The Buffalo Bills just lost their fifth consecutive playoff game with Josh Allen as their quarterback and Sean McDermott as their head coach. Since a poor rookie season, Allen has put up great numbers over the last five years, helping his team to the playoffs each time. These two sentences both say the Bills are losers, but add a little perspective and they have given their fans a lot of good football over this half decade.
The question is, how many more playoff runs does this particular team have? There is no doubting Allen’s talent and if he had won this game over the Chiefs to get to the AFC Championship again, we wouldn’t be having this conversation right now. But he did and we are.
The main question is whether or not this team’s core components can stay together to give it another shot or will the Bills need to get rid of some talent to save money and hope they can bring in enough new, and cheaper talent to elevate them back into contending status.
At this time, the Bills are projected to be $43.7 million over the cap. And you can see how Allen’s contract takes a big leap next season:
Josh Allen cap hit by season:— Paul Hembekides (Hembo) (@PaulHembo) January 22, 2024
2019 -- $4.8M (lost Wild Card)
2020 -- $5.9M (lost Conf Champ)
2021 -- $10.2M (lost Divisional)
2022 -- $16.4M (lost Divisional)
2023 -- $18.6M (lost Divisional)
2024 -- $47.1M
It's about to get much, much harder.
At first glance, Allen’s contract and the Bills cap predicament looks like a real impediment to the team’s goals, but we’ve seen teams perform creative restructured contracts that keep them under the cap more often than not. Of course, that doesn’t mean they won’t move on from a high salary if they think they can get similar production for less money.
The Bills have 21 unrestricted free agents going into this offseason.
QB Kyle Allen
WR Gabe Davis
RB Ty Johnson
RB Damien Harris
RB Latavius Murray
WR Trent Sherfield
G Davin Edwards
DE A.J. Epenesa
DE Poona Ford
DT DaQuan Jones
DT Tim Settle
DT Linval Joseph
DE Shaq Lawson
DE Jordan Phillips
LB Tyrel Dodson
LB Leonard Floyd
LB Tyler Matakevich
CB Cam Lewis
CB Dane Jackson
S Micah Hyde
S Taylor Rapp
There are some strong defenders in this group, who the team would like to re-sign. It isn’t a list that Bills fans should be pulling their hair out over either. DaQuan Jones, Dane Jackson, Tyrel Dodson and Davin Edwards would be the players I’d want to keep of this list, along with some depth pieces and I think they can do that.
With Diggs turning 30 and Gabe Davis likely out the door in free agency, the Bills need to think about the future at wide receiver. If they try to keep the band together for another season, Diggs is locked in as one of the best receivers in the league. If they are looking to do a mini-rebuild and get some rookie contracts in the mix, trading away Diggs makes some sense as well. He declined statistically in the second half of the season and came up small in the Divisional round game, but I don’t see him falling off a cliff in his ability, especially since he’s never had a major injury.
Patrick Mahomes and Andy Reid
When looking at the Bills chances of getting to a Super Bowl, you can’t look only at the Bills. The Chiefs are truly a road block for Buffalo, and that isn’t something they can exactly change. Over the last five seasons Buffalo has lost to the Chiefs, Bengals, Chiefs, Chiefs, and Texans in the playoffs
Allen has played well in his losses to the Chiefs, but Kansas City still find ways to win. And really, the biggest reason is Mahomes. The man is impossible to get down. Sure, you can blitz him, but it won’t matter. You can have the best secondary in the league and he’ll find a way. It looked like this was the year to catch the Chiefs at a low point. They had nobody at wide receiver until a rookie, Rashee Rice, played himself into the WR1 role. TE Travis Kelce appeared to have lost a step at 34, making some critical drops throughout the season. But, their defense stepped up and Mahomes won games when crunch time came around.
The Chiefs will likely take another wide receiver in this year’s draft and if that pick hits, their offense could be back to early Mahomes days, but it won’t matter. Of course you want to upgrade your defense to try to stop Mahomes, but in the end, you’ll probably need to outscore him.
Has the Bills championship window closed?
No. They have Allen, so their championship window won’t close for a long while. There will be up-and-down seasons to be sure, but Allen’s presence always gives them a shot to win and will get players wanting to play for Buffalo. This is the NFL and a Top-3 QB means you have a chance to get to the big game.
It looks bleak, wasting his talent, but sometimes you just have to tip your cap to your opponent. Would a different coach have changed the outcome of these last five playoffs? Probably not. Would a few more weapons in the passing game help? Maybe.
Sometimes Marques Valdes-Scantling makes a couple amazing deep grabs and Stefon Diggs drops a 60-yard bomb. You just have to keep on keeping on. The Bills don’t need to rebuild, but maybe a reset would help. Restructure contracts to get under the cap. Take a WR with the first-round pick. Grab a receiver like Curtis Samuel in free agency to add to Diggs, Khalil Shakir, Dalton Kincaid and your rookie. Keep Joe Brady as your OC. And hope Mahomes has an off game the next time you face him in the playoffs.