There is perhaps one more lever for Brandon Beane to pull in an effort to open up some additional space under the salary cap.
The Buffalo Bills’ general manager has a decision to make on the contract status of defensive back Siran Neal, who is due a $400,000 roster bonus Sunday – the fifth day of the NFL’s new league year. If the Bills pay that bonus, it’s a good sign they plan to keep Neal and give him every opportunity to make the 53-man roster again for the 2023 season.
If the team released Neal, it would save $2.246 million in cap space for 2023, leaving behind a dead money charge of $1.066 million. Remember, though, that another player would move into the team's top 51 salaries after Neal was released, so the practical savings would be about $1.375 million.
Given how tight the Bills are to the cap, that has to be a consideration. Neal’s primary role for the Bills is on special teams. He is very good in that role, tying for the team lead with seven tackles on special teams and finishing second with 316 snaps on special teams (Tyler Matakevich, 323). A cap hit of $3.313 million, however, is fairly substantial for a player whose primary role is on special teams. Beane addressed that a few weeks ago at the NFL scouting combine.
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“I think special teams is very important,” Beane said. “We want to win all three phases. Most games, if you win two of the three, unless you just turn the ball over like crazy, you'll find yourself on top. So I do think you don't want to undervalue special teams. … It does get harder to spend more than those minimum values on those guys, so we'll have to be very picky on what those positions are on special teams, but we'll still try and emphasize it. It will be, if you're not a starter, it'll still be a strong emphasis.
"Our guys hear that from Sean (McDermott) and myself, that if you're not going to win a starting job, you need to find a role on teams. It doesn't mean you won't make the roster, it might keep you from making a roster, but it's going to be hard to get you a jersey on game day.”
Neal, 28, has started just once in 80 career games over five seasons with the Bills. He has made 102 tackles, five passes defensed, three forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries. His primary defensive position is as the reserve nickel cornerback behind Taron Johnson.
After releasing wide receiver Isaiah McKenzie on Friday, the Bills are estimated to be about $10 million under the salary cap.