11:37am: Rand Getlin of The NFL Network tweets that it is a two-year extension for Robey, though no financial details are available at this time. Getlin writes that the team wanted to reward Robey for his contributions.
Robey was signed as an undrafted free agent out of USC in 2013 and was therefore eligible to receive an extension after just two years in the league (draftees must wait at least three years). As his name suggests, Robey has served as the team’s primary nickel cornerback over the course of the past two years, and he has appeared in each of the Bills’ 32 games during that time. He has recorded 86 tackles, four sacks, one forced fumble, and one interception (which he returned for a touchdown) in his brief but promising career.
He was particularly good in his rookie campaign, when he graded out as the 27th-best corner out of 110 eligible players per Pro Football Focus’ advanced metrics (subscription required). Although he fell to the 89th-best corner out of 108 eligible players in 2014, he still led the team with 10 passes defensed, and the defensive scheme the Bills plan to implement under new head coach Rex Ryan this year is more similar to the one in which Robey excelled in 2013. As Robey said, “Last year I was more just coverage basically and softer coverage too. I didn’t get to do everything that I wanted to do as far as being aggressive and being able to play like I really wanted to play. This year Rex is allowing me to do that. I’m playing a lot more aggressive coverages, but most of all doing a lot more blitzing. I love it” (via Chris Brown of BuffaloBills.com).
GM Doug Whaley apparently agrees. Whaley said of his young corner: “Under the tutelage of Rex Ryan and his coaching staff, we believe Nickell will continue to develop and make significant contributions within this defense. Our philosophy is to continue to reward our players. Signing Nickell to an extension is an example of of this organization making a commitment to that plan” (Twitter link to Buscaglia).
Most pundits agree that Robey is primed for a breakout season, and by signing him to an extension now, one year before he is eligible for free agency, the Bills may have gotten themselves a bargain.