clock menu more-arrow no yes

Filed under:

Contract projection for Buffalo Bills linebacker Matt Milano, 2021

In 2020, we predicted a four-year, $54 million contract extension for Matt Milano. That never came. Contract extensions for Dion Dawkins, Jordan Poyer, and Tre’Davious White took precedence and Milano was left out, but now faces pending free agency. What will it cost the Buffalo Bills to extend Milano?

COVID-19, of course, factors into the equation. With salary caps shrinking around the NFL, will Milano be worth as much on the open market as he was before? Teams aren’t flush with cap dollars. It will be interesting if this alters the deal, specifically the length of the contract.

With the linebacker franchise-tag number projected to be around $15.3 million, it’s not out of the realm of possibility that the Bills will tag Milano and then see how the salary cap recovers in 2022. A two-year deal with $15.3 million guaranteed could also be a fun experiment.

Last year, we used Shaq Thompson and Anthony Barr as the benchmarks for a Milano deal. The most significant new deal in the linebacker marketplace is Houston Texans LB Zach Cunningham who signed last offseason. We’re adding him to the list below.


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 coverage skills not quite on the level as Milano. Their first four seasons were very similar.

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.

Zach Cunningham
Houston Texans, 2020
4-year, $58 million contract ($23.5 million guaranteed)

The first two years of the deal are guaranteed, but this was part of an extension. Like Milano, Cunningham has never been to a Pro Bowl and just finished his fourth year in the league. Cunningham has never missed a game, in comparison to the multiple games missed by Milano due to injury, and he has twice as many tackles in his career than Milano. Cunningham isn’t as dynamic as Milano, who has more QB hits and more pass breakups, but a lot of their career numbers are very similar.


Contract projection

With those contracts in mind, I’m starting at $14.5 million per year if I’m Milano’s agent but will come down to $13 million per year in negotiations. Sitting out half of 2020 hurt his value, the COVID-19 cap limits what he can get on the open market, and I’m building in incentives so if he stays fully healthy, he can trigger more money in the future.

You might not believe it, but Milano turns 27 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.

Four-year, $52 million contract ($27.6 million guaranteed)
Four-year, $55.5 million contract with incentives

He gets a hefty amount of guaranteed money up front but the cap hits are relatively low in the first two years before ballooning when the new television deals kick in and hopefully when the COVID salary cap has settled down a bit.

In each season, he will earn $500,000 if he plays 75 percent of the defensive snaps AND add $500,000 to his salary the following year, for the possibility of adding $3.5 million to the total contract.

This isn’t necessarily what I would pay for Milano, but what I think he is worth on the open market or for Buffalo to re-sign.

2021
Signing bonus: $3 million
Workout bonus: $100,000
Salary: $7 million (guaranteed)
Per-game active bonus: Up to $500,000 at $31,250 per game (in a 16-game season)
Playing time bonus: $500,000 if he plays 75 percent of defensive snaps

Cap hit: $10.4125 LTBE

2022
Signing bonus: $3 million
Roster bonus: $1 million (guaranteed)
Workout bonus: $100,000
Salary: $7.6 million (guaranteed)
Possible playing time salary escalator: $500,000
Per-game active bonus: Up to $500,000 at $31,250 per game (in a 16-game season)
Playing time bonus: $500,000 if he plays 75 percent of defensive snaps

Cap hit: $11.7 million plus LTBE incentives

2023
Signing bonus: $3 million
Roster bonus: $1 million
Workout bonus: $100,000
Salary: $9.5 million
Possible playing time salary escalator: $500,000
Per-game active bonus: Up to $500,000 at $31,250 per game (in a 16-game season)
Playing time bonus: $500,000 if he plays 75 percent of defensive snaps

Cap hit: $13.6 million plus LTBE incentives
Dead cap if cut: $6 million
Cap savings if cut: $7.6 million

2024
Signing bonus: $3 million
Roster bonus: $1 million
Workout bonus: $100,000
Salary: $10.5 million
Possible playing time salary escalator: $500,000
Per-game active bonus: Up to $500,000 at $31,250 per game (in a 16-game season)
Playing time bonus: $500,000 if he plays 75 percent of defensive snaps

Cap hit: $14.6 million plus LTBE incentives
Dead cap if cut: $3 million
Cap savings if cut: $11.6 million

Next read