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Salary cap analysis: Bills are getting what they pay for on offense

Sometimes in professional sports, you get what you pay for.

The Buffalo Bills currently have the third lowest-paid offensive roster in the NFL this season. Their offense ranks last in points scored and second to last in yards gained.

The Bills have the least expensive — OK, cheapest — 53-man active roster in the NFL. They’re realistically out of the playoff race at 3-7.

Of course, part of the reason the Bills’ roster is so inexpensive is because the team has so much cap space allocated to players no longer on the team — aka dead cap money.

As has been well-documented, the Bills lead the NFL in dead money, at $59.8 million, or 33.8 percent of their salary cap space.

The good news is all that money for those players (Marcell Dareus, Cordy Glenn, Tyrod Taylor, et al) will be off the books, and Terry and Kim Pegula can spend like crazy, rich baseball owners — if they want — in 2019.

Spending, of course, doesn’t always equal success. The Pegulas shelled out the most cash in the league for the Bills in 2015. Look where it got them.

Conversely, Kansas City and the Los Angeles Rams rank 22nd and 23rd, respectively, in cap dollars devoted to offense this year. Talk about bang for their buck. The Chiefs are No. 2 in the league in scoring at 35.3 ppg. The Rams are No. 3 at 33.5 ppg. The big reason? They have young quarterbacks playing great for relative peanuts.

That’s obviously what Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott would love to see in the coming seasons with Josh Allen.

Here’s a look at where the Bills currently stand in spending by position and what kind of value they’re getting (or not getting), based on salary figures and rankings from Spotrac:

Quarterback

Active roster cap cost: $5.3 million.
NFL rank: 28th.
NFL average: $17.1 million.

Value: The Bills figure to get great value from Allen’s rookie contract for the next three years. His cap hits are $4.8 million, $5.7 million and $6.7 million through 2021. This gives the Bills the luxury of spending big to give him more weapons and protection. The top 16 teams in QB spending this year average a $24 million cap hit at the position.

Running back

Active roster cap cost: $12 million.
NFL rank: First
NFL average: $5 million.

Value: LeSean McCoy’s cap cost of $8.95 million is No. 1 at the position in the NFL this year. It will be $9 million next year, No. 3 in the NFL among running backs. That’s not good value given there are good running backs producing well on their rookie contracts. McCoy will cost only $2.6 million in dead money if he’s released before next season, the last year of his deal. Beane has said McCoy is in next season’s plans. But a lot can happen between now and March.

Wide receiver

Active roster cap cost: $12.86 million.
NFL rank: 20th.
NFL average: $16.1 million.

Value: Kelvin Benjamin is in the last year of a deal that is paying him $8.45 million this year, and he’s having a miserable season. It’s hard to imagine the Bills pursuing a new deal or him wanting to be back. Benjamin's cap cost is 18th among WRs. Zay Jones’ cap hit is only $1.8 million next season. Beane will be spending to add to this group. Jeremy Kerley costs $960,000 in dead money against the cap this year because he was released after Week One.

Tight end

Active roster cap cost: $10.1 million.
NFL rank: Ninth.
NFL average: $6.83 million.

Value: Charles Clay’s cap hit this year of $9 million is fourth highest in the NFL among tight ends. That’s awful value. Clay will cost $9 million next year if he’s on the team, $4.5 million if he’s not. The Bills have young, minimum-salary tight ends in Jason Croom and Logan Thomas behind Clay.

Offensive line

Active roster cap cost: $13.5 million.
NFL rank: 32nd.
NFL average: $26 million.

Value: The Bills would not have ranked last if Eric Wood hadn’t been forced to retire and Richie Incognito hadn’t followed Wood out the door. Wood counts $10.3 million and Incognito $1.1 million in dead money. The Bills are getting great value for left tackle Dion Dawkins, at $950,736. Starters Jordan Mills and John Miller and backup Ryan Groy all are in the last year of their contracts.

Defensive line

Active roster cap cost: $31.89 million.
NFL rank: 11th.
NFL average: $25 million.

Value: The Bills can feel great about the fact they’re getting value both on the high end and the low end of the pay scale for the D-line. Jerry Hughes, the top cap hit on the roster at $10.4 million, is having a great season. Big-ticket free agent Star Lotulelei, No. 9 among defensive tackles in guaranteed money at signing ($18.5 million), has bolstered the run defense. Kyle Williams is worth every penny of his $5.5 million salary. He’s in the last year of his deal, as is Shaq Lawson ($2.8 million cap hit). Low-salary guys Eddie Yarbrough, Jordan Phillips and rookie Harrison Phillips are producing. Jordan Phillips, who makes $787,603, is in the last year of his deal. He’s playing well enough to make the Bills want to keep him at the right price.

Linebacker

Active roster cap cost: $9.27 million.
NFL rank: 28th.
NFL average: $17.67 million.

Value: The emergence of Matt Milano as a quality starter is great for the Bills’ pay structure. Milano, in his second year, has a cap hit of $620,376. He and rookie Tremaine Edmunds have the Bills well-positioned at linebacker. Lorenzo Alexander still is a great value at age 36 with a cap hit of $3.6 million. He’s in the last year of his deal.

Defensive backs

Active roster cap cost: $17.1 million.
NFL rank: 23rd.
NFL average: $23.7 million.

Value: Like Milano and Edmunds, Tre White’s cost shows the benefit of hitting on draft picks. White’s cap hit is $2.29 million. Vontae Davis’ cap hit is about $2.3 million, because the Bills have or will get most of his signing bonus back. The Bills are 32nd in pay for active cornerbacks on the roster. They’re ninth in salary for safeties on the active roster. But safety is not a high-pay position, so the value is good. Micah Hyde’s average salary ($6.1 million) ranks 22nd among safeties. Jordan Poyer’s average ($3.25 million) ranks 40th. There’s only $1.1 million difference between 22nd and 11th on the list.

Special teams

Active roster cap cost: $3.6 million.
NFL rank: 18th.
NFL average: $4.4 million.

There isn’t much difference in league-wide spending on kickers and punters. The important issue is outstanding Steven Hauschka is signed through 2019. He ranks 13th in average salary at $2.95 million.

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