Amid the flurry of moves being made after the NFL’s free agency negotiations period officially opened on Monday, March 13, the Chicago Bears made a huge splash by snatching up the Buffalo Bills most prolific free agent, linebacker Tremaine Edmunds.
Following the conclusion of the 2022 NFL season, signs pointed toward the Bills prioritizing keeping Edmunds over fellow pending free agent, safety Jordan Poyer, but ESPN’s Adam Schefter poured cold water on that narrative during an appearance on NFL Live last week, noting how he didn’t expect either player to remain in Buffalo, and the league’s top insider looks to be correct in his prediction.
Based on the record-breaking contract the Bears offered Edmunds, the Bills were priced out from making a competitive offer. Schefter tweeted, “Bears are giving former Bills’ LB Tremaine Edmunds a 4-yr, $72M that includes $50M guaranteed, per source. It is the largest 4-year contract for an inside linebacker in the NFL.”
While it’s not clear where Poyer, 31, will end up next season, he was thrilled to see Edmunds get the bag. The All-Pro safety shared the news on his Instagram Stories and wrote, “Yessirr!” with three fire emojis.
For Bears fans and analysts, learning they were getting Edmunds after general manager Ryan Poles had already snagged linebacker T.J. Edwards from the Eagles — they were ecstatic. One man tweeted, “TREMAINE EDMUNDS WELCOME TO THE CHICAGO BEARS ‼️ WHAT A SPLASH By Ryan Poles!!! OMG!! LETS. POLES COOOOOOK 👨🍳😤,” while ESPN insider Field Yates applauded the signing.
Yates tweeted, “New Bears LB Tremaine Edmunds is built for today’s NFL and to play for a Matt Eberflus defense: he’s got awesome athletic ability to play sideline-to-sideline and more than hold his own in pass coverage. And despite already being in the NFL for 5 seasons, he’s just 24 years [old]…”
Fox Sports anlyst Carmen Vitali tweeted, “Honestly love the Tremaine Edmunds signing for the Bears. They ended up paying about the same as they would have for Roquan Smith but by trading Smith and getting a younger player, they ended up with a second-round pick, too. Poles is playing chess,” and WC Gridiron’s Jacob Infate agreed. “It’s a lot of money for a LB, but still cheaper than Roquan, and Edmunds will be just 25 years old in May,” Infante tweeted. “Massive upgrade adding a 2-time Pro Bowler to the defense.”
Bills Analysts Were Not Surprised By Edmunds Exit Following Matt Milano’s Extension
Edmunds’ departure would’ve come as a much bigger surprise if the Bills hadn’t pre-emptively extended linebacker Matt Milano on Sunday. The Athletic’s Joe Buscaglia called this a “significant sign” that the Bills were “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, the price was far from right, as Edmunds received the high end of what his market value projected. Syracuse.com’s Matt Parrino tweeted, “$18 million per season always felt like too rich for the #Bills. You hate to see a talented player like Edmunds move on but I’m not sure how Buffalo could stomach that number. Tough situation,” while 13WHAM’s sports anchor Dan Fetes believes the team could’ve made the money work if they were committed to keeping their former first-round pick from the 2018 NFL Draft.
Fetes tweeted, “If the Bills WANTED to sign Tremaine Edmunds THEY COULD. They didn’t want to spend/think he was worth that much money… it’s not about the cap here. It’s about what a team values a player AT.”
While Edmunds 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 Bills Re-Signed Cam Lewis After Edmunds’ Deal was Announced
While Bills head coach Sean McDermott told reporters while speaking at the NFL Combine last month that you can “never replace a person or player like a Tremaine Edmunds,” that’s exactly what Buffalo will need to do. In addition to locking down Milano, the Bills announced they were securing Cam Lewis just second after Edmunds’ new deal was announced.
Several analysts were quick to point out Lewis’ new position in the announcement. ESPN’s Alaina Getzenberg tweeted, “The Bills have signed Cam Lewis to a one-year deal. He was a restricted free agent. Bills officially announce him as a cornerback after he spent time at safety last year, but primarily played special teams.” Lewis, 25, recorded a career-high 11 special teams tackles last season.