clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Contract projection for Buffalo Bills linebacker Matt Milano

New, comments

That’s a lot of money.

The Buffalo Bills selected linebacker Matt Milano in the fifth round of the 2017 NFL Draft along with first-round cornerback Tre’Davious White and second-round offensive tackle Dion Dawkins to give the team a trio of young, solid contributors. Now all of them are coming up for contracts.

The wait on a collective bargaining agreement has likely stifled contract negotiations between the team and Milano, but soon the two sides will need to get together on a contract and hopefully before free agency opens. That way, the Bills will have a concept of what they have left to spend after handing out three or four potentially impactful contract extensions.

For Milano, he may be a minimalist but he’s made less than $1.9 million on his rookie deal. It would be a nice time to fatten up those coffers with a big signing bonus as a reward for the hard work of getting to the NFL and achieving a level of success. That could be some motivation, especially at a career with an ever-shrinking shelf life.

Note: The “30% rule” is still in effect for every year of Milano’s deal, so his total compensation can’t jump more than 30% from one year to the next (Article 13, section 7 of the CBA). For the 30% rule, that means any compensation that’s not signing bonus (Article 13, section 4a of the CBA).

Comparable contracts

Shaq Thompson
Carolina Panthers, 2019
4-year, $54.433 million contract extension ($27.525 million guaranteed)
5 years, $61.958 million total

Thompson had four seasons where he missed two games each year before signing his massive deal, so he also has injury concerns like Milano. They play a similar coverage linebacker role, too, with Thompson’s nine passes defended in his first four seasons and one interception (both lower numbers than Milano). He’s averaged 61.75 tackles per season, but that shot up in 2019. Add in an average of four quarterbak hits in his first four years, and Milano actually beats Thompson in every statistical category. There’s no way I take less money than Thompson if I’m Milano.

Anthony Barr
Minnesota Vikings, 2019
5-year, $67.5 million contract ($15.9 million guaranteed)
$10 million in incentives possible

Barr had Pro Bowls on his resume, something Milano can’t claim. The most tackles he had in a season before his contract extension was 75, while Milano had 78 in 2018 and 101 in 2019. Barr only had one interception and 22 passes defended in five seasons before signing, numbers Milano has already obliterated (four INTs) or just about passed in only four seasons (he’s at 19 passes defended). Milano has surpassed Barr in virtually every metric except sacks.

Contract projection

With those contracts in mind, I’m starting at $14 million per year if I’m Milano’s agent but will come down to match the $13.6 per year to match Thompson’s deal. Only a handful of All-Pro and Pro Bowl linebackers are ahead of Milano in terms of average annual salary and they generate a better pass rush, call the defense, and can have a bigger impact.

Knowing that their linebacker tandem is just about to enter their prime and play a ton of snaps, I want to lock this down because it’s so important to the Sean McDermott defense. Milano played the fifth-most snaps on the defense in 2019 and played 100% of the snaps in 13 of the 15 games the starters played.

Milano turns 26 this offseason, so I’m giving him a four-year extension to take him all the way to 31, but he may not see the end of it. I’m going to give myself outs later.

Four-year, $55 million extension ($23.144 million guaranteed)
Five years, $57.144 million total

Both sides could say they won; Milano beats Thompson and Barr in new-money average while the Bills get a better five-year total deal than either of those players signed. The hefty 2020 roster bonus is designed to up the compensation in the Final League Year of the CBA (2020) in order to set a solid base line of “Salary” for the 30% rule. (The remaining years stay well under the 30% raise after this.)

Guaranteed money is signing bonus ($7 million) plus a 2020 roster bonus ($8 million) plus his 2020 base salary ($2.144 million) and his 2021 base salary ($6 million). Altogether, that’s $23.144 million.

I did add per-game active bonuses because of Milano’s injury history. Those would bump up by $31,250 if the NFL moves to a 17-game season as it’s looking like. Those are already in plenty of contracts as it stands and base salaries are set to bump up by 1/16th, as well, under the proposed CBA.

The Bills have shown a propensity to build in $100,000 workout bonuses into every offseason of veteran contracts, so I worked them in here.

2020
Pro-rated rookie signing bonus: $65,378
New signing bonus: $1.4 million
Roster bonus: $8 million (guaranteed)
New workout bonus: $100,000
Salary: $2.144 million (now guaranteed)

2020 “30% rule” actual compensation: $10.244 million (roster bonus+salary+workout bonus)

Cap hit: $11.7 million

2021
Signing bonus: $1.4 million
Roster bonus: $500,000 (guaranteed)
Workout bonus: $100,000
Salary: $8 million (guaranteed)
Per-game active bonus: Up to $500,000 at $31,250 per game (in a 16-game season)

2021 “30% rule” max compensation: $13.3172 million
2021 “30% rule” actual compensation: $9.1 million (roster bonus+salary+game bonus)

Cap hit: $10.5 million

2022
Signing bonus: $1.4 million
Roster bonus: $500,000
Workout bonus: $100,000
Salary: $8.5 million
Per-game active bonus: Up to $500,000 at $31,250 per game (in a 16-game season)

Cap hit: $ 11 million
Dead cap if cut: $4.2 million
Cap savings if cut: $6.8 million

2023
Signing bonus: $1.4 million
Roster bonus: $500,000
Workout bonus: $100,000
Salary: $9 million
Per-game active bonus: Up to $500,000 at $31,250 per game (in a 16-game season)

Cap hit: $11.5 million
Dead cap if cut: $2.8 million
Cap savings if cut: $8.7 million

2024
Signing bonus: $1.4 million
Roster bonus $1 million
Workout bonus: $100,000
Salary: $9.5 million
Per-game active bonus: Up to $500,000 at $31,250 per game (in a 16-game season)

Cap hit: $12.5 million
Dead cap if cut: $1.4 million
Cap savings if cut: $11.1 million