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Bills won't break bank to re-sign Clements

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (Feb. 16, 2007) -- The Buffalo Bills will maintain a modest approach to free agency this offseason, all but eliminating their chances of re-signing star cornerback Nate Clements.

Following meetings with team owner Ralph Wilson earlier this week, general manager Marv Levy said that the Bills have budgeted about $30 million to spend on acquiring players when the NFL's free agency period opens March 2.

The $30 million figure might seem like a lot, but it's very modest when considering Clements is seeking a deal that would pay him $18 million in bonus money alone. Spending that much on one player would severely handcuff Buffalo from adding other free agents.

And the Bills have plenty of needs following a 7-9 finish in which they missed the playoffs for a seventh straight season, matching the longest drought in team history.

The Bills, Levy explained, arrived at their budget by taking a different approach than other teams. They used the NFL salary cap -- projected to be $109 million this year -- as a ceiling.

Under league rules, teams are allowed to spread guaranteed signing bonuses over the duration of a contract to reduce the cap hit. The Bills, however, count bonuses as dollars spent for that season no matter the contract's length.

"I don't think we're going to, quote, 'mortgage the future,' type of thing," Levy said. "That's the decision that was made."

That puts the small-market Bills at a competitive disadvantage when it comes to re-signing Clements. A six-year veteran and one-time Pro Bowl selection, Clements is projected to become among the most coveted defensive backs to enter free agency this offseason.

Clements' agent, Todd France, has previously said his client intends to test the market. Clements is willing to re-sign with the Bills, but only if the team makes a competitive offer.

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