Bills free agent tracker: Kyle Allen signed to be backup quarterback

The official start to free agency is 4 p.m. Wednesday, and once the bell rings, chaos will ensue around the NFL.

All of the deals that were agreed to on Monday, Tuesday and the early part of Wednesday can be signed and finalized, and as teams add or lose players, they must stay under their adjusted salary caps.

For the Buffalo Bills, their cap figure is $227.7 million, and general manager Brandon Beane – who had a quiet first two days in the negotiating window – has the Bills safely in compliance mainly through contract restructures.

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Here’s the latest on what the Bills are doing, and you can continue to check for updates here throughout the next few days for updates.

There will be two Allen’s in the Bills QB room

With Case Keenum off to Houston, the Bills needed a backup quarterback and reports are that Kyle Allen – who is a good friend of Josh Allen – will be that man.

Kyle Allen has been in the NFL since 2018, though unlike Josh who was a first-round draft pick that year, he went undrafted and signed with the Panthers. He spent two years in Carolina and took over as the starter in 2019, going 5-7 while completing 62% of his passes for 3,322 yards, 17 TDs and 16 interceptions.

The 27-year-old was traded to the Commanders in 2020, spent two years primarily as a backup though he did make six starts, then went to the Texans last year and started two of the three games he appeared in.

The two Allens have trained together in the offseason as both are pupils of quarterback guru Jordan Palmer.

Jordan Poyer will return to Buffalo on two-year deal

This is a pretty significant development for the Bills defense as Poyer will be back for a seventh season with his running mate Micah Hyde.

When Poyer hit the free agency market, all signs pointed to him not returning, driven in large part by his and his wife’s social media comments. And from the Bills’ perspective, it seemed like re-signing the soon-to-be 32-year-old Poyer at market value would not have been a prudent move for a team hard pressed against the cap.

However, Poyer clearly did not drum up the interest he thought he could because eight free agent safeties have already signed new deals, four with new teams, four with their original teams. And of those deals, seven have come in at an average of $7.5 million per season or less. The only safety who hit it big was Jesse Bates III who agreed to a four-year, $64 million deal to go from the Bengals to Falcons.

There was speculation that Poyer might get somewhere in the $11 million per season range, but that clearly isn’t happening.

Bills adding slot WR/return man Deonte Harty

In a move that seems to indicate two things – that the Bills aren’t ready to turn over the slot receiver role to second-year man Khalil Shakir, and they may be ready to move on from Isaiah McKenzie – they are reportedly adding Harty on a two-year contract worth up to $13.5 million with $5 million guaranteed. His cap hit for 2023 would be around $3.7 million.

Harty entered the NFL in 2019 when his surname was Harris, which he changed to Harty last year to honor his stepfather. He was an undrafted player by the Saints out of tiny Assumption College, but he impressed scouts with a blazing 40-yard dash time of 4.35 seconds.

In four years in New Orleans, he did most of his best work in the return game on both punts (9.8 per return) and kickoffs (25.4). He led the NFL as a rookie in both punt returns (36) and yards (338). It will be interesting to see if Harty takes over the return duties from Nyheim Hines because if so, that might mean the Bills have bigger plans for Hines in the offense.

As a receiver, the diminutive 5-foot-6, 170-pound speedster hasn’t produced much, though he’s had limited opportunity. He was targeted only 92 times and caught 64 for 793 yards and four TDs. Last season he played only four games due to a turf toe ailment.

Stefon Diggs’ contract provides more cap relief

Like Josh Allen and Von Miller, Diggs was considered an obvious place for Beane to create space. Allen and Miller were handled Monday and they combined to open up $32 million, Tuesday night, the Bills pushed money around in Diggs’ contract which freed up another $5.4 million. Diggs’ base salary was lowered to $1.16 million and his new cap hit for 2023 is $14.8 million.

There are still restructures Beane could do, but he has pulled the lever on the four biggest with Diggs, Allen, Miller and Matt Milano. Those four moves opened up more than $43 million of operating capital, which means Beane could be in position to make a big signing in the next couple days if there’s truly a player he covets.

As of Wednesday morning, before the Bills do anything else, they are believed to have about $20 million in space.

