Earlier today, NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported that the New England Patriots have extended an offer sheet to restricted free agent Mike Gillislee. According to Rapoport, the team’s offer for the Buffalo Bills running back is a two-year contract worth a total of $6.4 million, with $4.0 million coming in the deal’s first year.
It is the second time in two years that New England has extended an offer to a Bills restricted free agent. Last year, the team went after wide receiver Chris Hogan with a three-year, $12.0 million deal. Hogan ultimately joined the Patriots – and if early reports are an indication, Gillislee might as well (according to Jeff Howe):
The Bills haven't informed Gillislee of their final decision yet, but the first indication is they don't believe they'll match, per source.
If the Bills do not match the Patriots’ offer sheet for the 26-year old, New England would have to send its fifth round pick in next week’s draft (selection number 163) to Buffalo as compensation. However, a lot can change over the next five days; the time the Patriots’ AFC East rival has to make a counter-offer.
Ultimately, it will likely all come down to economics – and money favors the reigning world champions. New England purposefully front-loaded the contract, just like it did with Hogan’s last year, to make it hard for Buffalo to match. The Bills currently own $9.4 million in salary cap space; the 20th highest number in the NFL.
Considering that the team is already paying one running back, LeSean McCoy, $8.9 million this season, though, an additional $4.0 million spent on a depth option like Gillislee might mot be fiscally doable from Buffalo’s perspective. After all, the team will need some money to sign its draft picks, and potential free agent and in-season pickups.
For comparison, New England has $19.8 million available, the 12th largest current salary cap space in the league. And while the team has already used $3.15 million on unrestricted free agent Rex Burkhead earlier this offseason, it is willing to spend even more than that to get Gillislee on board. An indication of a) the team’s willingness to overhaul its running back position, b) how well the Patriots manage their cap, and c) the fact that the front office uses every avenue available to build its team.