The Buffalo Bills have a total of 24 pending free agents following the conclusion of the 2022 NFL season, and general manager Brandon Beane has his work cut out figuring out who to keep, especially since the team is already $20 million over the cap for next year.
One of the Bills’ most prolific players on an expiring contract is linebacker Tremaine Edmunds. While several analysts believe Buffalo will make re-signing the 24-year-old a priority over safety Jordan Poyer, who turns 32 in April, SI‘s Albert Breer wrote, “My understanding is the Bills have confronted the reality that it’s going to be tough, from a cap standpoint, to hold on to both.”
However, NFL.com‘s Gregg Rosenthal doesn’t believe the decision is that difficult and urged the Bills to let Edmunds “walk” in free agency. “The Bills must add more playmakers around Josh Allen and only have so much cap space and draft currency to do so,” Rosenthal wrote on Tuesday, February 7. “Edmunds was one of the earliest first-round picks made by Sean McDermott’s Bills and he is coming off his best season, but the cost will be prohibitive. Buffalo can’t pay him more than Matt Milano, who is a better player.”
Milano, who earned first-team All-Pro honors this year, signed a four-year, $44 million contract in 2021, and has a base salary of $9.25 million for the 2023 NFL season. The Bills saved approximately $5.17. million in cap space by restructuring the linebacker’s contract last year.
As for Edmunds, the Bills exercised his fifth-year option back in March 2021, which was worth $12.71 million, and 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.
If the Bills wanted to place a franchise tag on Edmunds, it would cost just shy of $21 million for 2023, per WGR 550‘s Sal Capaccio. A franchise stage on Poyer would cost just under $14.5 million.
“Poyer is also a pending free agent and will be a tough negotiation, seeing how Buffalo didn’t provide the extension the Pro Bowl safety desired last offseason,” Rosenthal added. “The Bills need to re-shape their roster and can’t keep spending endlessly on a defense that has come up short too often in the playoffs. The offense needs the work.”
ESPN Ranked Edmunds as the NFL’s No. 17 Top Free Agent Available
If the Bills can’t afford to keep Edmunds, there will be heavy competition to land the two-time Pro Bowler. ESPN‘s Matt Bowen ranked the Virginia Tech alum as the No. 17 best available free agent this offseason.
“The tape shows that Edmunds has improved as a coverage linebacker, with his route awareness and ability to get to depth as a zone defender,” Bowen wrote. “He’s a long, 6-foot-5 linebacker with downhill acceleration against the run and second-level range to track the ball. Edmunds had 66 solo tackles, one interception and one sack this season. He’s young, but the 2018 first-round pick has started 74 games in five seasons. That experience will be attractive for teams looking for an off-ball linebacker this offseason.”
The Athletic named Edmunds as the Bills’ No. 1 top pending free agent, noting Buffalo will “surely will have competition” if they don’t lock him down. “Only turning 25 in May with five years of starting experience and likely five-to-seven prime years remaining, Edmunds is every bit of a premium free agent if he was to hit the open market. He represents everything teams covet at linebacker in today’s NFL, providing sideline-to-sideline ability, excellent coverage skills and effective blitzing. There isn’t a play call where Edmunds is a liability.”
McDermott Saw Edmunds ‘Grow’ as a Leader & Player This Year
After the Bills’ postseason journey came to an abrupt end following their crushing 27-10 loss to the Cincinnati Bengals in the AFC Divisional round on January 22, Tremaine said he would love to stay in Buffalo.
“I care so much about this team. I care so much about this organization… Hopefully, I’m here, I love it here, I love the brothers that I’ve created since I’ve been here, the coaching staff, the community has welcomed me. So hopefully, things will turn out to be in my favor as far as being here,” Tremaine told reporters.
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 Pro Football Focus this past season, a huge jump from the 50.4 overall grade earned in 2021, the 47.9 overall grade in 2020.
“I thought he had his best year,” head coach Sean McDermott said during his end-of-year press conference. “I really believe that I think you saw him grow from a leadership standpoint. You saw him grow from a performance standpoint. And I know he’s just got that attitude that he wants to continue to improve.”
Beane shared a similar sentiment during his press conference. “He’s just been amazing to watch his growth from a 19-year-old. I mean, it’s not like he’s 29, he’s still a kid. He is a young man. But very proud of who he is. And you can just see his maturation… So he’s a big part of our success as well coming in with Josh that year. Like Poyer and many of these other guys, I would love to keep them all and we’ll do our best.”