Bills will tender RFA Dane Jackson

This move came as a bit of a surprise. Jackson, Tyrel Dodson and Cam Lewis were all restricted free agents and to prevent them from becoming unrestricted free agents, the Bills had to either agree to new contracts, or give them a league-mandated original round tender worth $2.7 million for 2023.

Dodson and Lewis, who have minimal playing time outside of special teams in their first three seasons with the team, were never going to command that on the market so the Bills did not tender either. Both agreed to rejoin the team, likely for around $1 million each which would be a slight raise over what they earned in 2022.

But Jackson was a slightly different story. He was thrust into a starting role last season with Tre’Davious White missing the first two-third of the season and he wound up making 57 tackles and two interceptions while playing 829 defensive snaps. Jackson also started six games in 2021 and two in his rookie year of 2020, and the Bills believed that might give him an opportunity to sign elsewhere.

If the tender goes through, any team wishing to sign Jackson would have to send the Bills a seventh-round draft pick, the original round he was picked back in 2020.

Tyrel Dodson may have a chance to replace Tremaine Edmunds

After a quiet Tuesday morning, the Bills made their first move of the day by agreeing to bring back Dodson. He was one of the Bills’ three restricted free agents and he became the second of those to re-sign with the team before a required tender was offered (Cornerback Dane Jackson is the other). Cam Lewis came back Monday, and now Dodson will sign a one-year deal and will join the competition to become Edmunds’ replacement in the middle of the Buffalo defense.

Dodson has spent almost all of his three seasons with the Bills as a core four special teams player. He did get starts in five games, including three last season when Edmunds was out with injuries. In 2022 he played 276 special teams snaps and made four tackles.

The 6-foot, 237-pounder will battle with 2022 second-round pick Terrel Bernard, but it seems like the Bills will add to this spot either with an outside free agent or a draft pick.

Josh Allen, Von Miller provide huge cap savings

The two most obvious moves that Beane could make to free up cap space went down Monday night when Allen and Miller agreed to contract alterations that give the Bills approximately $32 million in relief.

Allen’s base salary will be converted to the league minimum and $21.1 million will be converted into a signing bonus which can then be spread evenly over the life of the contract.

In Miller’s case, he has a roster bonus that will be converted to a signing bonus, a maneuver that frees up around $10.8 million.

With that money, the Bills are now well under the cap and can not only cover the cost of the players agreed to sign or re-sign Monday, but they will be able to do further shopping on the free agent market as they tried to fill several needs.

Tremaine Edmunds moving on to the Chicago Bears

Five years of investment and development just walked out of the building at One Bills Drive as it was reported that Edmunds is signing a big-money deal with the Bears.

The figures that are out there are eye-opening, a four-year, $72 million contract with around $36.8 million in guaranteed money for the man who was Buffalo’s second first-round pick in 2018, and has been a starter ever since.

At $18 million per season, that was clearly too much for the Bills, but now they have a huge hole in the middle of their defense. Fans were often split on Edmunds, but at just 25 years of age, he still likely has a long career in front of him, and he’s coming off the best season of his time with Buffalo.

If he continues to ascend, the Bills might rue this day.

Bills signing guard Connor McGovern to replace Rodger Saffold

You can cross off one of the biggest holes the Bills needed to fill this offseason with the report that they are signing the former Cowboys left guard to a three-year contract worth up to $22.3 million with about $11 million guaranteed. His cap hit for 2023 will be $4 million.

McGovern is a former third-round pick in 2019 out of Penn State who sat out that entire season with a torn pectoral muscle, then was a part-time starter in 2020 and 2021 before he took over as the full-timer in 2022 when he started all 15 games he played in.

Of the 53 guards who played at least 700 snaps last season, the 6-foot-5, 308-pounder was graded by Pro Football Focus as the 13th-best pass blocker as he allowed just two sacks and 23 pressures on 548 pass snaps. However, he was not an efficient blocker in the run game as he ranked 52nd, just one spot below Saffold.

