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Quinton Spain returns to Bills; Tyler Kroft's contract restructured

The business of the NFL seemingly never stops.

Even as professional sports leagues were busy suspending operations Thursday amid concerns of the coronavirus outbreak, the Buffalo Bills found time to get a deal done with impending free-agent left guard Quinton Spain.

A league source confirmed to The Buffalo News that Spain has agreed to a three-year contract extension ahead of the start of unrestricted free agency next week. The deal is worth up to $15 million, according to NFL Network.

It's a nice bump in pay for a player who came to the Bills on a one-year, prove-it contract. Spain earned a shade more than $2 million last season. The Bills were the only team to offer him a contract after he spent the first four seasons of his NFL career with the Tennessee Titans.

"I'm happy to be back and ready to continue what we started and didn’t finish last year," Spain told The Buffalo News on Thursday. "We got something special going on in Buffalo and I didn’t want to pass up on that opportunity."

Spain rewarded the Bills for taking a chance on him by becoming a mainstay on the offensive line. The 28-year-old was not charged with allowing a sack in charting by both The Buffalo News and analytics website Pro Football Focus in starting all 16 games and playing 1,063 offensive snaps -- the 12th-highest total among guards in the NFL and every one for the Bills. He was also penalized just four times and, according to PFF, gave up just five quarterback hits.

"He's been awesome for us," Bills quarterback Josh Allen said of Spain on the day players cleaned out their lockers. "Just his mindset, his attitude, the way he plays, he brings a fire. He's a really good dude, too. I love him and I wish we’d get him back too.  I know it's the nature of the business. If I had a say, we’d have him back."

Allen will get his wish. Spain will be penciled into the starting left guard spot, although it's possible the team could still bring in upgrades to the offensive line that present a challenge to him. Spain's re-signing also would seem to indicate the Bills don't have plans at the moment to shift Cody Ford inside from tackle to guard. With Spain's returne, the Bills' top six offensive lineman from last year -- left tackle Dion Dawkins, Spain, center Mitch Morse, right guard Jon Feliciano, Ford and veteran offensive tackle Ty Nsekhe -- are all under contract. So, too, is veteran interior lineman Spencer Long after his contract option was picked up this week.

"He’s just one of those guys that you want on your team," Allen said of Spain. "He's a team guy. He communicates well to the guys. He gets along with everybody in the locker room, he's a good presence and then he goes out on the football field and plays really well."

Spain was not a favorite of PFF, with an overall grade of 55.4 that ranked 52nd out of 63 guards who played at least 587 snaps in 2019.

The Bills obviously did not share the same evaluation of Spain's play, which is not a surprise given the subjective nature of film review, particularly when it comes to offensive linemen.

Kroft restructured

The Bills weren't done making moves Thursday. According to a report from NFL Network, the team restructured the contract of tight end Tyler Kroft. Kroft is now set to make $4 million in 2020, of which $3.4 million is guaranteed. Originally signed through 2021, the last year of that contract has been voided, meaning Kroft is entering the final year of his deal.

He was scheduled to count $6.4 million against the salary cap in 2020, a figure that put him in danger of being a cap casualty. That's because Kroft caught just six passes for 71 yards in 2019. Foot and ankle injuries kept him out of the first five games, allowing rookie Dawson Knox to establish himself as the starter.

Had Kroft been released, the Bills would have saved $4.8 million against the cap, incurring a dead-money charge of $1.6 million. With the restructure, Kroft gets more guaranteed money and the Bills save cap space, as his new cap number is $4.6 million.

The Bills now have Knox, Kroft, veteran blocker Lee Smith and Tommy Sweeney, a 2019 seventh-round draft pick, under contract for 2020. The team also has the option of bringing back exclusive-rights free agent Jason Croom, making the position close to set before the start of free agency and the draft.

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