Could Bills Franchise LB Matt Milano?

Linebacker Matt Milano should be one of the top free agents available at his position…if he makes it that far. While speaking to reporters last week, Bills general manager Brandon Beane “did not rule out using the franchise tag” on the 26-year-old (per Jourdon LaBarber of the team’s website).

“We’d love to be able to get Matt back,” Beane added. “He knows that. I shared that with him and I’m sure Sean has as well. The business side matters. He wants to and he’s earned the right to go to free agency and see what his market bears.

“We’ll do our best to retain him and as many guys as we can. We just don’t even know the numbers yet and what it’s going to be. There’s going to be some tough decisions unfortunately for us, whether it’s letting guys go on this roster or having to watch guys leave.”

Matthew Fairburn of The Athletic adds some additional context, noting that the franchise tag would be a realistic option if the two sides can’t agree to a long-term pact. However, considering the expected $15MM franchise price for linebackers, Buffalo would likely have to cut a few players to retain financial flexibility. Sheil Kapadia and Aaron Reiss of The Athletic agree with the franchise-tag sentiment, noting that a Milano tag would be similar to last offseason when the Patriots and Vikings surprised many by franchising guard Joe Thuney and safety Anthony Harris, respectively.

A 2017 fifth-round pick, Milano has spent his entire career with the Bills, including a 2019 campaign where he compiled career-highs in games started (15) and tackles (101). He was limited to only 10 games (five starts) in 2020 due to a pectoral injury, but he still managed to compile 45 tackles and 3.5 sacks. He started each of the Bills’ three playoff games, collecting an additional 25 tackles.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

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12 comments on “Could Bills Franchise LB Matt Milano?

  1. mstockw1

    Bills also need to re-sign Daryl Williams starting RT, Jon Feliciano starting RG, and starting LG Ike Boettger (Who’s an RFA). Then the Allen extension possibility… I’m assuming Butler, Jefferson, Matakevich, and even possibly John Brown become cap casualties. Jerry Hughes is a good candidate for restructuring, maybe AJ Klein too, then the decreased cap next year… Buffalo may not be able to afford a FT on Milano.

    • downeysoft42

      Yeah when you got multiple guys ready like this you simply gotta prioritize. I personally think you need to prioritize the o line. You still have some help at lb with Edmonds, you can’t replace o line continuity as easily. Have those guys together for multiple years together and their good to go.

      • mstockw1

        Agreed. There’s some good LBs in the draft, I think. While I’d be thrilled to retain Milano I just don’t know how feasible it is.

        • Ak185

          Milano is arguably the highest defensive priority for Buffalo right now, though. Feliciano is likely a higher overall priority, but I don’t know who else would be higher on their list. Williams has been good and Buffalo has had trouble at the tackle spot, but I doubt that at Williams’ age with injury questions that he should edge out a very good cover linebacker in Milano.

          • mstockw1

            Ak185,

            We agree on Jon for sure. His ability to seamlessly transition to Center is huge, especially with Morse’ injury history. That said, I think Daryl Williams should be a higher priority than Milano. We need to keep Allen as protected as possible, he’s the one who will have a greater impact on the win/loss column. There are LB options that are plug and play and should be available at 30 in the draft to cheaply replace Matt. Milano is awesome, but the decrease in cap will force some tough decisions. At his age, Milano probably also knows this is his one shot at the big contract, I don’t think he will waste it.

            • Ak185

              The position at RT I think is more valuable, I can agree there. To me though it’s more of a question about the specific player in Daryl Williams. Williams has been very good in spurts, but has followed those good years up with injury years in his career. He was about to be extended by the Panthers before hurting himself, and his play upon returning did not measure up to his play previously. He was good again this year, and I do believe that’s the player he naturally is.

              Milano’s age (two years younger than Williams), combined with his skillset is really what makes me think that he could be the second priority after Feliciano. He has been an important part of the defense for the last few years, and I think replacing him is do-able, but not as ideal. Williams is good, and he’s not very old, just older than Milano, who was also a homegrown drafted. I think that the Bills could get more years out of him than Williams at the end of the day.

  2. jyosuckas

    Bills fan here, he’s often injured and while he showed coverage skills against LB’s in previous seasons, this was not one. A reason Buffalo isn’t playing in the Big Dance this weekend is because of Milano not stopping Kelce. I personally don’t want him back. Keep in Mind Beane also praised and said he would like to bring back Shaq Lawson and Jordan Phillips, they both played elsewhere this season

    • Ak185

      If you’re going to judge a linebacker on his ability to stop Travis Kelce in coverage, you’re going to be looking a long time for linebackers.

      Of course, I’m also not sure how Milano is supposed to demonstrate coverage skills guarding other linebackers, but he’s been mostly good at a rare skill position today (the cover linebacker). He is also reasonably young. I get maybe losing a player due to cap considerations, but not wanting him back at all is silly.

      • hersch

        I’d also let him go. Overrated and not worth the $15M. It’s not about stopping Kelce but if he had slowed him down even a little bit then I’d consider keeping him. Draft another cover LB that will give you a better chance against Kelce for next time cause the Chiefs aren’t going anywhere.

        • Patrick N.

          Nobody can cover or slow down Kelce. Dude is a freak athlete. Cleveland pit Ward and Harrison on him and he snapped Wards ankles on a juke and made Harrison look even worse. And those dudes are paid to cover

  3. Azbillsfan

    i agree with jyosucks .. the bills got a great return on a fifth rd pick, that was selected to help on special teams. his health has always been an issue , even in college. although he hasn’t missed alot of games other than this year, he played hurt a ton in both 2018 and 2019.. In both years new england took advantage of his hamstring issues. I also believe his coverage skills have deteriorated.. not just against kelce, but he almost single handly lost the game against the colts the week before, i counted four blown coverages and three missed tackles. spend the $ retaining O-line, and draft the best coverage lb available.. or find a way to get Dupree

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