The Buffalo Bills will have a few difficult decisions to make this offseason and what to do with linebacker Matt Milano is one of them.
The former Boston College standout has been a mainstay in Buffalo’s defense for the past four years. But, after the Bills decided not to use their franchise tag on the 26-year-old, he’ll hit free agency this offseason and he’s seen as one of the top free agent linebackers as well.
Back in February, Pro Football Focus listed Milano as the 38th best free agent this offseason and after the Tampa Bay Buccaneers signed linebacker Lavonte David to a contract extension on Tuesday, Milano is the top-ranked linebacker set to hit free agency, according to PFF.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter reported Wednesday morning that the NFL salary cap will be $182.5 million this upcoming season, so the Bills may have a chance to resign Milano, who is expected to draw at least $13.8 million a year according to Spotrac.com, but the analytical website has other ideas.
PFF’s Seth Galina recently named the ‘perfect fit’ for all 32 NFL teams and Matt Milano was listed as just that for the Kansas City Chiefs. Tennessee Titans tight end Jonnu Smith was listed as the ‘perfect fit’ for the Bills.
Milano’s coverage ability is the main reason Galina believes he would be a perfect fit for the Chiefs.
Milano is a very good coverage linebacker, and with the Chiefs holding leads in almost every game they play with Patrick Mahomes, these types of players are essential.
While Milano does miss tackles in the run game, that’s not as important an aspect of the position right now. He had the NFL’s 12th-highest grade at linebacker in 2018, at 76.1, but his play has dropped over the last two years, when he’s graded at 65.6 and 54.5, respectively.
Milano was solid for the Bills this season and although he missed six games this past season due to injury, the Bills only lost one game, their AFC Championship loss to the Chiefs, when Milano was on the field. He missed Buffalo’s three regular season losses against the Titans, Chiefs, and the Arizona Cardinals.
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Bills Could Already Have Milano’s Replacement
With the salary cap restrictions this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic, bringing back Milano could be difficult and it depends on how much general manager Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott value the depth they have at the position. But this past year, veteran linebacker AJ Klein showed his worth when Milano went down with injuries.
In his first year in Buffalo, he tallied 75 tackles, five tackles for a loss, five sacks, and forced two fumbles. After a rough start to the season, where he was becoming accustomed to a new position, Klein took off.
In Week 9 against the Seattle Seahawks, Klein tallied two sacks, five tackles, and a forced fumble. But Klein really exploded in weeks 10 and 12 against the Arizona Cardinals and Los Angeles Chargers, respectively. He recorded 25 tackles between the two weeks, along with 2.5 sacks and four tackles for a loss while playing over 90-percent of the defensive snaps. If the Bills choose not to bring Milano back, Klein could fill in as a replacement.
Buffalo is Bringing Back LB Andre Smith
Shortly after announcing safety Micah Hyde’s contract extension, the Bills also announced that they had signed linebacker Andre Smith.
This past season he played in 12 games and recorded seven tackles on defense and also tallied one tackle for a loss. He also forced a fumbled and recorded two tackles on special teams, which was where he saw a majority of his snaps. Smith played for the Carolina Panthers for two years, before joining the Bills this past season after playing college ball at North Carolina.