Buffalo Bills defensive end Jerry Hughes is a half sack away from recording his second consecutive double-digit sack season. After toiling in Indianapolis for three seasons Hughes has really come into his own since coming over in the Kelvin Sheppard swap, and is set to hit the open market after the season ends, which naturally brings worry as fans expect another star player to sign elsewhere and leave.
Pass rushers on the free agent market are typically overpaid, but that’s because they’re in such high demand in today’s pass oriented NFL. A Lot of fans view the sack statistic as the end all be all measurement for defensive ends, though in reality it’s more about pressure and hits with sacks being the payoff.
In two seasons with the Bills, Hughes has complied 19.5 of his 24.5 career sacks. Per ProFootballFocus.com Hughes in 2013 carried the highest pass Rushing Productivity score of any edge rusher, and in 2014 he’s seventh, which is one ahead of teammate Mario Williams, while seeing more snaps.
So with this in mind let’s look at how two 2009 draft classmates have done on the free agent market.
|Player||Length||Total Amount||Guaranteed||Contract per position||Career Sacks Before Signing|
|Lamarr Houston (CHI)||5 Years||$35 million||$8.9 million||#15 for 4-3 DE||16.5|
|Connor Barwin (PHI)||6 Years||$36 million||$8 million||#9 for 3-4 OLB||19|
When it comes to contract numbers it will depend on the team and how they view Hughes’ position within their defense. Houston is a strict 4-3 defensive end and did well in earning his new contract in Chicago. Barwin was a Texan draft pick and has played exclusively as an outside linebacker.
It’s also good to point out that Barwin has always had pass rushing skills, but his run defense has greatly improved in Philadelphia as he’s become an every down player. For Hughes his run defense has improved playing with his hand in the ground rather than as a stand up linebacker, as it’s shown in 2014.
So as the Bills season winds down it will be interesting to see where Jerry Hughes’ agent thinks he client ranks amongst these players. One would think Hughes has to be aiming for an amount in that $8 to $12 million per year range, but the guaranteed dollars should be higher than both players considering his productivity the past two seasons..
As for the Bills, they already have the second highest priced defensive end in Mario Williams, and could possibly afford a franchise tag on Hughes that will cost roughly $11.5-$12 million a year, but would they want to do that? The Bills are scheduled to have roughly $17 million in cap space. The team could roll over their space from this year, and with a possible Mario restructuring, would have even more space to play with. That makes the cap hit much more manageable, and the tag can be used as a stopgap to hammer out a long term deal.
One would think that give the numbers, including age, Hughes should be looking at a five year, $40 million dollar contract with anywhere between $12-$15 million guaranteed. A contract like that would be remarkable for a player who two years ago was viewed as a bust, but remain cap friendly enough for the Bills to continue to work on Marcel Dareus’ contract for next year.
The bigger picture is that by retaining Jerry Hughes the Buffalo Bills will further establish the motto that this organization does not want to be complacent; and that finding, along with keeping, talent is important to the culture and direction of this team.
It would also mark a hammer a major point home that new owner Terry Pegula is a different owner and is willing to pay for performance.