(This is the third of three stories on the Bills' salary cap.)
Players on their first NFL contract who start are like gold.
Consider the salary of Philadelphia Eagles starting quarterback Carson Wentz, a Pro Bowler in just his second season. He will play in 2018 on a contract that averages $6.6 million a year. That's a third of what the 16th-highest paid QB (Miami's Ryan Tannehill) earns. Tannehill's contract averages just over $19 million a year.
The Buffalo Bills aren't getting a steal on the order of Wentz, but it's no surprise their rookie starters are among the top value players on the roster.
The Bills' best value players entering the free-agency season (with their 2018 cap number):
1. Tre'Davious White, $2.29 million. White finished second to New Orleans' Marshon Lattimore in voting for NFL defensive rookie of the year. He showed he's a perfect fit for Sean McDermott's zone scheme, playing in 95 percent of the defensive snaps. White's cap number ranks 15th on the Bills.
2. Micah Hyde, $6.8 million. Hyde was the Bills' top-priced free agent last winter, and it was a home-run signing. Hyde made the Pro Bowl, intercepted five passes and played 96 percent of the defensive snaps. His average salary of $6.1 million a year ranks 17th among NFL safeties, according to Spotrac.com. His cap number is ninth on the Bills.
3. Jordan Poyer, $3.8 million. Poyer was a superb projection by McDermott & Co. because he made only 10 starts his previous five seasons. Poyer played 94 percent of the defensive snaps. His cap number ranks 10th on the Bills. His average salary of $3.5 million is 35th among safeties.
4. Dion Dawkins, $950,736. The Bills need more value picks like Dawkins, who was taken late in the second round, 63rd overall. He looks like a viable starting left tackle after playing 74 percent of the snaps. His cap number ranks 24th on the Bills.
5. Stephen Hauschka, $3 million. Good place-kickers are good value because it's an inexpensive position. Hauschka's three-year contract average of $2.95 million ranks eighth among kickers, according to Spotrac.com. His cap figure ranks 13th on the Bills. His seven 50-plus field goals were a Bills single-season record and tied for second in the NFL. Four of the Bills' one-score victories might not have happened without him. He combined for six 49-plus-yard kicks in those wins.