In 2021, the Buffalo Bills we be forced to make a decision regarding Tremaine Edmunds, the young linebacker drafted to be the “quarterback of the defense.” More specifically, Buffalo will have the option to exercise the fifth year of Edmunds’s rookie contract as he was selected in the first round. How likely is that to occur?
To kick things off, it’s important to note that general manager Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott have already had to make some tough decisions on whether or not to retain players, including a fifth-year option for Shaq Lawson. Time and again, they’ve demonstrated that they’re willing to stick to their guns on their valuation of a player. Simply put, they’d love to keep ya, but the price has gotta be right.
For Edmunds, the cost of the fifth-year option would be the average of the third through 25th-highest contracts at the position. While this would be a huge jump for Edmunds, it’ll be quite a bit cheaper than trying to find a top-end replacement. That just leaves the question of whether or not his play matches the contract.
We could go the stat route and discuss the 146 solo tackles or 236 combined in two years. Or perhaps the three interceptions and 21 passes defended. We could toss in that he’s played in 32 of 33 possible games since he’s been in Western New York. Or that he’s played around 95% of the defense’s total snaps in his two years. And all of that is good stuff, but as we saw with Preston Brown’s tenure on the Bills, raw stats can be misleading for a linebacker.
Let’s add the eye test. It’s true that Edmunds has found himself out of position a number of times. Importantly, these instances are already decreasing. An athletically gifted player and imposing presence to begin with, Edmunds has shown steady improvement in two years. Lest we forget how young he is, Tremaine Edmunds is only about five months older than this year’s top pick, A.J. Epenesa. Finally, here’s an eye test we can all do right now. Scan the picture below for something that Edmunds is wearing that’s not part of the team’s color scheme.
Did you find the little green sticker? That small dot on his helmet is critical to the argument. That sticker means his helmet is the one with the speaker in it. When the coaching staff calls in the play it’s to Edmunds. From there, it’s his job to communicate and get the defense ready to go.
Per league rules, in order to exercise the fifth-year option, the team must inform the player after the last regular season game of his third season (the 2020 season in Edmunds’s case) and before May 3rd of the following league year. If I’m the Buffalo Bills, I’m informing Tremaine Edmunds that we’re exercising the option before he has time to change into street clothes in Week 17 of this season. Edmunds began his career at starter level and has only gone up from there. His literal and metaphorical large shoulders have been large enough to handle a high level of responsibility in an elite defense. A cost-controlled fifth year is a no-brainer.