There’s going to be a lot of questions surrounding the Buffalo Bills immediately upon completion of their dreadful 2012 campaign in less than two weeks.
Notably among them will be talk, lots of it surrounding quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and if he’ll return in 2013.
At first glance, Fitzpatrick’s six-year, $59 million extension signed in 2011 seemed to have Buffalo financially strapped with him for at least another season. However, after speaking to a league source I’ve learned cutting ties with Fitzpatrick after this year carries little financial burden, and certainly nothing that would exclude the Bills move from moving on.
Here’s what I’ve learned, which you may or may not have already known.
If the Bills release Fitzpatrick, it will virtually have nothing to do with saving money against the salary cap. From that perspective it would almost be cheaper to keep him. Fitzpatrick is due to count $10.450 million against the cap in 2013 and releasing him immediately triggers $10 million in dead cap charges, attributed to his signing bonus received in 2011 and an option bonus received this year.
Taking that into account, the Bills would only save less than a half million cap-wise with his release.
Now the Bills could wait and designate Fitzpatrick as a June 1st cut, which changes the way his dead money is accounted for. If Buffalo waited until June to cut him they could take $3 million in dead money against next year’s cap and $7 million in 2014. However, don’t expect a cut in June as the Bills are in pretty good shape in regards to the salary cap and don’t need to spread dead money out.
The real enticement to release Fitzpatrick financially comes via spending money. The Bills are typically a cash-to-cap spending kind of team, and ridding themselves of Fitzpatrick opens up significant cash to spend on someone else. Fitzpatrick is set to earn $7.45 million in compensation for 2013 and according to the source, a large portion of is guaranteed for injury, meaning he can be cut free and clear barring a devastating injury over the final two games that renders him unable to play in 2013.
However, and this is important— Fitzpatrick can only be cut free and clear before the second day of the2013 league year. If he’s on the roster come 4:00pm on day two of the 2013 league year, he’s immediately locked into a $3 million bonus.
At that point it’s safe to conclude he won’t be going anywhere.
Translation: There’s no way Ralph Wilson is giving away a $3 million bonus out of kindness, so if Fitzpatrick is gone it will surely come before late afternoon of the second day of this calendar league year.
Those are the financials. What the Bills ultimately do at this time is a matter of opinion. Whether Chan Gailey is back for a fourth season probably has a profound effect on Fitzpatrick’s future here. Like it or not, Fitzpatrick is Gailey’s guy and the embattled head coach believes he can still win with him.
Russ Brandon and everyone in marketing likely disagree and if they don’t, they will over the next several months as they learn Fitzpatrick is virtually unsellable to the team’s fan base moving forward.
The Bills will surely select a quarterback early in next April’s draft. The biggest question at this point becomes will he be developed alongside Fitzpatrick—or a veteran free agent?
Either way, money shouldn’t be a huge factor on a decision.
(Photo: Michael Thomas)
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