Spencer Long will be back with the Buffalo Bills in 2020.
The team will pick up its option on the veteran offensive lineman's contract, a league source confirmed to The Buffalo News on Tuesday morning. Field Yates of ESPN was first to report the team's intentions.
Additionally, the Bills will re-sign cornerback Levi Wallace and wide receiver Robert Foster, both of whom were exclusive-rights free agents.
Long's base salary in 2020 is $2.55 million and his cap hit will be $4.125 million, according to contracts website spotrac.com. He has per-game bonuses for time spent on the 53-man roster and the 46-man, game-day roster. He also will receive a workout bonus of $100,000. His salary can increase by as much as $800,000 or decrease by as much as $1 million based on playing time.
Had the Bills elected not to pick up Long's option, the team would have had a $700,000 dead-money cap hit in 2020, but saved $3.425 million in cap space. The Bills have another option on Long's three-year contract that they will have to make a decision on next offseason.
Long played in 14 games for the Bills in 2019, his first season in Buffalo. His primary role was that of the top reserve interior lineman, capable of playing either guard or center. He played 174 offensive snaps, with his most extensive playing time coming at right guard. In Week 3, he stepped in at that position when starter Jon Feliciano suffered a shoulder injury. Then in Week 12 against Denver, Feliciano moved over to center after Mitch Morse suffered an ankle injury, and Long once again went in at right guard.
The Bills have a potential opening on the offensive line with starting left guard Quinton Spain set to become an unrestricted free agent next week. If Spain departs, Long is a viable starting option. If Spain re-signs or a replacement is found through free agency or the draft, Long once again figures to be in the mix for the job as the top interior reserve lineman.
Bringing back Foster and Wallace comes as no surprise. As exclusive-rights free agents (those with two or fewer accrued seasons), the Bills were able to retain their services by making veteran-minimum contract offers. Foster and Wallace could either accept that offer or sit out – they have no negotiating rights with other teams.
Foster is coming off a massively disappointing 2019 season in which he caught just three passes for 64 yards in 13 games, spending most of his time on special teams. That came after he ended his rookie season in 2018 with 511 receiving yards in the final seven games, becoming the first undrafted rookie in the common draft era (since 1967) to have three 100-yard receiving games.
Foster dealt with some nagging injuries last season. As a result, it's fair to wonder whether he was ever on the same page for quarterback Josh Allen. Nevertheless, he'll be squarely on the roster bubble entering training camp, especially if, as expected, the Bills add to their wide receiver group later this offseason.
Wallace started all 16 games in 2019, finishing with 76 tackles, nine passes defensed and two interceptions. He missed the team's playoff loss to Houston with a sprained ankle suffered in the regular-season finale against the Jets. Wallace, who like Foster is a former undrafted free agent who played at Alabama, impressed as a starter over the final seven weeks of his rookie season. He then held off Kevin Johnson to win the starting job at the beginning of 2019, but his play began to regress as the year went on. He had a particularly tough performance against the Browns in Week 10, allowing a pair of receiving touchdowns. Shortly thereafter, the Bills went to a rotation with Johnson and Wallace splitting reps. After the season, Wallace underwent shoulder surgery, although he's expected to be 100% by the start of training camp.
Johnson will become an unrestricted free agent next week and it remains to be seen if he'll be back. Even if he's not, Wallace will find himself in another training camp battle. On Monday, the Bills agreed to contract terms with veteran cornerback Josh Norman on a deal that will pay him at least $6 million in 2020. For that type of money, it's clear they view him as a potential starting option.
The Bills have one more exclusive-rights free agent on their roster – tight end Jason Croom. He led the team in catches (22) and yards (259) among tight ends in 2018, but spent last season on injured reserve because of a hand injury. If Croom is re-signed, he'll face an uphill battle for a roster spot after Dawson Knox put together a promising rookie season and Tommy Sweeney made the 53-man roster as a seventh-round draft pick. The team also still has veterans Tyler Kroft and Lee Smith under contract, although one or both could be potential salary-cap casualties.