What just happened in Buffalo, plus seven quarterback decisions

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Good morning. Double check your texts, DMs and inbox — the Bills might have released you, too. Whatever it takes to get Mitch Trubisky on the field: Buffalo is 5-1 when he plays a snap for them.

Inside today’s newsletter:

  • ✂️ Buffalo’s dramatic Wednesday
  • 👀 Chris Jones status update
  • 🔬 Quarterback needs for seven teams
  • 🏌 Darren Waller to retire?

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The Purge: What did the Bills just do?

Anyone online yesterday saw the Bills do their impression of a “Game of Thrones” Red Wedding. By days’ end, Buffalo netted $25.1 million in cap space. What you should know:

  • Changes: Von Miller, who turns 35 this month and eventually hopes to be an NFL GM, selflessly agreed to lower his $17.1 million base pay to $8.5 million, with incentives available to bring it above $20 million. The team also converted part of CB Rasul Douglas’ contract. Savings: ~$11.1 million.
  • Extensions/Additions: Buffalo extended S Taylor Rapp and G David Edwards. They also brought back P Matt Haack and re-signed QB Mitch Trubisky, which feels like pouring salt on the wound but **winces** is a good move.

This marks an end of an era. For the past seven years, Poyer, 32, White, 30, and fellow free agent Micah Hyde, 33, — all former All-Pros — backstopped one of the NFL’s best secondaries. Meanwhile, Bills reporter Joe Buscaglia called cutting C Mitch Morse the most shocking move causing the greatest damage. Injuries, performance and salary cap considerations all played a role here.

Buffalo reporter Tim Graham explores whether the Bills are squandering their championship window with Josh Allen, as they have not advanced past the divisional round for three straight seasons. This must-read story includes an interview with HC Sean McDermott.

  • Sidebar for a 🤯 stat: Allen’s 53 rushing touchdowns are only four behind O.J. Simpson and 12 behind Thurman Thomas for the franchise record.

What’s next? Free agency and the draft present opportunities, with the most glaring need at safety. To make a splash, look for them to restructure Allen’s contract to clear cap space, writes Buscaglia in his look into the future for Buffalo.

What Dianna’s Hearing: Chris Jones deadline looms

One big name to watch today is Chiefs DT Chris Jones. Despite their optimism around keeping him, the Chiefs are racing against the clock: the legal tampering period — when teams can begin negotiations with any unrestricted free agent — begins at noon ET this coming Monday, March 11.

Similar to this time last year, Jones wants a contract that will pay him an average annual salary of $30 million, which would make him the league’s third-highest-paid defensive player.

The Chiefs want to keep Jones, their best defensive player who turns 30 in July, off the open market. To do so, they could start by converting a sizable amount of the roster bonus in Patrick Mahomes’ contract into a signing bonus. The Chiefs currently have just $3.4 million of salary cap space.

They better move fast, because there are many, many suitors!

Quarterback Decisions: Seven teams, seven questions

“The Chiefs’ quarterback” is an excuse any team in the NFL can use when explaining why they haven’t won a Super Bowl in the past few years.

It was also Kliff Kingsbury’s answer when the Commanders’ new offensive coordinator was asked what he wants at the most important position in sports. Kingsbury is not alone.

Early this morning, Zack Rosenblatt shared his predictions on who will be the starting quarterback for every NFL team in 2024. Outside Chicago, with the Bears expected to draft Caleb Williams and move Justin Fields, major questions loom for at least seven teams.

Let’s quickly look at those situations, with cap figures via Over the Cap:

Commanders (26th in our early power rankings): UNC’s Drake Maye is my pick and the betting favorite at No. 2, but Mike Sando’s poll of NFL execs had LSU’s Jayden Daniels heading to Washington. A league-high $91 million in cap space makes Kirk Cousins’ return another possibility.

With Cousins an option, a trade down might make sense: Of the 17 quarterbacks selected top five since 2014, only Joe Burrow and C.J. Stroud met expectations with their original teams, noted Commanders’ writer Ben Standig.

