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Buffalo Bills Should Target These Free Agents With New Cap Space

The Buffalo Bills received a boost in cap space when the Tre White release became official. They should immediately target these players.
bills cap space

The Buffalo Bills received $10.2 million in new salary cap space Saturday when their release of cornerback Tre’Davious White became official. Now the question shifts to which players the team’s front office may target with that infusion of cash.

White, whose release was announced in March but didn’t become finalized until June 1 for financial reasons, had spent his entire career in Buffalo since being selected in the first round of the 2017 NFL draft. He’s since moved on to the Los Angeles Rams after signing a one-year, $4.25 million contract with a maximum value of $10 million.

The Bills will likely look toward one of two positions with the newly available money: defensive end or cornerback. While wide receiver has been a key focus for the franchise throughout the offseason, it won’t be able to find a high-end option at the necessary price point, and the roster is already overflowing with depth options.

Most top-tier free agents have joined new teams over the past three months, but there are still a handful of intriguing names on the open market with less than two months until training camp. Let’s examine the ones who’d fit best in Buffalo, which now boasts $11.2 million in total cap space, per Over The Cap.

Bills Cap Space: Top Players Who Could Join Buffalo’s Defense

EDGE Yannick Ngakoue

Last year, the Bills cap space situation was in a similar state: they entered June with some money to spend and a few holes remaining. They proceeded to strike gold with defensive end Leonard Floyd, who proceeded to rack up 10.5 sacks after signing on June 5.

Ngakoue, 29, could step right into the same role in the team’s defensive line rotation. He’s coming off a down year with the Chicago Bears that saw him post just 22 total tackles and four sacks in 13 games, but a vast majority of the Bears roster underperformed in 2023. It was a team-wide problem.

The 2017 Pro Bowl selection was far more productive over the previous two years, tallying 19.5 sacks in 32 appearances for the Las Vegas Raiders and Indianapolis Colts. He’s taken down the opposing quarterback 69 times in 123 career regular-season contests.

Ngakoue has also proven he can make an impact in various schemes. He’s played on five different teams since the start of the 2020 campaign, not spending more than one season with any organization during that stretch.

EDGE Emmanuel Ogbah

Buffalo’s hunt for an edge rusher is only necessary because Von Miller looked nothing like his usual All-Pro self in 2023 after returning from a torn ACL. He accumulated an eye-poppingly useless three total tackles and no sacks in 12 appearances.

Ogbah would help provide some much-needed insurance behind the starting tandem of Greg Rousseau and A.J. Epenesa. His five sacks in 15 games for the Miami Dolphins last season doesn’t seem like a lot on the surface, but it’s solid production when you consider he played just 22.3 percent of the team’s defensive snaps, per Pro Football Reference.

In turn, the 30-year-old Oklahoma State product would likely benefit from a boost toward Floyd’s snap rate of 53.9 percent for the Bills in 2023. He’d have a chance to push toward his career-high sack total of nine and put himself in line for a bigger payday next offseason.

EDGE Jerry Hughes

It’s unclear how much Hughes, 35, has left in the tank after a long, successful NFL career that started with the Colts in 2010. That said, he’s still a fan favorite in Buffalo, where he played from 2013 through 2021, and he’d be welcomed back with open arms in Western New York.

Hughes, who likely wouldn’t deplete the Bills cap space nearly as much as Ngakoue or Ogbah, racked up a mundane three sacks in 17 games for the Houston Texans last year. The decline came after a more palatable nine-sack season in 2022.

The 35-year-old Texas native may never rediscover the form he showed during his first stint in Buffalo when he posted 53 sacks in 144 appearances. He could still provide the squad with a veteran pass-rushing option as part of its Super Bowl pursuit.

Ultimately, adding Ngakoue, Ogbah, or Hughes to compete with Dawuane Smoot and Casey Toohill for the reserve spots at defensive end would give the Bills flexibility to cut Miller at the end of training camp if it’s clear his days as an elite player are over.

CB Xavien Howard

Buffalo features one of the NFL’s most complete starting cornerback trios, Rasul Douglas, Christian Benford, and slot sensation Taron Johnson. The roster features virtually zero depth at the position, putting the defense one injury from potential disaster.

Howard is coming off back-to-back down years for the Dolphins with just two interceptions over his past 28 appearances. That’s a stark contrast from the 15 passes he picked off between the 2020 and 2021 seasons. His Pro Football Focus grade was also a lackluster 55.1 in 2023.

His arrival to Buffalo could push Benford into the starting safety conversation, including Taylor Rapp, Mike Edwards, and rookie Cole Bishop. The coaching staff would benefit from having a variety of different options to build out the secondary, something that doesn’t exist at the moment.

Howard must choose his team carefully because this season could be his last chance to prove he deserves one more massive free-agent contract. Buffalo figures to check most of the necessary boxes thanks to its cap space and status as a championship contender.

CB Patrick Peterson

Peterson makes a ton of sense for the Bills because his skill set would allow him to compete as the No. 2 CB or a starting safety throughout training camp. He clarified that the latter option would require giving him advanced notice before he signed, though.

“I don’t want to start at safety because that’s a different animal back there,” Peterson told the NFL on Fox podcast in March (via CBS Sports’ Jeff Kerr). “That’s a different view back there. If that is the case, I would need to be warned going into the season to get my body, my mental prepared. It’s different being at the safety from the cornerback position, having those open-field tackles.”

Peterson is an eight-time Pro Bowler and three-time First Team All-Pro selection at corner, so he’s earned the right to have a say in his future. However, his willingness to turn down a position change may fade the longer he remains on the free-agent market.

The 33-year-old longtime Arizona Cardinals standout, who’s also played for the Minnesota Vikings and Pittsburgh Steelers, registered 42 total tackles, 11 passes defended, and two interceptions while playing in all 17 games for Pittsburgh last season.

Final Thoughts on Bills Cap Space Situation

The Bills can’t enter the 2024 season with the belief they’ll receive any meaningful production from Miller. Doing so would be a significant mistake and would likely leave the front office desperately seeking an edge-rushing upgrade at the trade deadline.

That’s why defensive end should be the main focus with the money from White’s release. It wouldn’t be a shock to see Buffalo spend it on a cornerback, wide receiver, or offensive lineman instead, but not being able to rush the passer can sink an entire season.

A one-year, incentive-boosted contract for any of the edge-rushers mentioned above is the best outcome as the Bills attempt to chase down another AFC East division title.

Main Image: Mark Konezny – USA Today Sports


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