Brandon Beane is open to signing some of the Buffalo Bills’ key defensive players to contract extensions this offseason, but it doesn’t sound as if any of those deals are coming in the near future.
That was the key takeaway from the general manager's appearance Wednesday morning on WGR-550 AM.
“We definitely evaluate all of our upcoming guys that will have a year left and decide if we can take a shot at them,” Beane told co-hosts Howard Simon and Sal Capaccio. “We’ll definitely look to re-sign some of them and see if we can figure out the value, but again, it takes two to get a deal done.”
The Bills are sitting on more than $80 million in salary cap space with the start of free agency two weeks away, but it’s been thought that a good chunk of that will go to deals for players entering the final year of their contract. Included on that list for the Bills are cornerback Tre'Davious White, linebacker Matt Milano and left tackle Dion Dawkins.
“The best deals are win, win. Win for the player and win for the Bills, and so sometimes we want to sign a guy or re-sign a guy here and the agent just feels that the market’s higher than where we see the market, so those deals don’t get done,” Beane said. “Or vice versa, they feel that, this is not necessarily the right spot for them or they want to wait. Sometimes guys just want to wait and see what free agency holds this year or how the market shapes out and just get a little more clarity on it.”
The league and players’ association are potentially hammering out a new collective bargaining agreement in the coming days, and that is also slowing the process of extending players. Teams and agents want to see the impact that will have on the salary cap, in 2020 and the years ahead.
That’s particularly true when it comes to White, who is coming off an All-Pro season and eligible to sign a contract extension. The Bills, though, can keep him under team control for the next two years by exercising their fifth-year option on his rookie contract. The deadline to do that, which is a virtual guarantee, comes in early May.
“Obviously, Tre’s a guy we love and want back,” Beane said. “You do look and try and find what the value is. And it’s hard. It can sometimes be hard for agents, too, because they’re trying to look at what the market is today versus what’s it going to be in two years. Do they want to play it out? Do they want security now? Some guys are truly fine with playing it out and seeing where it goes in two years. Some guys want the security.
“So that’s what it gets to. It’s up to us to figure out where we see his market value. Is he the No. 1 corner in the league? Is he the No. 2 corner in the league? Or whatever position you’re talking about. I think you have to take each player individually, case by case. … Tre’s a guy we love and definitely we want to be here in Buffalo for a long time.”
Following the 2020 season, quarterback Josh Allen and linebacker Tremaine Edmunds will be in similar situations.
“At the right time, the deals will happen” Beane said. “Deals get done when they’re supposed to get done, that’s kind of always been my stance.”
As for players set to hit the open market in a couple of weeks, the two biggest decisions facing Beane deal with defensive end Shaq Lawson and defensive tackle Jordan Phillips.
Beane said he feels like he has an idea of the type of contracts it will take to get deals done with both players, but admitted that free agency can be “really tricky.” Beane has been in touch with representatives for Lawson and Phillips, but wouldn’t predict whether either, both or neither will re-sign ahead of the new league year.
“Let’s take Jordan’s circumstance. Jordan had a career year this year,” Beane said. “Do people view that as that’s what you’re going to get the following years, or is it a one-year wonder? That’s for each team’s interpretation. You might ask 10 teams and you might get five answers for one and five for the other. It’s how you view the player. Those are all things that go in for any of these guys.”
As for Lawson, Beane said, “Shaq’s still an up-and-coming player. Hasn’t had just a breakout sack season, but has been very solid and a steady, improving player. He’s 25 years old. That’s a guy you would like to say is hitting his prime.”
Trying to separate fact from fiction when it comes to free agency is part of the challenge. Beane and the rest of the NFL’s power brokers met last week in Indianapolis for the league’s scouting combine. Naturally, those conversations touch on the expected value of impending free agents.
“Teams put different values and there’s a lot of things floating around at the combine,” he said. "A lot is myth. I would say probably more is myth than reality, but, to the point of whether they’ll both hit the market, I don’t know that. We’re still a couple weeks out with all of our guys, including those two. We’re still having conversations with their reps, but other than that, we’ll just have to wait and see what happens the next two weeks.”
Boosting the pass rush is a priority this offseason for Beane. That’s true with or without Phillips and/or Lawson returning.
“That’s where the money is, honestly, other than quarterback,” he said. “Those are premium positions. Those guys get paid pretty big money and usually second to quarterbacks when you look across the landscape of the top players in the league. That is an area we could look at.
“You mentioned a couple of guys on our own team, Shaq and Jordan Phillips, that are guys that will get paid, whether we’re able to work a deal out with them or somewhere else. If we don’t re-sign those two, obviously we’ve got to look elsewhere to fill those holes, so that’s an area – I know everybody keeps talking about receiver – but that’s definitely an area we’re looking to make sure we’re prepared for next season.”
Beane will spend the early part of next week attending college pro days before returning the weekend before the start of free agency.
Other topics addressed by Beane included:
• The Bills have not made any decisions on whether to make a qualifying offer to restricted free agent Isaiah McKenzie or to exclusive-rights free agents Robert Foster, Levi Wallace and Jason Croom.
“We’re still working through all those, each one, so I’m not going to really comment on them,” he said. “None of them are done. They’re all guys we like and respect. We’ll work through with their representatives on potentially bringing them back.”
• Like the rest of the NFL, Beane is fascinated by the upcoming class of free-agent quarterbacks, a group that includes Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Ryan Tannehill, Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota and others.
“It’s quite intriguing. It’s fun not to have to play the game,” he said. “It’s much more stressful when you’re trying to jockey and see which guy you can get that will fit your team in that situation. There’s some very big names out there that have done a lot in this league. It’ll be a domino effect. I think once a couple of those big names fall, some of the other pieces should fall into place pretty quick.”