At least here in Buffalo, “7-11” is no longer in business.
The Buffalo Bills elected not to match the New England Patriots’ contract offer to restricted free agent wide receiver Chris Hogan on Friday, allowing him to join their AFC East rivals.
The Patriots reportedly gave Hogan a three-year contract worth up to $12 million. According to ESPN, the deal carries a salary-cap hit of $5.5 million in the first year – making it all but impossible for the Bills to match.
As of Friday morning, data from the NFL Players’ Association showed the Bills having $7.155 million of space under the cap, but their contract with guard Richie Incognito was not yet reflected in that total. Once Incognito’s $3.25 million cap hit is counted, that leaves the Bills with an estimated $4.48 million in cap space. With the team needing to sign draft picks and take room into the 2016 season in case of injury replacements, New England seized an opportunity to squeeze the Bills.
Buffalo had five days to decide if it wanted to try to match Hogan’s offer, but didn’t need long to pass on that opportunity.
Buffalo used the lowest restricted free-agent tender on Hogan, which gave him a one-year, $1.67 million contract and gave the Bills the right to match any contract offer he received, but did not provide any draft-pick compensation after they chose not to because he entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent.
Nicknamed “7-11” during the 2012 filming of HBO’s “Hard Knocks” with the Miami Dolphins because he was “always open,” Hogan, 27, established himself as an NFL talent with the Bills.
He had 77 catches for 876 yards and six touchdowns over the past two seasons, and has also played an important role on special teams.
Hogan has also made a good impression against New England, catching 13 passes for 181 yards against them, his most against any opponent. Against the Patriots in Week 10 last season, he had six catches for 95 yards.
According to ESPN, Hogan did drop 8.5 percent of passes thrown his way last season, which was the fourth-highest such number in the league. The Patriots are likely counting on the surgical accuracy of Tom Brady to help improve that number.
With the Bills deciding not to match Hogan’s offer, they gain about $1.1 million in cap space, taking their total to about $5.6 million.
Buffalo still has two restricted free agents that it made qualifying offers to in defensive tackle Corbin Bryant and right tackle Jordan Mills. The signing period for them runs through April 22. If they do not receive an offer from another team in that time, they will play on a one-year, $1.67 million contract and be unrestricted free agents following the 2016 season.