The Buffalo Bills have reached a three-year contract agreement with left guard Richie Incognito, locking up one driving force behind the NFL’s No. 1-ranked rushing attack.
Incognito’s deal is worth $15,750,000 over three years, a source said.
The guard could have tested his worth on the open market, but chose to stick with the team that took a chance on him exactly one year ago. So now, he hopes to pen the final chapter of his turbulent NFL career — one that saw him exiled the entire 2014 season — in Western New York with a team he believes will compete.
There were six or seven teams interested, Incognito said, but he decided to take less money to stay.
"The biggest thing for me is they believed in me when nobody else would," Incognito said. "They gave me an opportunity to come in and re-establish myself. That was it. You can't put a price tag on that. They believed in me and I believed in them. I'm real excited about where we're headed. I really think we have all the pieces in place to take the next step. One of those key pieces was to keep the offensive line together and the Buffalo Bills were able to do that."
After having former New Orleans Saints guard Jahri Evans in for a visit Monday, the Bills decided to get a deal done with Incognito Tuesday. This secures the left side of the offensive line, where the Bills ran most often to the tune of a NFL-high 152 yards per game.
After initially sending a substantially lower offer to Incognito at the NFL scouting combine, the Bills upped the ante on the verge of Wednesday's unrestricted free agency. Further, there was a "a sticking point" last week, Incognito said, but the two sides stepped away, took a deep breath and found a number. The $5.25 million annual pay makes Incognito the seventh-richest guard in the NFL, per Spotrac.
Of course, it wasn't too long ago that Incognito was arguably the most unwanted man in pro football. After self-destructing in contract years with the St. Louis Rams (voted the NFL's dirtiest player) and with the Miami Dolphins (through a much-publicized bullying ordeal blown up by the Ted Wells Report), Incognito delivered on a one-year, $1.1 million deal with the Bills in 2015.
Behind the scenes, the likes of head coach Rex Ryan and offensive coordinator Greg Roman pushed hard for Incognito's return. He was the pulling sledgehammer setting a physical tone for the Bills. And above all, Incognito saw this as a perfect fit all along. The Bills have been in need of rejuvenation for 16 years running now; and he needed to rejuvenate his career.
"He treats us like men, he treats us like pros," Incognito said. "Playing for a guy like Rex and him having confidence in us, having our back, it speaks volumes about Rex and his style.
"I've played for a lot of coaches who scared of their own shadow and Rex is definitely not that. Rex is the man. I love playing for him. I love my teammates and the guys we're surrounded with right now. I really think we have something special growing.
Banished from the NFL through the 2014 season — when teams wouldn't call, when he only took two empty visits to Denver and Tampa Bay — Incognito couldn't have imagined this.
As he detailed, Incognito didn't know who he was fighting in Miami. Jonathan Martin? The NFL? His own team? The Ted Wells Report was released and Incognito became the unofficial face of bullying in America. To many, the text messages were scathing. Only later was it revealed Martin dealt with personal demons since high school.
True, Incognito needed to prove himself in the locker room and on the field to warrant a such a pay day. He did. Now, the Bills are gambling that Incognito can stay in this peak condition for three more years. He'll turn 33 years old in July.
Incognito cites his relentless workouts in Phoenix at EXOS, saying he'd like to play another "five-to-seven" years if he could. He insists the year away refueled him, extended his career.
"I have a lot of gas left in the tank," Incognito said. "I'm in the best shape of my life."
This lucrative deal, coupled with the $13.7 million franchise tag to Cordy Glenn, is a clear sign the the Bills are doubling down as a run-first operation. Calling Roman "one of the best coordinators in the NFL," Incognito expects a major jump in 2016. They'll need him. Buffalo is facing five of the top seven run defenses in the NFL next season — the Seattle Seahawks (No. 1), New York Jets (No. 2), Pittsburgh Steelers (No. 5), Arizona Cardinals (No. 6) and Cincinnati Bengals (No. 7), as well as New England (ninth) and Baltimore (12th).
Incognito completely turned his career around in Western New York. After signing his contract, he shed tears of joy during a conversation with his mother.
Now, the Bills are counting on Incognito to end the drought.
"I went from a guy that nobody wanted," Incognito said, "to getting redeemed by Buffalo. I owe them a lot. I owe Buffalo a lot. Not only for them to come help save me and resurrect my career but for them to open their arms from ownership to management to coaches, the players in that locker room, to open their arms and take me for me and let me blossom into a great player, that all factors into it.
"There's more to come."