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Should This NFL Linebacker With The Buffalo Bills Be Extended?

NFL middle linebacker, Tremaine Edmunds came out of the gate hot in the 2018 Draft. He was the second selection for the Bills after some whirlwind trades that allowed the Bills to double-dip in the first round. Going 16th overall, there were a lot of expectations made when the Bills brought him aboard, especially considering he was the third linebacker drafted. It’s now 2022 and the Bills recently exercised the fifth-year option on Edmunds as opposed to re-signing him outright.

Has he lived up to expectations? Does he deserve a big-money contract? These are the questions now surrounding Edmunds in this upcoming season with the Bills that will ultimately determine if he stays in Buffalo or moves on.

How Does Edmunds Compare?

NFL linebackers Darius Leonard, Harold Landry, and Fred Warner were some of the names picked after Tremaine Edmunds was selected. The two linebackers picked before him were Bradley Chubb and Roquan Smith. It would seem Edmund’s place is right in the middle of the pack, Chubb and Smith are both competent at their jobs but underwhelming, while Leonard, Landry, and Warner are all considered some of the best NFL linebackers playing at the moment. This just goes to show it doesn’t matter exactly when you were drafted but where you end up.

In his four years playing in the NFL with the Bills, Edmunds has racked up an impressive 463 combined tackles but unfortunately, that’s the only remarkable stat. In that same time, he recorded 5.5 sacks, two fumble recoveries, four interceptions, and 28 passes deflected. While not a monumental career it’s also not inconsequential either. And therein lies the problem, while he hasn’t shown signs that he’s a bust he also hasn’t shown signs of improvement which is important for any athlete, particularly a first-round pick.

Harold Landry was just resigned to the Titans and his stats weren’t that impressive either. Landry collected only 230 total tackles in the NFL and the same or less for interceptions and fumbles forced; however, in the same period that Edmunds made four sacks, Landry had 31. He also improved his stats over the years slowly increasing his tackles. It’s clear the Titans resigned him not for his run stopping abilities or his pass defense skills but his ability to get after the quarterback. In this regard, the Bills recently signed veteran quarterback hunter, Von Miller to help pick up the slack in that area.

What Is The Going Rate For An NFL Linebacker?

Edmunds is a middle-of-the-pack player, does that mean he doesn’t have value? No, he has value, especially when you consider the depth the Bills lack at the position. While NFL free agent pickup Von Miller was certainly a boon to the linebacker squad, his talents are as an edge rusher and may not see as many snaps as the other guys.

So, besides Edmunds, the next best linebacker for the Bills is Matt Milano who in five years with the Bills has racked up over 350 tackles, nine sacks, five interceptions, and 26 passes defensed. For the record, the Bills just recently re-signed Milano on a four-year, $44 million extension. What does that mean for Edmunds? If he can come at the right price a re-signing is very probable.

Let’s look at some of the other linebackers from that draft class and see what sort of contract extensions they received from their respective NFL teams. Fred Warner whose stats are similar (albeit better) than Edmunds recently re-signed with the 49ers for a whopping $95 million, five-year extension. Not to be outdone, Darius Leonard (arguably the best linebacker out of this NFL draft class and perhaps the league) re-signed with the Colts for a record-breaking $99 million, five-year extension. I don’t think it needs to be said but Tremaine Edmunds does not deserve to be paid that much.

Previously mentioned linebacker Harold Landry, whose stats are similar to Edmunds in every category except sacks, recently re-signed for an incredible five-year, $88 million contract. Is Landry worth $88 million? Based on his stats alone I would say no; however, there are a couple of other things to consider and that is the lack of skilled players at that position and competition from other NFL teams.

At any given time nearly half the teams in the NFL are looking for a great linebacker but will happily settle for an average linebacker. Rival AFC East teams Dolphins, Patriots, and Jets are all on the lookout for their next linebacker starter and I think it’s almost a guarantee, if the Bills don’t re-sign Edmunds, he’ll end up playing against them twice a year. It’s a crucial role in any defense and those teams without a strong (or at least proficient) linebacker squad typically get left in the dust. So, all of this then begs the question, do the Bills re-sign Edmunds, and if so for how much?

Do The Bills Re-sign Edmunds?

It is my humble opinion, the Bills should re-sign Tremaine Edmunds. He’s shown bursts of greatness mixed in with mediocrity but with the lack of talent at the position even mediocre is better than what’s available. To go after another NFL team’s top linebacker would require not only wheelbarrows of cash but also draft capital. A free agent stud linebacker may become available next offseason but considering the Bills just signed Von Miller to a huge six-year, $120 million contract, I can’t foresee them going after another big-name free agent linebacker anytime in the next couple of years.

I think it would benefit the Bills to offer Edmunds something like a two or three-year deal at something around $10 to $15 million. At that rate, he’s getting paid higher than other 2018 draft picks like Leighton Vander-Esch and Rashaan Evans who both tested free agency and ended up signing for smaller one-year contracts. This would also give the Bills time to watch for any developments in the free agent market next off-season and see if recent third round pick Terrel Bernard works out.

Additionally, it takes into consideration that Edmunds is still young at 24 years old, if he improves, he can still be up for a big payday. The Bills’ defense has been in the top five for the past few years and while Tremaine Edmunds may not be the sole reason behind their success, I believe his loss would be felt and it’s worth keeping him on a little longer to see if he can turn it up.

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