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Bills tied for lead in free agents signed but not in money spent

The Buffalo Bills have taken advantage of the giant pool of salary cap space at their disposal, but in general haven’t financially overcommitted to the gang of veterans they’ve signed.

The Bills are tied with the New York Jets for the most players signed in free agency with 14. And the Bills have handed out the fourth most money in the NFL in terms of the total value of contracts signed ($165.6 million). The Jets have handed out the most money ($208 million), according to Spotrac.com.

The Bills in mid-February had the third most cap space in the league for 2019 ($79.5 million), behind only Indianapolis and the Jets.

However, the Bills have signed only one of the top 25 most expensive free agents available according to both total contract value and average-per-year value.

Center Mitch Morse signed a four-year, $44.5 million deal, which ranks 13th in total dollars and 16th in average ($11.1 million).

The Bills’ strategy is clear: The team decided it needed a wholesale, across-the-board talent upgrade on offense. Eleven of the Bills’ signings are on that side of the ball.

While the Bills are fourth in total free-agent contract value handed out, they’re only 14th in terms of per-year average of the players signed ($5.7 million).

“Obviously, our cap was in a position where we could be aggressive in spots that we needed to be, but again try and be smart with our money,” General Manager Brandon Beane said after the first wave of signings.

The Jets took a slightly different approach. The Jets signed in volume but spent more for big-impact stars. New York added linebacker C.J. Mosley ($17 million per year), running back Le’Veon Bell ($13 million), receiver Jamison Crowder ($9.5 million) and defensive end Henry Anderson ($8.4 million). Those players rank third, fifth, 25th and 33rd in average-per-year value among this year’s free agents, according to Spotrac. They account for $190 million of the $208 million in total contracts spent by New York.

After Morse, the next most expensive Bills signees are receivers Cole Beasley and John Brown. Beasley’s four-year deal averages $7.25 million, which ranks 39th among free-agent signees this year. Brown’s three-year deal averages $9 million a year, which ranks 30th among free-agent signees.

Five of the Bills’ 14 signings are on the offensive line. In addition to Morse, the Bills added Ty Nsekhe, Spencer Long, Jon Feliciano and LaAdrian Waddle. After Morse, none of those are long-term commitments. Nsekhe got a two-year, $10 million contract.

“We want guys that are hungry to prove that maybe they’ve been overlooked for various reasons,” Beane said, “and that they’re going to come in here and show that they deserve to win a starting position.”

The Bills’ total of 14 free agents signed doesn’t count defensive tackle Jordan Phillips, who re-signed with the team before he hit free agency.

The Bills are fifth for 2019 in cap space, at $34.4 million, according to Spotrac.

All teams have year-to-year fluctuations in the amount of cash handed out.

The Pegulas led the NFL in cash spending in 2015, when they signed Marcell Dareus, LeSean McCoy and Jerry Hughes to big deals. Buffalo was 14th in cash payouts in 2015, 29th in 2017 and 31st in 2018.

So far this year, the Bills are 20th in cash payroll.

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