One of the biggest questions for the Buffalo Bills, when the offseason begins, will be whether or not to re-sign inside linebacker Tremaine Edmunds. That decision was made all the more complicated on Tuesday when the Baltimore Ravens locked up their own linebacker, Roquan Smith, on a five-year $100 million extension.
With Smith’s new contract, the most lucrative ever signed by a linebacker, setting the market before the offseason even truly begins, the Bills will be forced to re-examine whether or not they can afford to bring Edmunds back next season.
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At just 24 years old, Edmunds is already in his fifth season in the NFL after being drafted 16th overall by the Buffalo Bills in 2018 (the same draft where they took Josh Allen). Despite putting up gaudy tackle numbers in his first four seasons, Buffalo remained hesitant to sign Edmunds to a long-term extension due to questions about his coverage skills and his ability to shed blocks. Instead, they picked up his fifth-year option at $12.7 million and let him play out the season.
The linebacker responded with his best season since his rookie year in 2018. He posted 102 tackles, five tackles for a loss, and one sack while registering seven passes defended.
Edmunds remains younger than some rookies who will be drafted this year and his combination of youth, experience, and size makes you dream of the possibilities. His long arms make him an imposing presence over the middle of the field and he has shown the ability to continue to improve his game.
Given Matt Milano’s prowess as a cover linebacker, Edmunds’ abilities as a run stopper and speed in pursuit make them a perfect pairing. Even if Edmunds is not the cover linebacker that Milano is, he is a sure tackler and covers ground in a hurry, keeping plays in front of him in the middle of the field.
He also plays a vital role as a captain of the defense, so when he missed two games this season with a groin injury, the Buffalo defense took a real step back.
However, it may not be as simple as if the Bills want to keep Edmunds. Coming into this season, he had the highest base salary of any inside linebacker. While Roquan Smith is technically an off-ball linebacker, his making $20 million per season will certainly impact how much Edmunds can expect to get, even if Smith had 67 more tackles and 3.5 more sacks on the year than his younger counterpart.
Since Buffalo recently signed Matt Milano to a four-year, $41.5 million contract and also ranks 4th in 2023 defensive line spending, accounting for $50.8 million of next year’s salary cap space, re-signing Edmunds would be a tremendous amount of money dedicated to the front seven.
That also doesn’t include the four-year, $69 million extension recently signed by cornerback Tre’Davious White, the four-year $58.3 million contract signed by left tackle Dion Dawkins, the four-year $96 million extension for wide receiver Stefon Diggs, and the six-year $258 million contract for quarterback Josh Allen.
Buffalo General Manager Brandon Beane has been lauded for his creativity when it comes to contract structuring, which has enabled the Bills to field a Super Bowl-caliber roster just a few years after being in salary cap hell. However, being able to bring back Tremaine Edmunds and still field a deep and talented roster may be his toughest test yet.