of the NFL’s hard salary cap
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Buffalo Bills feeling the pain of the NFL’s hard salary cap

The Buffalo Bills gave it their best shot. When they signed Von Miller to that six-year, $120 million contract it was a sign that a “Super Bowl or Bust,” had been hung on the team bus, plane, practice facility, and on the front of Ralph Wilson stadium.

That is what a team is supposed to do after finishing 13 seconds shy of defeating Patrick Mahomes on the road. Unfortunately, for the Bills and their fans, the franchise is still trying to shake its bad juju. They battled through regular-season injuries to finish with the No. 2 seed in the AFC and a home game against the Kansas City Chiefs. On the Bills’ final possession placekicker Tyler Bass missed a potential game-tying attempt.

A much more noble loss than the pulverizing they suffered at the hands of the Cincinnati Bengals the previous season, but that team also had injury issues. Miller tore an ACL eight sacks into the season. Three safeties went down, and they were forced to wait in shock and terror when one of them — Damar Hamlin — collapsed and had to be revived on the field during a game.

Being that the NFL is a hard salary-capped sport, the Bills have been forced to make some hard choices early this offseason. On Wednesday, they released former All-Pros Jordan Poyer and Tre-Davious White, starting center Mitch Morse, running back Nyheim Hines, defensive back Siran Neal, and special teamer Deonte Harty. Von Miller restructured his contract, and those moves took just over $36 million in salary off of the books.

Unless Josh Allen is prepared to score 60 touchdowns this season — which will be quite difficult if Stefon Diggs is sick of the Bills or not capable of returning to his early 2023 form — the Bills had better hit some home runs in the draft if they want to keep pace with the Chiefs, Bengals, Baltimore Ravens, and the rising Houston Texans.

There is no one to blame for what happened with the Bills. They played a bad home game in the playoffs against the Bengals, but that was an unusually draining season. At home against the Chiefs, they controlled the clock by staying committed to the running game and didn’t even turn the ball over. After the first play of the fourth quarter, KC did not score again.

The front office made some errors in previous drafts, but that is not an exact science. This franchise was a punchline for 30 years. They had to believe the 13-second loss was a fluke that could be prevented with more talent. The Bills brought in Miller for a final push and eventually ran out of momentum short of the Lombardi Trophy podium — as well as the Lamar Hunt trophy one.

It is not as if the Bills have to start over from scratch. As long as Allen is on the roster they will be competitive. Continued focus on the run game that is not centered around him is the best way to preserve his career and keep the ball in their hands. On defense, McDermott had better put his genius hat on this autumn or he will not be their head coach in 2025.

The players are rehabbing their bodies from the season, and the front office is currently performing surgery on the team’s salary cap. These are the breaks when a champion is decided by a single-elimination tournament. Sometimes the oblong ball is just not friendly. The Bills gave it their all and came up significantly short. Those are the breaks and now, thanks to the CBA, a lot of key players have played their last game in a Buffalo uniform.

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