Matt Milano

Bills To Let Matt Milano Hit Market?

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.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC East Rumors: Watson, Mariota, Allen

Add veteran NFL reporter Tyler Dunne of GoLongTD.com to the list of writers who have heard that Texans QB Deshaun Watson is not budging on his desire to be traded, and that he continues to ignore every call from Houston brass. Of course, Watson has a no-trade clause that he could use to help dictate where he goes — assuming the Texans give in and deal him, which they have insisted they are not going to do — and we recently heard that the 49ers and Broncos are on his destination list.

Dunne’s source indicates that the Dolphins — who have been considered one of the frontrunners for Watson since trade speculation started to swirl — and the Niners are Watson’s top two preferred clubs. In Dunne’s view, a trade to Miami makes too much sense to not happen, and he believes the ‘Fins and Texans could line up on a deal that sends Watson to South Beach in exchange for the No. 3 and No. 18 overall picks in this year’s draft along with Miami’s 2022 first-rounder.

Now for more rumors from the AFC East:

  • Recent reports have indicated that Raiders QB Marcus Mariota is generating legitimate trade interest, and Mike Reiss of ESPN.com believes the Patriots could be in the mix. New England obviously needs a quarterback, and Mariota is attached to a reasonable $10.6MM salary for 2021 and would not cost much to acquire in terms of draft capital. Although he could demand a raise if he is being acquired to serve as a starter, his current salary would not preclude the Pats from continuing to explore other options, like Jimmy Garoppolo — if the the 49ers land a different QB and release Garoppolo — or a collegiate passer.
  • Reiss does not expect the Patriots to make a deal with the division-rival Jets for Gang Green QB Sam Darnold, though what the Jets do with Darnold could certainly have a major impact on New England (for instance, if New York trades Darnold to San Francisco, Garoppolo could become available).
  • The Jets have among the most cap space in the league at just shy of $70MM, and they can easily create even more flexibility, thereby giving them a huge advantage in what could be a buyer’s market given the decreased salary cap. Connor Hughes of The Athletic believes New York will release DE Henry Anderson, which jibes with a report from December. That move will save the club $8.2MM in cap space, and Hughes suggests that guards Greg Van Roten and Alex Lewis might be goners as well (their releases would save $3.4MM and $5.1MM, respectively).
  • Meanwhile the Jets don’t have too many of their own free agents that must be retained. Hughes expects safety Marcus Maye to be re-signed, and he also says OL Pat Elflein — who played well in 2020 after being claimed off waivers from the Vikings — is a logical candidate to return, especially if the team moves on from Van Roten and/or Lewis.
  • Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News does not foresee the Bills laying out major free agent dollars this offseason. Instead, he expects the club to use the majority of its cash on an extension for QB Josh Allen, which means that the Bills will likely allow LB Matt Milano to test the open market — contrary to GM Brandon Beane‘s assertion that a franchise tag could be in play — and will not be in the running for a top pass rusher like Shaquil Barrett or Bud Dupree.

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.

Bills Place LB Matt Milano On IR

Matt Milano missed time earlier this season but returned to play in Buffalo’s previous two games. However, he will be shelved for at least the Bills’ next three.

The Bills placed the fourth-year linebacker on IR Saturday. They had declared Milano out for Sunday’s game against the Seahawks due to a pectoral injury. He did not practice this week.

This is concerning for the Bills due to Milano’s initial injury absences — in Weeks 3 and 4 — coming because of a pec injury. Since returning, Milano has played a part-time role, coming off the bench and playing less than a third of Buffalo’s defensive snaps.

A Bills starter since his rookie year, the former fifth-round pick engaged in extension talks with the team this offseason. Milano, who made 101 tackles last season, has been a quality coverage linebacker for a team that has featured a top-tier pass defense. The Bills’ defense has regressed in his abbreviated season; DVOA places the team’s pass defense 22nd after top-five finishes in 2018 and ’19.

The Bills wrapped up extensions for fellow 2017 draftees Tre’Davious White and Dion Dawkins, leaving Milano in limbo. That raises the stakes for the remainder of his season, should he return from what appears to be a setback.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bills Discussing Extensions With Dion Dawkins, Matt Milano

Still in Josh Allen‘s rookie-contract window, the Bills operated aggressively this offseason by adding Stefon Diggs, Josh Norman and a host of defensive linemen. They are turning their attention to extensions for some of their own players, however.

GM Brandon Beane confirmed Wednesday he has discussed long-term deals for both left tackle Dion Dawkins and linebacker Matt Milano, who share an agent.

Matt and Dion, they have the same representative so that’s a one-call, one-stop shop,” Beane told Steve Tasker during an appearance on One Bills Live (viaNewYorkUpstate.com). “Yeah, definitely have been in contact. You know, I don’t really like to get into negotiations too much, but I’ve definitely been in contact with their representatives giving them timelines of when we would look at things like that.”

