Why such a hubbub about Mike Gillislee?

Bills can just go find a cheaper backup running back

Howard Simon
April 18, 2017 - 6:04 pm

Photo: Kyle Terada - USA TODAY Sports

For the second straight season the Bills have a decision to make on one of their own restricted free agents, thanks to an offer sheet from the New England Patriots. In 2016 it was wide receiver Chris Hogan and now its running back Mike Gillislee.

 As was the case last year, the Bills should walk away.  The Patriots have reportedly offered a two year deal worth $6.4 million with $4 million coming in the first year. It really isn’t that much money and if the Bills match it and retain Gillislee, I won’t be mad at them.

I just don’t feel the need to pay a backup running back an average of $3.2 million a year while paying my starter, LeSean McCoy $8 million next season. In addition, we’re talking about a running back. Unless we’re discussing McCoy, who is a special breed of player, the running back position can be filled easily. Even more so when you’re talking about a backup running back who will probably get about 100 carries next season.

Don’t get me wrong, I have thoroughly enjoyed watching Gillislee in his one and a third seasons as a Buffalo Bill. Gillislee quickly became a fan favorite thanks in part to his physical running style, his underdog story and his productivity. In 20 games with the Bills, the former fifth round draft pick of the Miami Dolphins has averaged 5.7 yards per carry and recorded 11 rushing touchdowns.

Not bad for a guy the Bills picked up off the street, a few weeks after he was released from the Arizona Cardinals practice squad. Which is one of the reasons why you don’t need to freak out if the Bills decline to match the offer. The Bills signed Gillislee as a free agent who had been with two teams so who’s to say they can’t go find another running back?

As much as you enjoyed watching Gillislee, didn’t your feel the same joy and excitement watching Karlos Williams? Remember how good he looked in 2015? A physical, hard nosed runner who also had explosiveness to shoot through a hole and a guy who was a weapon in the passing game too. What Williams did in 2015 was very similar to what Gillislee did last year.  Williams averaged 5.6 yards per carry in 11 games, had seven rushing touchdowns and added two touchdown catches. The Bills drafted Williams in the fifth round. 

If you want to be upset about something, you could criticize the Bills for not going with a higher tender offer. The Bills chose the low tender/original round compensation which in this case was a $1.8 million salary for one year and a fifth round draft pick should Gillislee receive an offer sheet.

The next tender level would only have cost them $2.8 million and would have carried with it a second round pick. I doubt any team would have been willing to give up a second round pick as compensation for getting Gillislee.

The Bills, who don’t have much cap space this off season, must not have been too worried about losing their backup running back. They could have practically guaranteed his return with another 900 thousand dollars. Perhaps they figured they’d much rather have the extra fifth round pick. After all, the Bills only have six picks in this years draft.
As I said, match it, don’t match it, whatever the Bills do I’ll go on with my life. I’m far more concerned with whether or not they’re going to draft a quarterback.

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