Linebacker Matt Milano is heading back to Orchard Park and Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane has worked his magic yet again.
The Bills announced that Milano, who was set to be one of the top linebackers in free agency this offseason according to Pro Football Focus, signed a 4-year, $44 million extension on Thursday, which will keep him in Buffalo through the 2024 season.
Entering this offseason, Milano was seen as one of the biggest question marks for the Bills outside of offensive linemen Daryl Williams and Jon Feliciano. In the past four years, he’s been one of the staples of the Bills defense and has tallied 273 tackles, five interceptions, six sacks and has recovered five fumbles in the past four years.
2019 was also a career year for the former Boston College Eagle as he made 101 tackles and nine pass deflections for the Bills in 15 games. This past season was riddled with injuries though as Milano only played in 10 games due to a pectoral injury that placed him on the injured reserve late in the year. But, the Bills only lost one game this season when Milano was on the field.
In his end of the season press conference, Beane stated that the Bills wanted to keep Milano, but that he had also earned the right to test free agency and they had to wait to see how the situation played out.
“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.”
Earlier this week, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported that this year’s salary cap would be set at $182.5 million and the Bills went to work. With the help from Mitch Morse, they restructured the veteran center’s contract to open up cap space, then they also released both wide receiver John Brown and defensive tackle Quinton Jefferson on Wednesday, which was a move that saved them around $14 million in cap space.
The moves made enough room to bring back Milano and might give them room to make even more moves this offseason.
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Milano’s Deal is Beneficial for Buffalo
With the lower salary cap this season due to the coronavirus pandemic, general managers have started to get creative and several players are restructuring contracts to push money down the road. It seems like Beane has done the same with Milano’s contract.
According to Sal Capaccio from WGR550, Milano’s deal is backloaded so that he doesn’t have as big of a cap hit this season. Capacio tweeted out that Milano will get a $7 million signing bonus but his base salary for 2021 will only be $5.3 million, compared to $7.3 million in 2022, $9.25 million in 2023, and $9.55 million in 2024. It also includes roster, workout, playing time and pro bowl bonuses.
Given the situation, Bills fans were pretty excited with the news and praised Beane for his work on the deal.
What’s Next for Buffalo?
Given that Milano might have been the biggest question mark for the Bills, one would think that the offensive line might be the next move for the front office. Right tackle Daryl Williams and interior lineman Jon Feliciano were both big for the Bills this season.
In an appearance on Tim Graham and Friends earlier this offseason, Felicano said he doesn’t see himself going anywhere.
“Honestly, I don’t see myself going anywhere,” Feliciano told The Athletic’s Tim Graham and Matthew Fairburn during his appearance on their podcast. “I love Buffalo and I know how they feel about me. I’m going to stay optimistic and I don’t like change. Honestly, when I think of next season, I see myself as a Bill. We’ll see what happens, but I think both sides want the same thing so it’s just a matter of time, I think.”
The next question would be on Williams, who had one of the best seasons of his career this past year and is ranked by Pro Football Focus as the 41st best free agent in this year’s market.
While the Bills, and especially quarterback Josh Allen, might like to see Williams back, they’ve also been connected to offensive linemen in this year’s draft. So, they might look to allocate their money elsewhere.