Tremaine Edmunds, a 24-year-old former first-round linebacker will hit free agency this offseason. Edmunds was a remarkably young rookie and has 5 seasons of service already under his belt with the Buffalo Bills.
For context, Edmunds is 4 months younger than Tennesse’s Hendon Hooker, who’s headed for the draft this April. Edmunds has had some mixed results over his Bills tenure but had his best season yet by PFF standards. He is a two-time Pro Bowler and a phenomenal athlete. At his age, a 4-year contract would allow the Bills to retain his services through his prime.
However, Edmunds’ past inconsistent play, the lower value of inside linebackers, and the Buffalo Bills other talents at the position might slow enthusiasm in negotiations.
Roquan Smith inked a market-setting 5-year $100 million contract in January. Fred Warner and Shaquille Leonard each also earn $19 Million per year. These contracts are only somewhat guaranteed, typically 30-40% of the money being guaranteed at signing.
Edmunds is likely to demand top-of-the-line pay, especially as the salary cap increases from $208 Million to $224 Million. This 7% increase will shift Edmunds demands higher than that of past elite linebacker contracts.
BuffaLowDown’s Ryan Heckman recently noted that Spotrac estimates that Edmunds value is only $11 million, creating a large disparity between his likely desired contract and value to the team
There is great overlap between teams with lots of cap space and teams with poor linebacker play. The Bears have nearly $100 Million of cap space this off-season, meaning they could make a serious offer. However, the Bears just traded away Roquan Smith. Their front office clearly doesn’t value linebacker play enough to extend a competitive offer to Edmunds this offseason.
The New York Giants are an in-state competitor with one inside linebacker on the books for next season. Their $44 Million in cap ranks 3rd in the league. However, the Giants will have their hands full trying to retain Saquon Barkley and Daniel Jones, whose great play last season will land them a large payday.
The Atlanta Falcons dealt Deion Jones this past season to the Browns in a midseason trade, and have $56 Million in cap space this upcoming season. They seem to me as the most likely team to pursue Edmunds in free agency.
What I wouldn’t pay if I was the Buffalo Bills
Given that most teams are struggling with their cap situations, Edmunds is not likely to land a contract of over $20 million a year from a playoff team. However, a team like Atlanta could play spoiler and offer him a large contract.
Edmunds is a great linebacker, but the concerns expressed last offseason by the Buffalo Bills (Which led to the team picking up his 5th-year option instead of giving him a long-term extension) still exist. The front office must be careful with its cap this offseason, and paying Edmunds over $20 Million per year would be a massive mistake for this team’s championship aspirations.