The hard-cap struggles of the NFL. How to improve, but yet stay financially flexible. It’s a dance every team does every offseason, but it’s especially important for those with generational quarterbacks. Sure the Los Angeles Rams defeated the Cincinnati Bengals in the Super Bowl, but I wouldn’t argue with anyone who says the best two teams last season were the Buffalo Bills and the Kansas City Chiefs.
They played one of the most entertaining playoff games of all time with Patrick Mahomes and Josh Allen looking like the S-tier quarterbacks of the NFL. Both players are still well under 30-years-old, so it’s going to be an arms race for the rest of their careers as the teams try to keep up with each other and maximize the time they have with these superstars. It can be seen in the moves that both teams have made this offseason, but they are going about assembling these rosters in entirely different ways. The Bills are pushing all the chips to the table, as a franchise that has never won a championship, while the Chiefs are gradually getting younger, and giving themselves the ability to build another long-term contender.
Of course the biggest difference is what happened yesterday. The Buffalo Bills signed Stefon Diggs to a four-year contract extension, and was guaranteed $70 million per ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Certainly Allen’s improvement is a major reason for the Bills’ recent success, but no one was talking Super Bowl about this team until the arrival of Diggs. He changed everything for them, and the Bills signed a fat check to keep him happy. Of the three big wide receiver contracts signed this offseason it only trails one player — Tyreek Hill.
The Chiefs decided that arguably the most explosive skill-position player in the history of the NFL was not worth what he requested. Their desire this offseason was not to part ways with a talent that keeps defenses eyes bulged and knees knocking every single snap. However, they decided they could not accommodate Hill’s request to be the highest paid wide receiver in the NFL after the Las Vegas Raiders guaranteed Davante Adams $67 million. According to The MMQB’s Albert Breer, Hill wanted to beat Adams in every metric, and at $72.2 million and, for now, averages out to $30 million per year compared to Adams’ $26 million, he succeeded.
That’s not all of the big money that the Bills had to dish out this offseason. They matched the Chicago Bears’ restricted free agent offer sheet for offensive lineman Ryan Bates — 4 years, $17 million with two years fully guaranteed — and they signed Von Miller to a contract that guarantees him over $51 million. Even if the six-year, $120 million reported number is one of those NFL optical illusion contracts, the Bills are on the hook for over $50 million of that the next three seasons, per Spotrac.
In Kansas City, the Chiefs have attempted to stay out of sight, out of mind with most of their offseason moves. With the money they saved by trading Hill, they signed standout former Houston Texas safety Justin Reid to a 3-year contract with $21 million guaranteed. They then spread some more money around their receiving corps, adding Marquez Valdes-Scantling and JuJu Smith-Schuster. Scantling signed a three-year, $30 million contract, half of which is guaranteed, and he claims that he turned down more money to play for the Chiefs. Smith-Schuster is on a one-year deal with Chiefs as they hope he can return to the explosive player he was before injuries and Ben Roethlisberger ran out of gas. The Chiefs also used their franchise tag on starting left tackle Orlando Brown Jr.
The Bills did more than simply make it rain for a few players. They added some depth to their defensive line and pass rush by bringing back Jordan Phillips and Shaq Lawson, who had their best season with the Bills, and added Tim Settle and DaQuan Jones. At the skill positions, they brought in Jamison Crowder and O.J. Howard, hoping a change of scenery can get them back to what they used to be.
Both the Bills and the Chiefs are smart enough to know it’s a delicate game when balancing rosters around special quarterbacks. There’s times to help them out directly with weapons, and other times to build out a roster that can do its job in all phases of the game, and trust the golden goose to make decent players, dangerous players.
The Chiefs didn’t floor the gas pedal the way that the Bills did, and they’re going to be better for it. Not only were they able to save money and possibly improve their defensive backfield with the Reid signing, they have four picks in the first two rounds of the draft. The wide receiver class is deep this year, maybe their next Hill is waiting for them, and can be brought along properly with Mahomes and two veteran receivers like Valdes-Scantling and Smith-Schuster. That can be done, and still more depth can be added on the offensive line, or to a defense that rose from the ashes the second half of last season.
What the Bills did was admirable. They lost again to the Chiefs and decided to go hard to make sure it doesn’t happen a third consecutive time. Maybe their regular season doesn’t end as poorly as it did last year and they can host the game. But it appears that in Kansas City, they’re settling in for a long haul around possibly the best player to ever throw a football.