Miami Dolphins

Blueprint For Success: How the Bills were built (and what the Dolphins can learn)

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Blueprint for Success: How the Dolphins’ 2019 opponents were built

Our weekly series that examines how the Miami Dolphins’ 2019 opponents built their roster, and what lessons Miami can glean as they build theirs.

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This is the sixth of a series that examines how Miami’s 2019 opponents built their rosters, and what lessons the Dolphins can glean as they build theirs.

Team: Buffalo Bills.

Coach: Sean McDermott (third season).

General manager: Brandon Beane (third season).

Team owner: Terry and Kim Pegula.

Franchise value: $1.9 billion.

2018 record: 6-10 (third in the AFC East).

Last playoff appearance: 2017 (lost in the Wild Card Round).

Last Super Bowl championship: Never.

Total 2019 payroll: $179.1 million (25th).

Total 2019 AAV: $157.2 million (27th).

Salary cap space: $26.7 million (sixth).

Dead money: $15.2 million (18th most).

Percentage of homegrown players: 38 percent.

Overview: Next time a so-called expert tells you that NFL teams cannot build through free agency, simply point them in the direction of Buffalo Bills. Western New York’s team is 4-1 and huge favorites over the Dolphins this weekend with 14 of their 22 starters signed from other teams, and another acquired via trade. And they even paid for non-premium positions, like center. The Bills gave Mitch Morse a four-year $44.5 million contract in March, making him the highest-paid center in the league at the time. Morse is one of six Bills with a 2019 cap figure of $7 million or more, and none of those six was drafted by the team. That makes sense, though. There is just one Bills draft pick — Shaq Lawson — remaining who predated Beane’s time with the team. The new regime took a wrecking ball to Buffalo’s roster after taking over, and paid the price in 2018 to the tune of a $70 million dead cap charge. Among the cap casualties: pricey vets Marcell Dareus, Eric Wood, Cordy Glenn, Kelvin Benjamin and Tyrod Taylor. They were able to do that and come out the other side more than OK because their starting quarterback, Josh Allen, is on his rookie contract. And as good as this year has been, 2020 should be even better. The Bills could be coming off a playoff season with some $90 in cap space.

The lesson: Trust the process. Seriously. As painful as 2019 has been for the Dolphins and their fans, the Bills are a great model for how quickly things can get better. But will they be a good team or a great team down the road? That depends on how much Allen develops.

He said it: “You try and do your best crystal ball exercise. I don’t think there’s any one situation that’s like another exactly, so you just try and do your due diligence on the front end and take the guy you’ve got and do what’s right by him and your football team.” — Bills coach Sean McDermott, on identifying a franchise quarterback in the draft.

“I think it’s real in every position, whether your teammates buy in to what you’re doing or how you’re doing it. This is the NFL, right? Best of the best and players watch, and they learn and so I think that’s certainly something that players look for.” — McDermott, on belief teammates have in their quarterback.