Falcons (29th): They hold pick No. 8 and $37 million in cap space. Signing Cousins is the “dream scenario” for Atlanta — but a big swing for Daniels, as Dane Brugler projected in his mock draft, is also possible. Given the Falcons’ post-Matt Ryan struggles, I’d expect the safer, more expensive signing of Cousins to be the answer here.

Patriots (27th): With one of Maye or Daniels expected to go before No. 3, the Patriots decision is interesting. A Belichick-style trade down? Draft whoever falls? Over $88 million in cap space won’t hurt a team that may have to overpay for big-name players in free agency. A Jacoby Brissett reunion and Daniels at No. 3 would make the most sense in my eyes.

Broncos (23rd): The Broncos pick 12th, so they’ll either have to trade up or live with one of the second-tier quarterback prospects. Given their salary cap issues ($16 million over), it will be a difficult offseason in Denver. Interesting idea from Rosenblatt: the Broncos give up a third or fourth for the Commanders’ Sam Howell.

Raiders (22nd): With some money to spend ($42 million in cap space) and the No. 13 pick, the Raiders aren’t looking for a band-aid solution at QB.

They want to trade up in the draft, notable given HC Antonio Pierce’s relationship with Daniels (Pierce recruited him to former school Arizona State). While they may pull off a trade to secure Daniels, a one-year tryout for Justin Fields makes more sense.

Vikings (16th): The Vikings could put in an offer for Cousins ($37 million in cap space), but there’s a reason they let him get to this point without an extension.

Trading up from No. 11 appears to be the preference, and Brugler has them taking J.J. McCarthy at No. 7. I agree. The Vikings would likely add a bridge QB, which reporter Alec Lewis noted could be Sam Darnold.

Steelers (19th): At one point, the betting favorites to land Justin Fields. Today, content with former first-rounder Kenny Pickett and Mason Rudolph, who ended the season as the starter. They are not actively working a deal for Fields.

Ryan Tannehill, 35, is an option and knows new OC Arthur Smith’s scheme well. The Steelers have around $8 million in cap space and the 20th pick in this year’s draft. I’m not expecting fireworks here. As a Bengals fan, this makes me smile.

Around the NFL

TE Darren Waller, 31, is contemplating retirement after a tough first season in New York but remains “undecided” about his future. Giants reporter Dan Duggan spoke with the one-time Pro Bowler.

TE Zach Ertz signed a one-year, $5 million deal to reunite with Kliff Kingsbury in Washington. The 33-year-old, 12-year veteran had 103 receptions and seven touchdowns under Kingsbury from 2021-22.

Edge Brian Burns was tagged on Tuesday. Now, the team must decide whether to again move a young star. If they move Burns, it will be for much less than the two future first-round picks and a second that the Rams proposed before the 2022 trade deadline.

T Tyron Smith, 33, had his practice schedule adjusted in 2023, leading to his first All-Pro nod since 2016. But durability concerns remain: Smith has not played a full season since 2015. The Cowboys might move on this offseason.

Jacob’s Picks

📕 Bill Belichick and Nick Saban on the mic: Monotone. Awesome. Peyton Manning is reportedly pursuing Belichick to join Omaha Productions, where they could team him with Saban to create a new version of the “Manningcast.” I need this. Andrew Marchand has the story. (The Athletic)

📺 Evolution of free agency: Best/worst contracts, franchise tags, & more in this video from NFL Throwback. Few players have had as big an impact on the league as Eagles-turned-Packers DE Reggie White. (YouTube)

🎙 President Theodore Roosevelt shaped modern football after his son was injured during a game at Harvard. Recently enjoyed this three-hour podcast on the history of the NFL by Acquired. It’s fascinating. (Spotify, Apple)

Now, share this newsletter to your favorite member of the Bills mafia. Do you jump through tables and love football? Sign-up here.

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