The Buffalo Bills already have an extra 2018 first-round pick as a result of a draft-night trade last month with the Kansas City Chiefs. But if new Bills general manager Brandon Beane wants an additional third-round pick next spring, he can snag one in the coming months through the NFL's compensatory draft pick system.
Currently, the Bills are not projected by OverTheCap.com to receive any compensatory picks in the 2018 draft because they signed more unrestricted free agents (seven) to qualifying contracts than they lost to deals elsewhere (five).
That can be fixed. If the Bills release three of those seven signed free agents by Week 10, they will be left with a net loss of qualifying unrestricted free agents this offseason. While the NFL does not disclose its exact compensatory draft pick formula, the net loss of free agents should result in the Bills receiving one compensatory pick -- likely a third-round selection -- for cornerback Stephon Gilmore signing a free-agent deal with the New England Patriots this offseason.
If the Bills release a total of four of their seven signed free agents before Week 10, they would be projected to receive two compensatory draft selections in 2018. In that case, the Bills would likely add a third-round pick for Gilmore in addition to a fourth-round pick for receiver Robert Woods, who signed a lucrative deal with the Los Angeles Rams this offseason.
If Beane and first-year coach Sean McDermott are focused on building for the future, having extra first-, third- and fourth-round selections in 2018 would be an excellent start.
Which players could the Bills release in order to snag extra 2018 draft picks? The most likely players would be defensive end Ryan Davis, offensive lineman Vladimir Ducasse and wide receiver Andre Holmes. The Bills would absorb a minimal dead-money hit against their 2018 salary cap by releasing those players, but the maneuver would be well worth it for a projected third-round pick.
If the Bills wanted the projected fourth-round pick, too, they could release fullback Patrick DiMarco or kicker Stephen Hauschka before Week 10 in order to position themselves for that compensatory selection.
Releasing any of their free-agent signings would not necessarily mean the Bills would be left with egg on their face for their spending this offseason. In fact, it would be a sign of savvy from the Bills' remade front office.
The Baltimore Ravens, Green Bay Packers and Patriots are well known for using the NFL's compensatory draft pick system to their advantage, and this year is no different: the Ravens and Packers are both projected to receive third-round picks in 2018, while the Patriots are projected to snag fourth- and fifth-round picks for their free-agent losses this offseason.
Why should the Bills not do the same? Even if cutting Hauschka or DiMarco months after signing them to multi-million-dollar deals is a bad look, those players could easily return to Buffalo. Releasing Hauschka or DiMarco prior to Week 1 would clear either player out of the NFL's compensatory draft pick formula, and either could return in Week 2 if he decides not to sign elsewhere.