Case Keenum signing with the Texans

The Bills will be in the market for a backup quarterback as the 35-year-old Keenum is signing with Houston, leaving only Matt Barkley behind Josh Allen. Barkley is no longer backup worthy as he’s strictly a practice squad option.

Keenum cost the Bills $6 million last year and there are several players who could be signed as insurance policies that will cost less than Keenum. One could have been be Sam Darnold, who was picked four spots in front of Allen in the 2018 NFL Draft by the Jets. However, Darnold agreed to a one-year deal with the 49ers.

Allen’s good buddy, Kyle Allen, could be a logical alternative to Keenum. Allen has started games for the Panthers, Commanders and Texans since entering the NFL in 2018.

There won’t be a punter vacancy for the Buffalo Bills

One of Buffalo’s scheduled free agents was Sam Martin, the punter they signed at the last minute prior to the 2022 season when the team cut ties with rookie Matt Araiza. Martin, a 10-year veteran who was previously with the Lions and Broncos, proceeded to give the Bills one of their best punting seasons in recent memory.

He averaged 47.7 yards gross, the second-best figure of his career, and 42.1 yards net, his third-best mark. The Bills saw value in that and they confirmed they are re-signing him.

Reports have it as a three-year deal worth $6 million with $2.36 million guaranteed and a cap hit in 2023 of $1.66 million. That’s a nice raise from the $1.1 million he earned last year, but it also gives the Bills a reasonable escape after 2023 with a minimal dead cap hit.

Staying with special teams, the Bills confirmed they are re-signing one of the core members of those units, Tyler Matakevich. It’s a one-year deal with a void year in 2024 which creates a cap hit for 2023 of $1.83 million. I thought the Bills might decide to move on from the 30-year-old who earned $3.2 million last season. It will be interesting to see the numbers and whether he took a pay cut to stay in Buffalo.

Nyheim Hines ready to provide cap relief

Hines was one of the obvious places Beane was going to go to seek cap relief. The contract he signed with the Colts carried a cap hit in 2023 of $4.8 million which is way too much for a backup running back. Also, there was zero dead cap hit if he were to be cut, so if the Bills wanted to move on, that was an instant $4.8 million savings.

Instead, he is agreeing to convert some of his base salary into a signing bonus and according to Mike Garafolo there will be incentives included in the re-worked contract that could earn him even more money than the $4.8 million.

Hines is the primary kickoff and punt returner, and when you factor that into the signings of Martin and Matakevich, it once again highlights the importance the Bills place on special teams.

Matt Milano agrees to two-year extension

Linebacker Matt Milano agreed to a two-year contract extension which keeps him in Buffalo through 2026.Linebacker Matt Milano agreed to a two-year contract extension which keeps him in Buffalo through 2026.

Linebacker Matt Milano agreed to a two-year contract extension which keeps him in Buffalo through 2026.

Beane started digging into the cap deficit over the weekend with a pair of contract alterations, one that provided a little space, one that created a nice chunk.

Defensive tackle Tim Settle, who has a contract that expires after 2023, but he has a void year in 2024, and he agreed to push some of his 2023 money into that void year which gave the Bills around $600,000 in relief. Hey, every dollar counts.

But the bigger move came Sunday when they extended linebacker Matt Milano’s contract – which was set to expire after 2024 – by two years which freed up $6 million.

Beane doesn’t like to do these restructured deals because at some point in the future the bill comes due. But for someone like Milano, one of the best players on the team who just turned 27 and is coming off an All-Pro season, it makes sense because unless there’s an unforeseen calamitous injury or a sharp decline in his performance, Milano will still be in his prime in 2026.

More:Five free agents the Buffalo Bills should sign and why

More:Bills salary cap situation: What contracts can be restructured, which players could be cut

More:Buffalo Bills roster includes 23 free agents: Here’s who they should keep, who to let go

This also locks up one of the two starting linebackers while the Bills wait to see what happens with the other, unrestricted free agent Tremaine Edmunds.

Sal Maiorana can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @salmaiorana.To subscribe to Sal’s newsletter, Bills Blast, which will come out every Friday during the offseason, please follow this link:

This article originally appeared on Rochester Democrat and Chronicle: Bills free agency tracker: Live updates on players coming, going

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