The Buffalo Bills’ MNF Nightmare Is the Tip of a $285-Million Iceberg

While they all count equally in the standings, some losses feel worse than others. Going toe-to-toe with a top team and simply being outplayed? Most fans can deal with that. Shooting yourself in the collective foot multiple times over the course of a single game and snatching defeat from the jaws of victory, however, is tougher to take.

And, unfortunately, for those in western New York, that’s exactly what the Buffalo Bills did on Monday Night.

The temptation is for that loss to send reverberations through the franchise. And while it’s certainly possible that someone like head coach Sean McDermott or offensive coordinator Ken Dorsey (eventually) lose their job, there is a looming issue that makes material changes a bit tougher: a looming $285 million against the salary cap.

Let’s break things down.

The Bills Crumbled on Monday Night Football

While things haven’t ended with a Lombardi Trophy, Buffalo has emerged as one of the AFC’s top teams over the past few years. This season, though, it seems like the worm has turned in the wrong direction.

The Bills, barring a 3-week stretch in the early season, have been unable to build momentum amid ugly losses. Josh Allen, the man at the helm of the Bills’ offense, has continued to struggle with turnovers. And beyond the QB, the entire offense, which has become known for explosive plays and high-scoring performances, seems out of step.

At the risk of painting with a broad brush, Week 10’s Monday Night Football game sums up the AFC East club’s current situation. Despite an ugly, error-filled performance (Allen threw for 177 yards, one touchdown and two interceptions and the offense coughed up four total turnovers) the Bills seemed to have secured a narrow win over the Broncos.

But then the (rotten) cherry on top of the Monday sundae arrived. When Denver missed the game-winning field goal, Buffalo had 12 defensive players on the field. That careless error prompted a flag and gave the visitors a second chance. The kick was good, and the Bills had blown it.

“We practiced two or three times this week the substitution, from dime to field goal block, and at the end of the day we didn’t execute it. So it’s inexcusable,” McDermott said.

An embarrassing loss isn’t the worst part of the night, though. That defeat leaves the Bills sitting at 5-5, giving them an uphill climb to reach the postseason. And to make matters worse, they have a difficult home stretch, featuring trips to Philadelphia, Kansas City and Miami.

Cap Space Could Affect the Bills’ Future

Let’s pretend that the Bills do, in fact, miss the playoffs. That would probably prompt some organizational changes—we’re talking about a team that had legitimate Super Bowl aspirations—whether that comes within the coaching staff or on the roster. Things, however, could be more complicated than they seem.

According to OvertheCap’s numbers, Buffalo has $285,967,312 on the books for their top-51 for the 2024 NFL season. The problem is that the 2024 salary cap is pegged at $256,000,000. You don’t need to be a math whiz to see that the Bills are on the wrong side of the ledger.

Given the tools NFL teams have at their disposal, like contract restructures, that number isn’t a nightmare. At the same time, though, it’s still a less-than-ideal position when you’re trying to retool on the fly.

Buffalo will likely have to make some tough decisions—as The Athletic’s Joe Buscaglia noted before the 2023 season, players such as Dion Dawkins, Nyheim Hines and Jordan Poyer could become cap casualties moving forward, and there are more drastic measures (like moving on from Mitch Morse or Taron Johnson) should the situation require—and that’s just to break even. Forget about trying to make improvements in free agency.

If you believe the current Bills team lacks the talent to make it over the hump, trotting out fundamentally the same roster after swapping some players out for more affordable rookies doesn’t seem like a recipe for success.

And the lack of cap space could also affect a potential coaching change. Whether the club is (hypothetically) working with a new head coach or offensive coordinator, those hires would want players who fit their scheme. Without much room to maneuver, Buffalo will either be limiting the hiring pool to candidates who can work with the current roster or starting the new leadership behind the eight ball.

Either way, having a disappointing season without room to shake up the roster is far from an ideal situation.

In complete fairness to the Bills, the remainder of the regular season will determine just how much offseason surgery is required. With that being said, Monday Night Football won’t have filled anyone with optimism.

When things start to go south, it’s fair to talk about making changes moving forward. Material roster changes, however, can’t really take place without some cap space. And that’s where 2024’s $285-million obstacle looms large.

Uncommon Knowledge

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

Newsweek is committed to challenging conventional wisdom and finding connections in the search for common ground.

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