While the New England Patriots took a major step back without Tom Brady under center, the Buffalo Bills made a significant leap in the third year of the Josh Allen era. Of course, that shouldn’t have been a total surprise given the multitude of smart moves Brandon Beane has made since he became the team’s general manager.
But just before the 44-year-old landed the promotion of a lifetime, the Bills invested in their future by selecting six players in the 2017 NFL draft. And by locking up a third member of that franchise-altering draft class to a long-term deal, Buffalo has now committed $173 million to continue reaping the rewards of an investment that didn’t cost nearly as much.
The Bills captured their first division title since 1995 thanks in large part to their recent success in the NFL draft
As much as Stefon Diggs made a difference on Sundays, he didn’t join a team devoid of talent. Rather, the former Minnesota Vikings star represented the missing piece to a puzzle that began taking shape well before his arrival.
Thanks to their strong work in the NFL draft, the Bills have put together a rock-solid roster that now boasts legitimate star power. And in 2020, many of their top contributors (outside of Stefon Diggs) fell into the “homegrown” category.
Josh Allen quieted his critics by setting career-highs with 4,544 passing yards and 37 touchdowns while earning second-team All-Pro honors.
Devin Singletary and Zack Moss, who arrived as third-round picks in back-to-back drafts, combined for 1,168 rushing yards, 364 receiving yards, and seven total touchdowns.
Even first-year wideout Gabriel Davis made his presence known. The rookie fourth-round pick finished third on the team with 599 receiving yards.
On defense, Buffalo also received big-time production from homegrown talent. Tre’Davious White earned Pro Bowl honors for the second straight year after he recorded three interceptions and 11 passes defended. Fellow former first-round pick Tremaine Edmunds totaled 119 tackles, which ranked second on the team.
Plus, recent draftees like Ed Oliver, Taron Johnson, and Levi Wallace all played key roles for a Bills team that went 13-3, won a division title for the first time in 15 years, and made it all the way to the AFC championship.
Buffalo locks up linebacker Matt Milano to a lucrative contract
There are many ways to build a Super Bowl-caliber roster. But smart teams sustain success by drafting and developing well. And in the case of the Bills, they have consistently found future starters via the NFL draft under Brandon Beane’s watch.
Ironically, though, right before the Bills invested in Beane’s future, they found some cornerstone players who have helped form the foundation of their football team. And on Thursday, the reigning AFC East champions ensured a third member of their 2017 draft class will remain a part of their future for years to come.
ESPN’s Adam Schefter first reported via Twitter that linebacker Matt Milano will stay in Buffalo on a four-year, $44 million contract that includes $24 million guaranteed. The former fifth-round pick has shown the ability to make an impact in a number of ways during his 54-game NFL career.
However, after stuffing the stat sheet with 101 tackles, seven quarterback hits, seven tackles for loss, and nine passes defended in 2019, Milano only played in 10 games last season. But if he stays on the field moving forward, the versatile linebacker should have a good shot at living up to his deal.
Buffalo has now committed $173 million to continue reaping the rewards of a much cheaper investment
Of course, Milano just became the third player from Buffalo’s 2017 draft class to sign a lucrative second contract with the team. Last August, left tackle Dion Dawkins extended his stay in Buffalo by agreeing to a four-year, $60 million deal. A few weeks later, Tre’Davious White put pen to paper on his own four-year pact that totaled $69 million. And considering the return the Bills received from their initial investment, it only seems fair for those three players to cash in on their early-career success.
White quickly developed a reputation as a No. 1 corner after signing a rookie deal that “only” totaled $10 million. Dawkins’ first contract checked in at a modest $4.2 million. Meanwhile, Milano more than lived up to his $2.66 million rookie contract.
So after investing first, second, and fifth-round picks and just under $17 million on White, Dawkins, and Milano, the Bills have now spent 10 times that amount to keep enjoying the fruits of their labor.
And they will soon have to dish out something close to that $173 million total to keep another homegrown star around.
Josh Allen only has one year remaining on his rookie deal. But by breaking out as a legitimate star last season, he may just top Dak Prescott’s $160 million pact with the Dallas Cowboys.
But at the end of the day, the Bills need the young players they’ve invested in (along with Allen) to produce at an even higher level. Because until the Lombardi Trophy finally finds its way to Buffalo, Beane and his staff will have to keep finding ways to fortify a roster that features some young blue-chip stars searching for a Super Bowl title.