The Bills took care of two members from their quality 2017 draft, extending Tre’Davious White and Dion Dawkins last year. But the other key player from that haul may need to land his second contract elsewhere.
Matt Milano is less than a month from free agency, and John Wawrow of The Associated Press notes the Bills are set to let the linebacker test the market. A 38-game starter in Buffalo in four seasons, Milano profiles as one of the top defenders available. If the Bills do not extend Milano by March 15, he will be free to discuss deals with other teams. Free agency officially begins March 17.
Buffalo still has Josh Allen on his rookie contract, but he is now extension-eligible. The Bills are planning to discuss such a move this offseason. Linebacker Tremaine Edmunds also becoming eligible for a big-ticket extension last month further points Milano to free agency. The Bills also gave A.J. Klein a three-year, $18MM deal in 2020. Milano injuries last season led to an expanded role for Klein.
“We’d love to be able to get Matt back,” GM Brandon Beane said recently. “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.”
As of Saturday, the Bills are $1MM over the projected $180MM salary cap. While the cap has not been established yet, a pandemic-induced reduction from the 2020 number ($198MM) has long been expected. That will make it more difficult for teams to retain certain free agents and force more cap casualties.
Although the franchise tag is available for the Bills, off-ball linebackers are not commonly tagged. Since the tag system groups all linebackers together, the pass-rushing sect of this group raises the position’s tag number and makes it difficult to justify teams tagging traditional ‘backers. The last off-ball ‘backers to be tagged were the Jets’ David Harris and Vikings’ Chad Greenway in 2011.
Milano joins Lavonte David, K.J. Wright and Jayon Brown among linebackers set for free agency. Milano and Brown are still in their mid-20s, with David and Wright respectively set for their age-31 and age-32 seasons. An IR stay limited Milano to 10 games last season. Pro Football Focus graded the former fifth-round pick as a top-30 linebacker in both the 2018 and ’19 seasons, however.
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