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The window for NFL teams to apply a franchise tag to a player has opened as of Tuesday, and the Buffalo Bills have a lot to think about.
The franchise tag is not something that the Bills have used often. The team has never used it under general manager Brandon Beane, and the organization has used it only twice in the last decade.
The price tag of a franchised player fluctuates depending on the position. For a linebacker, like Bills linebacker Matt Milano, it’s somewhere close to $16 million in 2021, per Over The Cap.
Buffalo drafted Milano in the fifth round in 2017 out of Boston College, and he has since thrived on the Bills’ defense, carving out a firm role as the team’s best coverage linebacker.
Beane didn’t knock down the idea of using the franchise tag on players like Milano when asked about the idea in January.
“Anything is [possible]. We want to keep good players, but you know it’ll come back to that cap, what we can afford, and if it’s $175M, we’re right at it now,” Beane said. “We want to keep good players, and Matt’s a good player.”
Currently, the NFL does not have a salary cap set, but the league has set the “cap floor” at $180 million, meaning it will not go lower than that.
Although re-signing Milano would be an easy decision for the Bills in most offseasons, things are different this year.
During non-pandemic years, the cap typically goes up, but due to COVID-19 keeping fans out of stadiums, revenues went down and so did the salary cap.
If the cap is at $185 million, the Bills have $4.5 million in cap space.
Despite how much the team may want to keep him on the roster, adding near $16 million to keep Milano seems nearly impossible, so he will likely be a free agent this offseason.
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It looks as though the Bills are going to let Milano test free agency and not franchise tag him. My guess is that Buffalo is going to let Milano walk and then try to sign a less expensive free agent to replace him and also draft a linebacker. That said, Beane will try very hard to retain Milano, but I just don’t think they can pay the going rate he will command.