Every team relies on rookie deals and cheaper veterans to round out their roster. When they overperform, the team overperforms. The Buffalo Bills are no exception and during the 2019 season they had a solid group of overperforming players.
Number one on our countdown for the second year in a row is linebacker Matt Milano. Milano started 15 games and played in 100% of the snaps in 13 of those games. He was injured in Week 5, missed the sixth game of the season, and was pulled very early in the meaningless season finale. He still played the fifth-most snaps on the defense.
Milano finished the year with nine passes defended (T-2nd on the team), one forced fumble, and one fumble recovery in addition to his 101 tackles (3rd). He also added 1.5 sacks with seven QB hits. In particular, his play in pass coverage has been lauded.
All-in-all, Milano was the 143rd-highest cap hit among linebackers (though that includes pass rushers like Von Miller in addition to the traditional stand-up linebacker) and 77th among outside linebackers (with the same caveat). At just $710,376, he made far less money than most starting linebackers in the league. He was behind teammates Tremaine Edmunds ($2,877,169), Julian Stanford ($1,525,000), and Maurice Alexander ($1 million) and his new teammates A.J. Klein ($5.675 million in New Orleans) and Tyler Matakevich ($735,764 in Pittsburgh). Former Bills LB Nigel Bradham ($4.4475 million), Kiko Alonso ($1,700,000), and Reggie Ragland ($1,246,551) all made more than him. Bobby Wagner led the traditional linebackers with a $15.85 million cap hit in 2019.
Milano leads our list as a Pro Bowl-caliber player who was counted on in multiple situations at a fraction of the cost of other linebackers around the NFL. Tre’Davious White was 59th at CB, at least making starter money in the NFL. At 143rd, Milano wasn’t even among the fourth tier of NFL linebackers (32+32+32+32=128) in terms of salary. He played like he’s in the top two tiers.
Milano is entering his fourth NFL season, which means a year from now he’ll be entering free agency and set to cash in on a large contract near the top of the league. For this season, he’ll be making more money as the league’s CBA incentive-based boosted his compensation to more than $2 million.
Top Ten Bang for the Dollar Bills, 2019
10. G Quinton Spain ($2.5 million)
9. WR Isaiah McKenzie ($645,000)
8. QB Josh Allen ($4.8 million)
7. TE Dawson Knox ($700,545)
6. LB Tremaine Edmunds ($2.9 million)
5. RB Devin Singletary ($754,000)
4. CB Tre’Davious White ($2.75 million)
3. LT Dion Dawkins ($1.14 million)
2. CB Levi Wallace ($570,000)
1. LB Matt Milano ($710,376)