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Why May 12 is important for Bills, other NFL teams that may have interest in remaining free agents

If the Buffalo Bills do have an interest in any of the remaining unrestricted free agents on the open market, they may feel free to act now.

That's because May 12 is the date in which any players signed -- or lost -- in free agency no longer factor into the formula for awarding 2016 compensatory draft picks. That's a change from previous years, when the date was June 1.

So if the Bills wanted to sign, say, safety Dawan Landry or wide receiver Brad Smith -- both of whom have made free-agent visits -- they could do so without it impacting whether they receive a compensatory draft pick in 2016.

It also means that if linebacker Brandon Spikes, who was with the Bills in 2014, signs with another team, his departure won't count as free-agent loss. Spikes most recently visited his former team, the New England Patriots, last week.

Compensatory draft picks are awarded by the NFL to teams who have lost more or better unrestricted free agents than it acquired in the previous year. The formula the league uses factors in salary, playing time and postseason honors.

So far this offseason, the Bills have lost the following unrestricted free agents: Tight end Lee Smith (Oakland), safety Da'Norris Searcy (Tennessee), running back C.J. Spiller (New Orleans) guard Erik Pears (San Francisco) and linebacker Larry Dean (Tampa Bay). The team has signed tight end Charles Clay, defensive tackle Alex Carrington, fullback Jerome Felton and quarterback Tyrod Taylor. For those wondering, wide receiver Percy Harvin would not factor into the compensatory formula because he was released by his former team, the New York Jets.

The website overthecap.com projects the Bills to receive a sixth-round draft pick in 2016 for the loss of Spiller, with the team's other four additions and subtractions canceling out.

If the Bills do decide to add any more free agents, they'll have to make a roster move. Monday's signing of safety Wes Miller, who competed in last weekend's rookie minicamp as a tryout player, got the Bills to the 90-man roster limit, which would necessitate a player being released to bring in Landry, Smith, Spikes or anyone else.

 

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