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Jerry Hughes back with Buffalo Bills? Doug Whaley "highly optimistic"

Jerry Hughes is the Buffalo Bills' top free agent this offseason, and GM Doug Whaley sounds very confident that the team will re-sign him to a long-term deal before free agency begins on March 10.

Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports

Buffalo Bills general manager Doug Whaley says that he is "highly optimistic" that his team will re-sign free agent pass rusher Jerry Hughes before the start of free agency - and it sounds like the team will be paying a whole lot of money to do it.

"Highly optimistic," Whaley said of re-signing Hughes in a Friday morning appearance on The Howard Simon Show. "That’s our goal, and we’ve talked to his representatives, and we’ve exchanged proposals. We’re going to continue to try to get this done sooner rather than later."

When the titular host asked Whaley to clarify his optimism, the GM said: "Just the way the talks have been going, and talking to Jim Overdorf and Russ Brandon, and their conversations they’ve had with their representatives, and the relationship we’ve had with their representatives on some deals we’ve done in the past, makes me feel pretty good that this thing should be able to come to a conclusion in our favor."

Throughout the ongoing negotiation process, Whaley said that the team has felt comfortable that Hughes would like to return to Buffalo, which has helped the negotiations.

"Every indication we got when we talked to him in our exit interviews are that he likes the Buffalo Bills, he likes his situation, and he likes the defense," Whaley said this morning. "And he likes who he’s playing with. He thinks his other line mates elevate his game."

Another factor that has undoubtedly helped in the negotiations: the Bills' willingness to pay Hughes at his market value. If the two sides are able to work out a long-term deal, you can bet that it will cost the franchise a pretty penny, but Whaley explained the team's willingness to invest in him in a Thursday afternoon appearance on The John Murphy Show.

"The way we have to play, we’re going to have to have a strong defense and be able to get after the quarterback, and run the ball," Whaley said Thursday. "So we can invest in that defensive line, because we don’t have a large chunk of our salary cap eaten up by a marquee quarterback. So that affords us the ability to try to keep a Jerry Hughes, and pay him what he’s worth."

If negotiations end up going south, the Bills sound willing to consider the franchise tag on Hughes, but Whaley told Simon on Friday that the team would rather not do that.

"We hope we don’t have to go down that road," Whaley said Friday. "Right now, we’re of the feeling that we can get this thing done, and make sure everybody feels happy about it. You start using that tag, there’s some feelings from the player’s side that, you just don’t want to go down that road, because we want to have a long, healthy relationship."