The Buffalo Bills selected defensive ends Greg Rousseau and Carlos "Boogie" Basham with their first two picks in the 2021 NFL Draft. If the roster holds, they would conceivably back up veterans Jerry Hughes and Mario Addison, both of whom are in their 30s.
But their potential emergence could also allow the Bills to trade Hughes away.
Brad Gagnon of Bleacher Report raised the idea of a potential Hughes trade in a story detailing one player each NFL team should consider moving before the season starts.
Gagnon’s logic is sound: Hughes is entering his age-33 season and has only tallied 4.5 sacks in each of the last two years. The Bills would also save some significant money on the salary cap, which could be reallocated towards a certain star quarterback who’s due for a contract extension.
“Hughes and Addison are a combined 65 years old and coming off a season in which they tallied just 9.5 sacks in 30 games,” Gagnon writes. “They'd save $6.4 million by trading Hughes and $5.4 million by dealing Addison, who is a year older and likely less attractive on the trade market.”
Though Rousseau just finished his first minicamp in Orchard Park, it’s apparent he already fits in. The Miami standout was a destructive force last time he was on the field, tallying 15.5 sacks in 2019. Rousseau didn’t play this past season after opting out due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
In a post-draft interview during the “Howard and Jeremy Show” on WGR, Rousseau said he couldn’t have imagined winding up anywhere besides Buffalo.
“I couldn’t be any happier,” Rousseau said. “That is the one place I really wanted to go. I’m genuinely saying this.”
The Bills have been trying to replace Bruce Smith for 20 years, and though they’ve cycled through multiple veteran pass-rushers — Mario Williams, Aaron Schobel, Marcell Dareus and Hughes — they’re still searching for their next linchpin up front. Rousseau or Basham, who recorded 29 sacks in 2018 and 19, could fill that void.
Don't forget, the Bills also have defensive end A.J. Epenesa on the roster, who they selected in the second round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
Those moves suggest general manager Brandon Beane is trying to improve the defensive line. Either way, it’s unlikely Hughes will be around for much longer. The 11-year veteran is entering the final year of his current contract.
With limited cap space, the prospect of shaving $6.4 million off the books is enticing, especially if Buffalo’s young pass-rushers show promise this summer. Earlier this month, the Bills converted more than $11.7 million of Stefon Diggs’ base salary into a signing bonus, saving roughly $8 million in cap space.
The Bills will need all the money they can get to present Josh Allen with a market value offer. While Allen will reportedly look to work with the team on a fair agreement for both sides, he’ll almost certainly still want to be paid his worth. The last two franchise quarterbacks to ink big extensions, Dak Prescott and Deshaun Watson, signed for $126 million and $110 million guaranteed, respectively.
Linebacker Tremaine Edwards is also playing on his fifth-year option, and in line for a new deal as well.
Hughes has done a nice job of helping to anchor the Bills’ front-seven over the last seven years. But it may be time for some fresh faces, especially since they’ll be a lot cheaper.