Matt Milano could’ve tested the free agency market this offseason and as one of the top free agent linebackers available and he could’ve cashed in.
But, the Buffalo Bills linebacker chose to stay in Buffalo. He wanted to stay in Buffalo. And now the Bills have Milano for the next four years.
For the past four years, Milano has been a mainstay in the Bills defense since they drafted him in the fifth round in the 2017 NFL Draft, which was head coach Sean McDermott’s first with the organization. He was set to cash in this offseason too and according to Spotrac.com, he had a market value of $13.8 million.
But, Milano made staying in Buffalo his first priority, and his whole mindset leading up to Thursday’s decision was just that.
“Basically I just told my agent that I love Buffalo, I want to be in Buffalo and I love what they got going on there, so let’s see if we can make something happen,” Milano said during a video conference call with media on Friday. “I think that’s what we did. It was a fair deal for both sides. The culture that is brewing there right now is unreal and we got a little taste of it last year and the past four years. It’s something that I want to be a part of and something that I want to continue for the next four years.”
Milano ended up signing a 4-year, $44 million deal on Thursday, which will keep him in Buffalo through the 2024 season and it’s somewhat of a team-friendly deal as well. According to Sal Capacio from WGR550, Milano’s deal is backloaded and his base salary is only set to be $5.3 million in 2021, compared to $7.5 in 2022, $9.25 in 2023, and $9.55 in 2024.
So, with a $7 million signing bonus, Milano’s cap hit will only be around $7 million this season, which is crucial after the NFL salary cap was set at $182.5 million, according to Adam Schefter.
The culture that is brewing in Buffalo wasn’t the only reason that Milano wanted to stay either.
Follow the Heavy on Bills Facebook page for the latest breaking news, rumors, and content!
Milano Felt Loyal to the Bills
The Bills were the first team to give Milano his shot back in 2017 when they drafted him with 163rd pick. He went on to start in five games that season and played in all 16 while recording 49 tackles, an interception, and seven tackles for a loss.
So, Milano valued that opportunity when it came to returning to Buffalo and the relationships he’s built with the Bills organization.
“The Pegulas, McDermott being they all believed in me from the beginning and giving me that opportunity from the jump meant a lot to me and I just couldn’t pass that over,” Milano said. “I built a great relationship with everyone in Buffalo and I just want to continue to do that. We’re on a winning team, the trajectory is going up, so it’s all positive things there so I’m just happy to be a part of it.”
After getting that opportunity as a rookie, Milano started all 13 games he played in in 2018. He tallied 78 tackles and three interceptions while also recording seven pass deflections and three fumble recoveries. Milano added a sack and 12 tackles for a loss as well.
2019 might’ve been his best year yet though as he recorded 101 tackles, 1.5 sacks, seven tackles for a loss, and nine pass deflections. This past year, Milano had an injury-riddled season and only played in 10 games, but he tallied a career-high 3.5 sacks and 45 total tackles.
He Wants to Finish What The Bills Started
Along with staying loyal to the Bills, Milano wants to finish what he started with them. He is a part of a small group of Bills that have stuck around since McDermott took over in 2017 and orchestrated that first draft. Micah Hyde, Tredavious White, Jordan Poyer, and Dion Dawkins are just a few others that are a part of that group.
When Milano thought of that and the growth that the Bills have undergone the past few years, especially with the season they had this past year, Milano wanted to see it through to the end and couldn’t imagine going through that again anywhere else.
“We kinda started it out that year and I think Micah kinda mentioned it in his interviews as well but I just kinda wanna see it through to the finish line,” Milano said. “I’m not guaranteeing anything, but to see where we were last year and how close we came. To be on the other side of that somewhere else and to see that happen again I didn’t want that to happen. So, I’m glad I have that chance again for the next four years.”
After going 9-7 in 2017 and making the playoffs for the first time in 17 years, the Bills went 13-3 this past year and made the AFC Championship for the first time since 1993. Now, general manager Brandon Beane is bringing back the core group of Bills to try and make another run at it.