Bills find way to re-sign Matt Milano to four-year deal worth $44 million

Sal Maiorana
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
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Brandon Beane and Sean McDermott have both been saying since the moment they arrived in Buffalo in 2017 that their goal was to get the Bills to the point where they could draft their players, develop them, and then re-sign them to a second contract.

That is what they have done with one of their most important defensive players, linebacker Matt Milano. 

Milano agreed Thursday to a four-year, $44 million deal that includes $24 million in guaranteed money to stay with the Bills, something that came as a surprise because it didn’t seem possible that the Bills could find enough money to keep him.

“It came down to the Pegulas, McDermott, and Beane believing in me from the jump,” Milano said Friday during a Zoom call with reporters.“I told my agent I love Buffalo and want to be in Buffalo. I love what they have going on there. I just couldn’t see myself anywhere else right now. Especially after what we’ve been building the last few years.”

At his season-ending Zoom conference with reporters, McDermott was asked about the difficulty of keeping the Bills on an ascending path after having reached the AFC Championship Game.

“It is tough to stay there,” he said. “Staying power and sustained success, we've had some of it but there's always challenges every year and they're different every year. I think it starts with the mentality of trying to keep as much of the pieces of our team together as possible. I know Brandon is going to do a great job and his staff with that. 

Bills linebacker Matt Milano zeros in on Colts running back Jonathan Taylor.

“Teams that can put the team first and continue to put the team first are teams that will stay together and win year after year. You see teams doing that and there's a reason they're able to do that.”

Clearly, Milano bought into that philosophy because he probably could have gone into the free agent market and made a little more money. Instead, he wanted to stay put because he likes how he fits into the Bills’ future and believes they are on the precipice of becoming a perennial Super Bowl contender.

When he spoke to reporters at the end of the season, Beane sounded almost resigned to the fact that he wouldn’t be able to keep Milano given the reduction in the NFL’s salary cap which everyone knew was coming.

“Matt is a very good player,” Beane said. “What a great job he’s done since he came in here to improve from 2017 to now. His biggest thing is playing 16 games. That will be the first thing he’ll tell you. He had some nicks here and there. It’s just finding that balance. We’d love to be able to get Matt back. 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.”

However, when the salary cap floor was announced Wednesday at $183.2 million – the Bills’ adjust cap was $188.3 million – Beane began to pull levers to get Milano back into the fold.

He cut John Brown and Quinton Jefferson to free up $14.4 million, and asked Mitch Morse and Vernon Butler to take pay cuts, which they did. That got Beane to the point where the Milano deal could be consummated.

Milano, the Bills’ fifth-round pick in the 2017 NFL Draft, has been an integral member of the Bills defense since he broke into the starting lineup about one-third of the way into his rookie season. 

His all-around ability to defend against the run and pass, plus be an occasional blitzer, has belied his draft status and has made him a veritable steal.

The only hitch has been his health. He has missed nine games in his four years, plus has played numerous other games while nursing injuries and wasn’t 100 percent.

In 2020 he missed five full games and started only six which resulted in him making only 44 tackles. Of course, he also had a career-high 3.5 sacks as defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier utilized him late in the season on blitzes. Milano also made an interception in the season-opener against the Jets.

For his career, Milano has played in 55 games and made 265 tackles including 26 for lost yardage, 6 sacks, 5 interceptions, 22 pass breakups, one forced fumble and five fumble recoveries.

Sal Maiorana can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @salmaiorana. 

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