A third-round pick turned fan favorite, Buffalo Bills RB Devin Singletary could be playing his final games for the city as he approaches NFL free agency in 2023 following the expiration of his rookie contract. What does Devin Singletary’s career suggest his estimated market value could be, and, if he leaves, what options do the Bills have to fill the need both internally and in the upcoming 2023 NFL Draft?
Devin Singletary Has Been at the Center of the Bills’ Rushing Attack Since Joining the Team
The running back position in the NFL has seen a massive change in value in recent years, but to their teams, they remain an integral part of every offense. That is precisely the case with Buffalo Bills running back Devin Singletary.
A third-round pick in 2019, Singletary spent his first months fighting for snaps between two future Hall of Famers, LeSean McCoy and Frank Gore. But even as a rookie, the team had confidence in Singletary to give him more reps, as they saved money by cutting McCoy.
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Despite the additions of Zack Moss and James Cook in recent years, Singletary has never relinquished his starting job. Playing in 59 games, Singletary has over 3,950 total yards while averaging 5.0 yards per touch with 19 combined touchdowns.
However, the best stretch of his career came at the end of 2021. Over those final four weeks, Singletary averaged nearly 100 total yards per game and amassed six touchdowns. He scored three more times in the team’s games against New England and Kansas City during the playoffs.
2022 hasn’t been as great as last year, yet Singletary has been a consistent player the Bills could lean on. His 67% snap share is a three-year high, as is his 10% target share. Just among running backs on the team, Singletary has received 63% of the carries (158) and 48% of the targets (49) despite Buffalo drafting Cook, who was widely considered the best receiving back of this class.
Although his 4.4 yards per attempt is tied for a career-low, Singletary is averaging 2.85 YAC/attempt and a missed tackle on 17.7% of his carries. 11.4% of his attempts go for ten yards or more, and 25% of his yardage comes on plays of 15 yards or more. All of this shows that Singletary is one of the many threats defenses have to worry about in this Bills offense.
Devin Singletary Has More Than Outperformed his Rookie Contract
Singletary is in the final year of his four-year, $3.89 million contract he signed as a rookie. That turned out to be a complete steal based on his production, and that remains the case in 2022 despite his $1.7 million cap being the highest of his four years. Oddly enough, at the start of camp, his contract value was actually behind Moss, Cook, and even Taiwan Jones. Of those three, Cook is the only one remaining on the depth chart.
It’s clear the Bills trust and like what Singletary brings to the field. The fans do as well, and it’s why “Motor” has become a fan favorite amongst the Bills Mafia. But the NFL is a business, and free agency is one of the most cutthroat times of the year. Sean McDermott and the Bills’ staff comprise some of the more forward-thinking groups in the NFL. They see the trends in contracts that running backs are signing, and more and more teams leaning on committee approaches.
It’s why last season, the franchise tag at the position was just $9.5 million, the second lowest amongst all positions, only ahead of kickers and punters at $5.2 million. There’s no question that Singletary is underpaid, but would he take a hometown discount to sign a new contract to stay with the Bills?
I’m not sure. Given the incredible depth at running back in the 2023 draft class and the salary cap being an ever-present issue, there’s a decent chance Singletary is playing his final games as a member of the Buffalo Bills this season.
What is Singletary’s Current Estimated Market Value?
Free agency is one of the most frenetic periods of the season. Contracts are signed seemingly by the minute. One slightly inflated contract could drastically swing the market for players wanting to see what others are being offered in their position group.
Just 25 years old, Singletary could have the luxury of playing the waiting game and seeing what else is out there. According to Spotrac, a company that takes players with similar careers, histories, ages, and circumstances to create contract projections, Singletary has an estimated market value of $5.8 million AAV on a three-year, $17.68 million contract.
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That’s more in one year than Singletary has made throughout his career. It’s also vastly more than what a rookie would likely cost. Singletary has more than earned his money in the NFL, and I will always be pro-player when it comes to getting one’s money while they can.
But there’s something to be said about the situation in Buffalo, as they are one of the NFL’s juggernauts. So long as they have Josh Allen and this corps of players intact, they’re a perennial Super Bowl favorite.
If there is a chance for Singletary to come back on a team-friendly contract, he’ll have to choose between trying to win in Buffalo or chasing the money elsewhere. No matter his choice, no one should criticize a player who’s doing what they feel is best for their family and future.
If Singletary Leaves, What Are the Bills’ Alternative Options?
Looking internally first, the easy answer is that Cook takes a prominent role as the lead RB. A second-round pick out of Georgia, Cook was one of the favorites of many coming out of his class, given the versatility he showed for the Bulldogs.
Touted for his explosiveness and receiving skills, Cook has shown both on the field when given opportunities. He’s averaging 5.3 yards per attempt on his 69 carries, with 3.71 coming after contact. He is elusive in the open field, with 23% of his carries generating a missed tackle, and nearly 50% of his yards have come on breakaway plays.
While I still don’t understand the people that compared him to his brother (Minnesota Vikings star Dalvin Cook), he’s a good player in his own right. With that said, I’m not sure he’s someone you want to hand 200+ touches to as you can with Singletary.
The Bills are in a situation in which they can make a few luxury draft picks because they don’t have many holes on their depth chart. Like last year, I expect the Bills to draft a running back, and they’ll be one of the favorite projected landing spots of those who hope a top-tier RB lands in a potent offense.
It goes without saying that Bijan Robinson would be the dream of both Bills fans and even fantasy football managers. Robinson is far and away the best running back in this upcoming class, and you’d probably have to go back to Saquon Barkley coming out of Penn State for the last player who had the skill set of Robinson.
He has breakaway speed, power, and elusiveness and easily catches the ball out of the backfield. He’s a first-round pick, but I wonder if he even makes it to the Bills.
I would also throw in Jahmyr Gibbs from Alabama, Zach Evans from Ole Miss, and Kendre Miller from TCU, one of my favorite players in this draft class. Blake Corum from Michigan would be a fantastic complement if he declares.
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I would also throw in Tank Bigsby from Auburn, Sean Tucker from Clemson, and Zach Charbonnet from UCLA. Tucker and Charbonnet are brutal runners in their style of play and would be a fantastic complement to Cook. Still, they also fit the style of play of the Bills, especially when it gets colder, and their physicality could pay dividends in December and January.
I can go through 12 different players in this class that I can see fitting with the Bills, but it all depends on whether or not Singletary returns.
Although Bills fans would love to see him back, knowing what is coming in the NFL draft, the production per dollar from a rookie prospect might be too much to pass up while gaining four years of an uber-talented player’s prime years.