The Buffalo Bills have plenty of decisions to make this offseason in terms of who they’ll bring back for the 2021 season and one of the biggest decisions will revolve around linebacker Matt Milano.
The former fifth-round draft pick from Boston College is entering his first offseason of free agency after being one of Buffalo’s best linebackers for the first four years of his NFL career. He’s tallied 273 total tackles, 30 tackles for a loss, six sacks, five interceptions, and five fumble recoveries.
Although he only played in 10 games this year, the lowest total of his career, Milano has been big for the Bills on multiple occasions throughout his career. So, when Bills general manager Brandon Beane met with the media on Wednesday, he revealed that the Bills have every intention of bringing Milano back.
“He is a very good player,” Beane said via WGR 550. “What a great job he’s done since coming here in 2017. He’s got to be able to play a full 16 games. We’d love to be able to get him back. He’s earned the right to go to free agency, but we’ll do our best to retain him.”
While the Bills would love to be able to keep one of their starting linebackers, the business side of things also comes into play in a situation like this. Throughout his media availability, Beane mentioned that the Bills are going to have to make tough decisions throughout this offseason, especially if the salary cap stays at $175 million, which Beane said they are already right up against.
Beane also said they haven’t ruled out using the franchise tag on Milano either, but again, it goes back to what the salary cap situation is going to look like this season.
“We want to keep good players, but it’ll come back to that cap – you know, what we can afford,” Beane said via Buffalo News’ Jay Skurski. “If it’s $175 (million), we’re right at it right now, so definitely some tough moves to make. Listen, we want to keep good players. Matt’s a good player, so we’d love to keep him here, but again, he’s earned this right. We’ll just have to see how it plays out.”
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Milano Could Be a Highly-Pursued Free Agent
Over the past three years, Milano has proven to be one of the best linebackers in the game with his pass coverage abilities and his ability to finish tackles around the line of scrimmage while being a sideline-to-sideline type of linebacker.
Based on past contracts signed by players who are similar to Milano in age, contract status and statistical production, the contract website projects the Bills linebacker to net a contract that’s worth $13.8 million a year.
The Bills Have a Viable Backup in AJ Klein
If the Bills aren’t able to retain Milano in free agency this offseason, they may already have Milano’s replacement inside the organization.
This past offseason, the Bills signed former New Orleans Saints linebacker AJ Klein to a three-year, $18 million deal. So when Milano went down this season, Klein stepped in and performed well, but there were some growing pains.
In the past, Klein had always played the “mike” linebacker position and when Milano was injured he had to play “will” which he had never played before. So, after becoming accustomed to the new position, Klein hit a stride midway through the season when Milano was out and made a name for himself,
While playing in 16 games this season, and starting in 11, Klein recorded 75 total tackles, five sacks, and two forced fumbles. One of his best games came against the Seattle Seahawks when he tallied 14 tackles, 1.5 sacks, and one pass deflection while recording 100% of the defensive snaps. He was also named the AFC Defensive Player of the Week for his performance.
Klein also has a familiarity with Bills head coach Sean McDermott. He spent the first four years of his career with McDermott as his defensive coordinator when the two were with the Carolina Panthers.
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