When it comes to this offseason, the Buffalo Bills have a lot of decisions to make, including whether or not they are going to bring back a few key players from this season’s AFC Championship run.
Heading into this offseason, the Bills have to decide what to do about a list of free agents that includes backup quarterback Matt Barkley, wide receivers Isaiah McKenzie and Andre Roberts, five offensive linemen, and several defensive players that played crucial roles this season.
Depending on where the salary cap lands in 2021, which ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported will be around $180-181 million, the Bills may have some tough decisions to make, but Pro Football Focus is predicting that they will bring back two of their most important free agents.
In a recent article, PFF ranked the top 100 free agents, with a breakdown of their talents, a contract analysis, and a prediction of where they might land. They listed Bills linebacker Matt Milano at No. 37 and tackle Daryl Williams at No. 40, but the good news for Bills fans is that the website predicted that both free agents would re-sign with Buffalo.
Williams would is predicted to sign a three-year, $31.5 million deal, while Milano would sign a four-year, $45 million deal with the Bills.
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Signing Matt Milano Would Be Crucial for Bills Defense
One of the biggest questions of the Bills offseason is Milano. He’s a vital piece of the Bills defense alongside fellow linebacker Tremaine Edmunds and the Bills won every single game he played in this past season, besides the AFC Championship against the Kansas City Chiefs.
He tallied 45 tackles, 3.5 sacks, one interception, and nine quarterback hits this season but the former Boston College Eagle has been big throughout his career in Buffalo. He had a career year last year, recording 101 tackles, nine pass deflections, and one forced fumble. But, the Bills may not be able to get Milano that cheap.
Milano has developed into a modern-day linebacker. He has the 11th-best coverage grade among linebackers since 2018, he’s been excellent matching up with running backs in single coverage and he’s held his own when asked to line up over the slot.
Milano’s tackling has been an issue, as he missed 36 over 2018 and 2019, and that adds up to a below-average run defender since entering the league. However, the coverage value makes Milano an intriguing option given the importance of being able to match up with opposing offensive weapons.
Contract Analysis: Milano showed he can be one of the better coverage linebackers in the NFL in 2018 and 2019, and his skill set fits well alongside 2018 first-round LB Tremaine Edmunds — a rangier, sideline-to-sideline linebacker with pass-rush ability. Injuries have limited Milano in 2020 so far, but his absence has also perhaps exposed a leaky Bills defense when he’s not available.
According to spotrac.com, Milano is projected to sign for $13.8 million a year and drew comparisons to similar linebackers like Myles Jack, Deion Jones, Shaw Thompson, and Anthony Barr.
If Milano doesn’t sign for cheaper, the Bills may be in a good position to let him walk due to how AJ Klein played this year in Milano’s absence. The veteran linebacker tallied career-highs in tackles (75), sacks (5), and quarterback hits (9). Kelin also tied a career-high in forced fumbles with two.
Klein put up those types of numbers while also learning a new position as well after playing Mike linebacker for his entire career and moving to Will. Once he caught his numbers skyrocketed and he had one of his best games of the year when he tallied 14 tackles, three for a loss, and 1.5 sacks.
Daryl Williams Was a Staple On the Offensive Line
The Bills offensive line did a lot of shuffling this season due to injuries, but Williams was the one staple on that line that remained consistent all year long. He played in every game this season and played every offensive snap in 16 of Buffalo’s 19 games.
He’s a free agent along with Jon Feliciano, Ike Boettger, Ty Nsekhe, and Brian Winters and the Bills can’t bring all of them back. Williams has a lot of history with Buffalo’s front office though. Bills general manager Brandon Beane was the assistant general manager in Carolina in 2015 when the Panthers drafted Williams with their fourth-round pick.
Daryl Williams is having a career-reviving season in Buffalo after signing a one-year, $2.25 million deal this offseason following a disappointing 2019 campaign with the Carolina Panthers. Williams was recovering from a torn right MCL and dislocated patella that knocked him out of the 2018 season, and perhaps that helps in part to explain his struggles. The issue for potential suitors is that he has just two high-end seasons under his belt as a pass protector through six years in the league. It took him three seasons to show the talent the Panthers were convinced was there before injuries derailed his career until his 2020 rebound season. His peak is very high, but it’s a gamble for any team to chase it.
Contract Analysis: Bills general manager Brandon Beane was the assistant general manager in Carolina in 2015 when the Panthers made Williams their fourth-round selection, and the reunion has been a huge success for both parties. One could make a case that Daryl Williams is on one of the best value contracts in the NFL this season. He was originally drafted to block for Cam Newton, and with Josh Allen having a similar playing style, it wouldn’t be surprising at all to see Beane lock up Williams for a few more years.