On Wednesday and Thursday, Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott took questions from the media assembled at the 2018 NFL Combine. Most of it wasn’t about draft picks, though, as the attention turned mostly towards Buffalo’s complete offseason plan, including the possibility of re-signing uber-productive linebacker Preston Brown.
The takeaway from McDermott and Beane? That the lines of communication remain open and the team is “very interested” in re-signing the linebacker, and that Brown would be welcomed back to aid Buffalo’s 4-3 defense but only at the right price. We projected a hefty contract for Brown last month.
“He’s earned the right to be a free agent,” Beane told WGR 550 in Buffalo Thursday morning. “He’s going to do his due diligence and see what his value is. Hopefully we can come to something that is fair for us both.”
Brown, a middle linebacker, not only led the Bills in total tackles in 2017 (144), he led the entire NFL in combined stops during the regular season. Brown, 25, came up with 84 solo tackles, with many of those tackles occurring down field.
Brown earned an overall grade of average (71.6) from Pro Football Focus, grading out as the 42nd-best linebacker in the league. Brown is one of Buffalo’s 16 unrestricted free agents, and he can either re-sign with the Bills or he can test out free agency.
“Preston is a good player, and it was good for me to get with Preston this past season and have him control our defense,” McDermott said of Brown. “He really did some nice things. The production is well documented and like many of our situations, these things will work themselves out. Preston was a big part of our defense in the middle for us, controlling what we did up front.”
"Preston was a big part of our defense in the middle for us, controlling what we did up front."— Jon Scott (@JonScottTV) February 28, 2018
Sean McDermott weighs in our UFA Preston Brown, saying things like this will work themselves out. #Bills #NFLCombine. pic.twitter.com/OQjMTePY6C
As a middle linebacker, Brown showed in 2017 that he lacks the speed to keep up in man coverage. His abilities in the run game are below-average, too, as he seems to lack the athleticism and instincts to make big plays in front of him.
Speaking of linebackers, McDermott commended Matt Milano for his versatility and ability to play and succeed at the different linebacker positions. Speculating on where Milano would line up in 2018, McDermott started with the outside linebacker position and said Milano could definitely step up and take over for Brown should he depart for another team.
Milano made a name for himself on the weak side after a solid rookie campaign that saw him appear in 16 games (five starts) with 49 tackles (32 solo).
McDermott also expressed confidence that Tanner Vallejo, who appeared in 15 games and made four total tackles, could step up and contribute more at linebacker next year, too.
“Matt has position flexibility. He’s focused mostly outside. But we’ve got some other guys there, Tanner Vallejo being one of them, that we’re confident in as well. Preston is a good player. But we also have some other players there as well,” McDermott said.