PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Beyond giving the Buffalo Bills a better evaluation of quarterback Tyrod Taylor in his critical third season as a starter, Monday's signing of veteran receiver Anquan Boldin allows the team some flexibility in building their 53-man roster later this month.
Specifically, having Boldin could make it easier for the Bills to part ways with veteran receiver Andre Holmes and acquire a third-round compensatory draft selection next spring.
How? The NFL awards compensatory selections each year based on a net loss of qualifying unrestricted free agents from the previous offseason. This past spring, the Bills signed seven qualifying free agents and lost five, including cornerback Stephon Gilmore ($13 million per year) and wide receiver Robert Woods ($7.8 million).
Because the Bills acquired more free agents than they lost, they are not expected to receive any compensatory 2018 draft selections under the NFL's formula, which is not made public but is tracked by websites such as OverTheCap.com.
However, the Bills could release three of their seven free-agent signings and shift the balance in their favor. Having a net loss of one free agent during the 2017 offseason would likely result in the Bills being awarded a 2018 compensatory selection at the end of the third round for Gilmore. Moreover, releasing four of their seven free-agent signings would mean a net loss of two free agents and an additional fourth-round selection for Woods, based on projections by OverTheCap.com.
General manager Brandon Beane, while he did not directly address the issue Monday of acquiring picks for the losses of Gilmore or Woods, made it clear he is aware of the potential benefit of the compensatory formula.
"I wouldn't be doing my job if I don't pay attention to that so obviously, I do," he said. "But again, I'm factoring a lot of decisions -- a lot of reasoning going behind every decision. But I'm very aware of, when I walked in, how the [compensatory pick] formula works. I believe you use it when you can, but not in throwing a worse team out there as well."
Boldin, who does not factor into the compensatory formula because he was signed after the May 9 cut-off date, could push Holmes out of a starting role. Holmes, who signed a three-year, $5.15 million deal in March under former general manager Doug Whaley, has mostly taken first-team reps in training camp and has also been a part of multiple special-teams units. If the Bills released him before final cuts, he would count $1.4 million in dead money this season and $1.1 million next season.
Two other free-agent signings the Bills could consider releasing are guard Vladimir Ducasse and defensive end Ryan Davis. The dead money against the Bills' cap would be negligible in either case. Ducasse has mostly seen snaps with the second team at right guard, but the Bills could instead keep promising center/guard Jordan Mudge. Davis began training camp as the top reserve pass-rusher but has been out of practice since Friday because of a concussion. Eddie Yarbrough has emerged as a viable candidate to fill his role.
Beane and coach Sean McDermott must eventually decide if they value the 2018 third-round selection enough to part ways with three of their signings this offseason. But if Boldin quickly supplants Holmes as a projected starter in Buffalo, the decision could become easier.