INDIANAPOLIS — The NFL Scouting Combine serves purposes beyond a week of physical and medical evaluations of college prospects.
One of the biggest is general managers throughout the league gathering with the representatives of pending or existing free agents, a major step toward determining if/how the players can be retained or added, or whether to cut bait.
In the case of the Buffalo Bills, the two most important names on the free-agent-to-be list are linebacker Tremaine Edmunds and safety Jordan Poyer.
General Manager Brandon Beane has spent part of his time this week meeting with the agents of both players. Given that the Bills were, at last check, somewhere between $16 and $18 million over the NFL’s projected salary cap of $240 million per team, it seems highly unlikely they’d invest the staggering dollars required to keep them.
Chances are, one will probably hit the open market. The likely odd man out will be Poyer, because he’s older (he’ll be 32 next month, compared with Edmunds, who will be 25 in May) and was hampered by injuries last season.
When healthy, Poyer has played exceptionally well, but Edmunds had a breakout season in 2022, and his value in the middle of the Bills’ defense is too great to ponder the thought of the void that would be created by his departure. There also has been speculation Poyer isn’t thrilled with the idea of staying with the Bills, complaining about New York taxes and expressing to some he’d prefer to play in a warmer climate.
Either way, the negotiations are expected to be extremely difficult.
“Yeah, they’re both hard because you want them back and you want them to be rewarded,” Beane told me. “You know, these are part of your family and you want to see him do well. Selfishly, you want them back. And, so, you’re trying to, you know, what are fair numbers for them and for you and you got to make sure you can make it fit.
“And sometimes you can be as fair as you want to be, but you still got to make it fit in the puzzle. So, we’ll keep those conversations open until the end, which is either us getting a deal with them or someone else striking a deal with them.”
Before that can happen, however, the Bills must get under the salary cap by the NFL’s deadline of March 15. That will require plenty of creative financial wizardry with Beane and his resident cap experts.
Expect some of the larger contracts, such as those for quarterback Josh Allen and receiver Stefon Diggs, to be restructured, with base salaries being converted to bonus money and extended into future years. Expect pay cuts. And expect players to be cut.
The Bills not only must resolve their cap issues for this year, but next year as well.
“Yeah, we’re gonna look at everything, whether it’s needing to release a player, whether it’s restructuring deals, to move money, you know, convert money and move some money down the line, or, yeah, we can even, you know, discuss a couple guys as pay cuts,” Beane said. “We’ve got it all kind of mapped out. You know, what our Plan A is if everything works perfect. You know, we got some alternatives if we need to, you know, pivot to move here and move there, depending on how those conversations go.
“But we know what we need to do. And now it’s just a matter of working through those things with those players and their representatives.”