While all eyes are on the Buffalo Bills to see whether they re-sign their top pending free agent, Tremaine Edmunds, the team swerved to lock down a different linebacker, veteran Matt Milano.
On Sunday, March 12, the Bills announced they were extending Milano through the 2026 season, which cleared up a much-needed $6 million in cap space, per ESPN‘s Adam Schefter. Buffalo entered the offseason approximately $20 million over the cap, so pre-emptively restructuring Milano’s deal opens a buffer for the Bills to be active when free agency starts.
So, what does this mean for Edmunds? ESPN insider Mike Tannenbaum tweeted, “This is probably a strong indication that @maine_savage23 won’t be returning; it’s incredibly difficult to pay 2 off the ball LB’s significant money.” The Athletic‘s Joe Buscaglia agrees this was a “significant sign” that the Bills are “preparing for life” without Edmunds.
Buscaglia wrote, “Milano is also the better of the two players, though Edmunds is a full four seasons younger than Milano. It’s a potentially ominous clue, though an optimist could think the Bills cleared out cap space in 2023 with the Milano move to help bring Edmunds back. The former seems more likely, but the Bills will have some operating room to bring back Edmunds if they feel the price is right and they don’t want to lose him.”
However, NFL Network’s Mike Giardi doesn’t believe it’s over for Edmunds in Buffalo just yet. Giardo tweeted, “Based on conversations I had at the scouting combine, I would expect a number of teams to be heavily involved with LB Tremaine Edmunds, including the only team he’s ever played for, the #Bills. The feeling is his best football is still ahead of him, despite being good already.”
Milano Still Had 2 More Years Left on His Contract
While Edmuds led the team in total tackles (102), Milano was arguably the overall most impactful defensive player on the Bills roster in 2022. The 28-year-old recorded 99 tackles (72 solo), 1.5 sacks, three interceptions, and 11 pass breakups in 15 games. The extension, which is worth $14 million, per ESPN, came as a surprise on Sunday since the All-Pro linebacker still had two years left of his deal and there were other much larger contracts the team could’ve chosen to restructure to clear up space, which they will still need to do in order to be cap compliant.
The Bills’ former fifth-round pick from the 2017 NFL Draft signed a four-year, $41.5 million contract extension in 2021, so Milano was already locked in through the 2024 season. WGR 550‘s Sal Capaccio appeared to be the only analyst to predict the Bills would pre-emptively extend his contract to lower the 2023 cap number.
Capaccio wrote on March 11, “On top of his two years remaining, Milano also has two more void years after that. That means the team will be charged money on the salary cap in 2025 and 2026, but Milano is not under contract those years. It was done that way to already spread out his bonus money and cap hit over extra years… They could sign him to an extension and put him under contract for those years, then add two more void years after that, lower his base salary and give him another signing bonus, spreading the cap hit out once again. Either way, they are in a good position with an excellent player for multiple more years.”
ESPN Insider Boldly Predicted Edmunds Would Not Be in Buffalo Next Year
While all signs pointed toward Buffalo prioritizing re-signing Edmunds over veteran safety Jordan Poyer, ESPN’s lead insider Adam Schefter made a telling comment on March 8 regarding Edmunds’ future while discussing the Bills’ decision not to utilize the franchise tag on NFL Live, which general manager Brandon Beane had alluded to while speaking to the media at the NFL Combine last week.
Amid the discussion of the Bills losing Leslie Frazier as defensive coordinator and how safety Joran Poyer is expected to land with another team, Schefter interjects to say, “They’re also expected to lose Tremaine Edmunds in Buffalo, as well. A free agent – And I don’t think he’ll be back in Buffalo.”
For the most plugged-in analyst in the NFL to arrive at this conclusion — it’s hard to ignore. The Bills exercised Edmunds’ fifth-year option back in March 2021, which was worth $12.71 million. According to Spotrac.com, his market value dictates an expected four-year, $44 million offer in free agency, but it could end up being much higher than that. Pro Football Focus projects Edmunds will land a three-year, $45.75 million with $28.5 million total guaranteed.
While Edmunds has been a polarizing figure among fans over the past few years, he excelled in 2022, earning a 79.0 overall grade from PFF this past season, a huge jump from the 50.4 overall grade earned in 2021, the 47.9 overall grade in 2020.