By Paul Wanecski
As the NFL draft approaches, we here at Hashtag Sports wanted to address the impact that trading up, down or acquiring draft picks would have on the very tight salary cap the Buffalo Bills are working with. While you wouldn't always think the salary cap could have an impact on the draft, with the rookie contracts all basically being pre-negotiated from a dollar perspective, they can absolutely handcuff at team looking to move around.
The Bills are currently expected to spend about $4.5m in this year's upcoming draft if they keep all selections and do not acquire any. The last two years have been more active in draft shifting compared to previously, but don't expect too much movement in 2016. To illustrate the value of a pick, we will compare what the 1st, 5th, 11th, 19th and 31st overall selections are actually worth, simply because after the first round, the salaries for rookies do not have the variances found in round one.
If you were to access Spotrac, you can find the NFL 2016 Draft Tracker which illustrates the difference between the cost of the 1st overall selection through the entire first round. With that also comes some conditions to players who are drafted in the top 10 are given a fifth-year option at a higher pay scale than those drafted 11-32, but that is topic for another day. Below you will find list cost of the 1st, 5th, 11th, 19th and 31st overall selections and what those costs will mean against this years salary cap:
As you can see, while it is a gradually decline outside of pick 11 in salary, the cost of the 1st and 5th overall selections is significantly higher than compared to later selections in the same round. Now, does this usually impact teams? Well, that depends on the circumstances. Currently, the Bills need to tread carefully as they are working with an amazingly small remaining cap number. Could they free up space? Sure, sign Stephon Gilmore to an extension which will likely shave some room off his current $11m cap hit this season. The most pressing issue for Buffalo is that financially it would be foolish for them to trade up in the first round. Even if they trade back, they see a small financial impact but at this point a dollar is a dollar.
After round one, the salaries really dip down, as anything after round 3 is basically league minimum. So, do the Bills have the wiggle room to be aggressive in trades? Unlikely, as it would cost them money to move later picks for veteran players like they have in past (Bryce Brown is an example when he was acquired for a draft pick on day 3) since the league minimum for a 2 year veteran is different than the league minimum for a rookie. All in all, it will be an amazingly dull draft as the Bills will unlikely be able to afford to their picks for players. Now, will they be in the market to dump some players for additional selections? That is very possible, as they would only need to absorb any remaining signing bonus money to make a deal happen and the cost savings by going to a rookie minimum contract versus a player with 3 years vested would probably be in their favor. Again, it appears that the Bills just do not have the space to be aggressive in acquiring players via trade in the draft or have the room to move up in the draft.