The official start to free agency doesn’t happen until 4 p.m. Wednesday, but between now and then, teams and players will be coming to agreements on deals, always one of the busiest and most newsworthy two-day stretches of the NFL season.
First order of business for the Bills is to start chipping away at their salary cap overage which started at $17.7 million before general manager Brandon Beane started the process of restructuring contracts late last week.
There could also be some player releases in the next few days in the effort to not only get cap compliant, but get under it so that Beane can bolster the roster with free agents.
Sign up for the Bills Blast newsletterDelivered straight to your inbox, additional Bills analysis, insight, stats, quotes and team history from Sal Maiorana
Here’s the latest on what the Buffalo Bills are doing, and you can continue to check for updates here over the next two days.
There won’t be a punter vacancy for the Buffalo Bills
One of Buffalo’s scheduled free agents was Sam Martin, the punter they signed at the last minute prior to the 2022 season when the team cut ties with rookie Matt Araiza. Martin, a 10-year veteran who was previously with the Lions and Broncos, proceeded to give the Bills one of their best punting seasons in recent memory.
He averaged 47.7 yards gross, the second-best figure of his career, and 42.1 yards net, his third-best mark. The Bills saw value in that and they confirmed they are re-signing him. As always, they did not give the terms, but NFL Network reported it’s a three-year deal worth up to $7.5 million which includes $4.1 million in guaranteed money, a significant raise from the $1.1 million he earned last year.
Staying with special teams, the Bills confirmed they are re-signing one of the core members of those units, Tyler Matakevich. It’s a one-year deal with a void year tacked on, cost not yet available. I thought the Bills might decide to move on from the 30-year-old who earned $3.2 million last season. It will be interesting to see the numbers and whether he took a pay cut to stay in Buffalo.
Nyheim Hines ready to provide cap relief
Hines was one of the obvious places Beane was going to go to seek cap relief. The contract he signed with the Colts carried a cap hit in 2023 of $4.8 million which is way too much for a backup running back. Also, there was zero dead cap hit if he were to be cut, so if the Bills wanted to move on, that was an instant $4.8 million savings.
Instead, he is agreeing to convert some of his base salary into a signing bonus and according to Mike Garafolo there will be incentives included in the re-worked contract that could earn him even more money than the $4.8 million.
Hines is the primary kickoff and punt returner, and when you factor that into the signings of Martin and Matakevich, it once again highlights the importance the Bills place on special teams.
Matt Milano agrees to two-year extension
Beane started digging into the cap deficit over the weekend with a pair of contract alterations, one that provided a little space, one that created a nice chunk.
Defensive tackle Tim Settle, who has a contract that expires after 2023, but he has a void year in 2024, and he agreed to push some of his 2023 money into that void year which gave the Bills around $600,000 in relief. Hey, every dollar counts.
But the bigger move came Sunday when they extended linebacker Matt Milano’s contract – which was set to expire after 2024 – by two years which freed up $6 million.
Beane doesn’t like to do these restructured deals because at some point in the future the bill comes due. But for someone like Milano, one of the best players on the team who just turned 27 and is coming off an All-Pro season, it makes sense because unless there’s an unforeseen calamitous injury or a sharp decline in his performance, Milano will still be in his prime in 2026.
More:Five free agents the Buffalo Bills should sign and why
More:Bills salary cap situation: What contracts can be restructured, which players could be cut
More:Buffalo Bills roster includes 23 free agents: Here’s who they should keep, who to let go
This also locks up one of the two starting linebackers while the Bills wait to see what happens with the other, unrestricted free agent Tremaine Edmunds.
Sal Maiorana can be reached at [email protected] Follow him on Twitter @salmaiorana.To subscribe to Sal’s newsletter, Bills Blast, which will come out every Friday during the offseason, please follow this link: https://profile.democratandchronicle.com/newsletters/bills-blast
This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Bills free agency tracker: Live updates on players coming, going