Beane hinted at the post-draft offseason period being the window for potential re-ups for Dawkins and Milano. The Bills have an additional year to work on a Tre’Davious White deal, thanks to their 2017 first-rounder having a fifth-year option in his rookie contract.

Dawkins, a 2017 second-round pick, and Milano (a fifth-rounder that year) have been key to Buffalo’s recent rise. Each has been a starter since his rookie season. Milano racked up a career-high 101 tackles last season, and Dawkins rated as a top-30 tackle last season (per Pro Football Focus).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Bills LB Matt Milano Done For Year

Bills linebacker Matt Milano is done for the year, according to head coach head coach Sean McDermott. Milano had surgery for a broken fibula on Monday, which will rule him out for the rest of the regular season and land him on injured reserve. 

Milano, 24, has been a staple of the Bills’ D since entering the league as a fifth-round pick in 2017. This year, he recorded his first sack in a huge upset win over the Vikings and came away with AFC Defensive Player of the Week honors for his performance.

Without Milano, the Bills will likely promote Deon Lacey to the starting lineup, putting him alongside middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds and strong side linebacker Lorenzo Alexander. It’s a thin unit after that, so the Bills are likely to add another LB this week.

The Bills came out of Sunday’s loss to the Jets with a score of injuries, including day-to-day injuries for running backs LeSean McCoy (hamstring) and Chris Ivory (shoulder).

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Patriots Notes: Gordon, Cooks, Gronk

New Patriots wideout Josh Gordon will make his New England debut today, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter (via Twitter). Gordon was inactive for last week’s loss against the Lions, but the Pats are sorely in need of some playmaking ability at the wide receiver position, and Gordon certainly has the potential to give them exactly that.

Let’s take a quick look at a few more notes out of Foxboro as the Patriots get set to take on the Dolphins in what could surprisingly be a pivotal divisional matchup:

  • Speaking of playmaking wideouts, given the disappointing performance of New England’s receiving corps thus far, plenty are wondering whether the Pats were right to trade Brandin Cooks to the Rams in the offseason. When factoring in what the team netted in its trade to acquire Cooks from the Saints in 2017 and the trade that sent him to LA, Doug Kyed of NESN.com believes the Patriots were right to make the move. The Pats ultimately received a year of Cooks, a 2017 third-round pick, the 2018 No. 23 overall pick, and a 2018 sixth-rounder in exchange for another year of Cooks, a 2017 fourth-round pick, the 2017 No. 32 overall pick, and a 2018 fourth-round pick. That represents good value, especially when considering the Pats would have had to pay Cooks $8.5MM this year and might have received a 2020 compensatory third-rounder if they let him walk in free agency (which they almost certainly would have). Plus, New England could not have predicted the Julian Edeleman suspension, so even though the results might indicate the Cooks trade was a bad one with the benefit of hindsight, Kyed believes the process was right.
  • The Patriots have already put nine players on IR since the start of training camp, as Mike Reiss of ESPN.com observes. Reiss points out that the team put just 11 players on IR all of last season, and just four during the 2016 Super Bowl season. Reiss notes that only Rex Burkhead and Duke Dawson are the only two players who could realistically return from IR in 2018.
  • In light of last week’s Rob Gronkowski trade reports, Reiss points out that there had not been much communication between Gronk and the Pats before the star tight end was informed of the potential trade to Detroit. Reiss wonders whether New England really would have pulled the trigger on the deal, or if it simply used the trade as a way to reignite conversations with Gronkowski
  • Reiss also notes that last week’s AFC Defensive Player of the Week, the Bills’ Matt Milano, was drafted by Buffalo with the fifth-rounder it acquired from the Pats when New England signed then-RFA Mike Gillislee. Needless to say, that transaction looks like a big win for the Bills right now.
  • The Patriots cut Gordon’s former Browns teammate, Corey Coleman, from their practice squad yesterday.

Draft Pick Signings: 5/11/17

Thursday has been chock-full of draft signings. Here are the latest rookies to ink deals:

Buffalo Bills

Chicago Bears

  • Round 4 (No. 119): Tarik Cohen, RB (North Carolina A&T)
  • Round 5 (No. 147): Jordan Morgan, OL (Kutztown)

Cleveland Browns

Denver Broncos

  • Round 3 (No. 101): Brendan Langley, CB (Lamar)

Houston Texans

Indianapolis Colts

Jacksonville Jaguars

  • Round 7 (No. 222): Jalen Myrick, CB (Minnesota) [via John Oesher of Jaguars.com, on Twitter]

Tennessee Titans

  • Round 7 (No. 236): Brad Seaton, T (Villanova) [Twitter link via Aaron Wilson of the Houston Chronicle]