The Buffalo Bills enter the 2019 free-agency season without many high-priced players by NFL standards.
They are one of only two teams with just one player earning an average of $10 million a year or more (with San Francisco), and they have the fewest under contract at $6 million a year or more (five).
Here's a capsule look at the most expensive players currently on the roster based on their salary cap hits for 2019 as the new NFL fiscal year approaches on March 13:
1. Star Lotulelei ($11.5 million): The big defensive tackle just finished the first year of a five-year deal worth $50 million. Lotulelei was brought in to keep blockers off the linebackers. He generally did it. The Bills’ run defense improved from 25th to 10th in yards per rush allowed. Lotulelei’s contract ranks 13th among DTs in guaranteed money.
2. Jerry Hughes ($10.4 million): Hughes enters the final year of a five-year, $45 million contract. While his sack numbers have not been great, he has been critical to Leslie Frazier’s defense the past two years because he’s the team's lone speed-rush threat. Hughes had four sacks in 2017, seven in 2018. But he led all edge-rushing starters by getting pressure on 19.7 percent of his rushes, according to Pro Football Focus. Hughes turns 31 in mid-August. He’s not likely to break the bank if he hits the market pushing 32 in 2020. His future with the Bills beyond 2019 likely will be impacted by the draft. If the Bills take an edge rusher in the first round and he shows promise as a rookie, the need to try to extend Hughes’ deal before or during the season decreases.
3. LeSean McCoy: Shady’s cap hit of $9.05 million for 2019 is third among NFL running backs, behind Arizona’s David Johnson ($9.75) and the Rams’ Todd Gurley ($9.2). McCoy is entering the last year of his contract, and the Bills have given him numerous votes of confidence. The Bills could get quality production out of many less expensive running backs. If the Bills needed cap space, it would be easy to suggest releasing McCoy. He’d cost only $2.6 million if cut. But here’s a big argument for keeping him: The Bills have a ton of holes to fill this offseason and need all the weapons they can get. If they release McCoy, they would have to roll the dice with a free-agent journeyman or count running back as one more need that they likely would have to fill in the middle rounds of the draft.
4. Trent Murphy ($8.48 million): Murphy battled through an injury-plagued first season in Buffalo, appearing in 13 games. He has two years left on his contract, and count on him to be highly motivated to produce in 2019.
5. Micah Hyde ($6.6 million): Two years into a five-year contract, Hyde is one of the more important players on the team. While he didn’t make the Pro Bowl in 2018, he was almost as good as the year before when he was selected for the first time.
6. Josh Allen ($4.8 million): The Bills hope the big quarterback’s contract looks like a giant value in 2019.
7. Spencer Long ($3.9 million): The new interior offensive lineman signed a three-year contract, but it’s actually a one-year deal that the Bills have the opportunity to extend after next season. Ryan Groy, who started six games last season, is a pending free agent. Long looks like a prospect who, like Groy, can compete for the center job with Russell Bodine and provide depth and another option at guard.
8. Jordan Poyer ($3.8 million): Just as with Hyde's, Poyer’s cap hit shows what kind of good value can be found at the safety position. Poyer had a second outstanding season with the Bills.
9. Lorenzo Alexander ($3.7 million): After a third consecutive productive year with the Bills, General Manager Brandon Beane re-signed Alexander for one more season. Alexander turns 36 in May. He exceeded expectations in playing 61 snaps a game in 2019.
10. Shaq Lawson ($3.27 million): Lawson will turn only 25 in June and will play at a good value in 2019. The Bills have until May 3 to decide whether to pick up the fifth-year option on his contract, at a cost of a little more than $9 million. That’s not so great value, although the Bills have the cap space to handle the number. Whether the Bills get an edge rusher early in the draft likely will factor into the decision.
11. Stephen Hauschka ($3.25 million): Hauschka has given the Bills two outstanding seasons, never mind that he missed three of his last five field-goal attempts after getting injured against the Jets. He’s entering the final year of his three-year contract.
12. Chris Ivory ($2.9 million): He gained just 385 yards and 3.3 yards a carry. The Bills need a physical complement to McCoy on the roster, and Ivory fills that role. He would count $750,000 against the cap (and save $2.1 million) if he were released.