NFL

Tre’Davious White Was Mad, but Did Buffalo Bills Fans or Management Set Him Off?

The 2020 NFL season was going to be a crapshoot with or without Tre’Davious White. But the Buffalo Bills now need to consider whether damage has already been done to 2021 and beyond.    

White, one of the top cornerbacks in the league, had a lot on his mind while making his decision whether to opt-out on the season down to the wire. His frustration on one subject bubbled to the surface as the deadline approached, and there’s speculation that something entirely different was at the root of his dilemma.

Tre’Davious White lashed out, and rightfully so

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Teams will be on pins and needles all season over the possibility of losing players – especially at the skill positions – to the pandemic. One or two positive test results can turn a 10-6 season into 6-10 quickly.

Speaking on a conference call Aug. 5, the day before the deadline for opting out of the 2020 NFL season over COVID-19 worries, Buffalo Bills defender Tre’Davious White sounded like a concerned husband and father unwilling to risk his family’s health.

At least 60 players, including significant names like C.J. Mosley of the New York Jets and Dont’a Hightower of the New England Patriots, already made the decision to sit as White spoke with reporters. Bills defensive tackle Star Lotulelei and cornerback E.J. Gaines are also on that list.

When word started circulating that White was on the fence, fan reaction on social media wasn’t kind – and White noticed. He lashed out on Twitter.

“Crazy that me choosing my family’s wellbeing over a game comes with so called fans attacking and questioning me and saying I’m selfish,” he wrote.

That’s not the frame of mind that true Bills fans wanted White, a three-year veteran out of LSU, to be in while contemplating his decision. Luckily for them, he has decided to play in 2020. The strength of the Bills is their defense, and White is arguably the most important component. With Gaines already out, Sean McDermott’s secondary would have consisted of two rock-solid safeties but little depth at cornerback.

Members of the Bills Mafia, the team’s occasionally over-the-top fan base, rallied to White’s support with replies to his tweet. However, it’s fair to ask if long-term damage had already been done.

Sitting out would have had implications for the young star

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Tre’Davious White led the NFL with six interceptions last fall and defended 17 passes. He’s two seasons away from his first crack at NFL free agency, which puts him in a “tweener” situation regardless of his decision about playing in 2020. That’s to say he’s too far from free agency to worry about it but right in the time frame during which teams start thinking about offering contract extensions to lock their promising young players into longer deals.

At the risk of upsetting the chamber of commerce there, Buffalo is not the most pleasant place to make a living – especially for a guy raised in Louisiana’s warmer climate. Winters are as harsh as in any NFL city, Western New York has never been mistaken as a cultural and entertainment hot spot, and the state’s taxes skipped excessive and proceeded to punitive long ago.

In short, the Buffalo Bills need Tre’Davious to be happy now so that he’s happy later when it comes time to re-sign him, especially given the team’s history.

The Bills have their best general manager/coach combination since their four straight trips to the Super Bowl. But they also have a history of talented players with tread left on their tires who couldn’t wait to hightail it out of Buffalo. C.J. Spiller, Marshawn Lynch, Robert Woods, Antoine Winfield Sr., Percy Harvin (Was he ever happy anywhere?), and Stephon Gilmore all come to mind.

Was this the real reason Tre’Davious White was upset?

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Buffalo Bills cornerback Tre’Davious White snapped at fan reaction to him contemplating opting out of the upcoming season. However, there is also a theory out there that special considerations given to new teammate Stefon Diggs played a role in White’s reluctance to play in 2020.

Diggs played five seasons for the Minnesota Vikings and established himself as a quality NFL receiver before being traded to Buffalo ahead of the 2020 draft. But there were rumblings that he, too, was pondering opting out of the upcoming season, which would have been a blow to quarterback Josh Allen and the offense.

As first reported by Mike Garafolo of NFL Network, the Bills have struck a deal with Diggs. Although his overall contract numbers change minimally, the Bills have pushed some of Diggs’ money forward and also guaranteed $7.7 million of previously unguaranteed salary. Most significantly, Diggs will earn $14.2 million this year instead of the previously scheduled $10.9 million.

Naturally, White might be interested in that development. The total value of his four-year rookie contract is $10,091,110, and he doesn’t see the big bump in his paycheck until the fifth-year option for $10,244,000 kicks in.

The conspiracy theory making the rounds is that getting wind of the accommodation the Bills made for Diggs got White to wondering just how badly he wanted to play in 2020 when there was an opt-out alternative on the table.

So, maybe it’s the front office at the root of his outburst rather than the fans. For now, though, Buffalo has dodged a bullet.