The centerpiece of the defense is entering a big year
In 2018, the Buffalo Bills drafted two quarterbacks—one for their offense and one for their defense. In 2021, the conversation around both of those players will often center itself on ensuring that they remain with the club beyond their rookie deal.
In the two regimes that immediately preceded head coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane’s tenure together in Buffalo, the Bills didn’t exactly have a solid track record for making sure that a first-round draft pick made it to a second contract with the team. In fact, since the 2011 Collective Bargaining Agreement set the rookie wage scale as it currently stands, only two Bills’ first-round picks were signed to a second contract by the team: Marcell Dareus and Tre’Davious White.
That seems as if it’s a pattern that’s about to change. In today’s edition of “90 players in 90 days,” we discuss the quarterback of the defense.
Name: Tremaine Edmunds
Height/Weight: 6’5” 250 lbs
Age: 23 (24 on 5/2/2022)
Experience/Draft: 4; selected by Buffalo in the first round (No. 16 overall) of the 2018 NFL Draft
College: Virginia Tech
Acquired: First-round draft choice
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Edmunds enters the fourth year of his rookie deal, a four-year pact worth a total of $12,659,544. For the 2021 season, Edmunds carries a cap hit of $4,028,037, which is fully guaranteed. Buffalo has exercised the fifth-year option on his contract, keeping Edmunds in Buffalo for the 2022 season, as well.
2020 Recap: Edmunds was injured in the first game of the season against the New York Jets, hurting his shoulder while making a tackle early in the second half of the game. He missed the following week’s victory over the Miami Dolphins before returning in Week 3. He was clearly compromised physically, as he looked hesitant for the better part of the first half of the season. As he returned to better health, his play improved, as did the overall play of the defense. Edmunds started 15 regular-season games and three postseason games for the Bills. He had 119 tackles, four tackles-for-loss, three quarterback hits, three pass breakups, and two sacks in the regular season. In three playoff games, Edmunds combined for 25 tackles, two quarterback hits, and three pass breakups. He was named to his second consecutive Pro Bowl, and he joined fellow Sean McDermott middle linebacker Luke Kuechly as the second player to account for 300 tackles before turning 23 years old.
Positional outlook: Edmunds is the unquestioned starter at middle linebacker, and he will remain on the field for all three downs, staying on with Matt Milano in nickel looks as well. A.J. Klein has the knowledge to play middle linebacker, but the team would prefer not to be forced into that for the second straight year. Tyrel Dodson started in Edmunds’s place last year when he was injured. Tyler Matakevich also played a few snaps at middle linebacker. Rounding out the linebacker group are Joe Giles-Harris, Tyrell Adams, Mike Bell, and Marquel Lee.
2021 Offseason: Edmunds is healthy and he has participated in all offseason activities to date.
2021 Season outlook: Notwithstanding the security of the fifth-year option, this is a big year for Edmunds, whose play has been critiqued as closely as any player on the current roster. The coaching staff and team management clearly value his contributions to the defense, and I’d expect that a long-term extension will come sooner rather than later. He’s obviously priority number two behind fellow 2018 first-round pick Josh Allen, but Edmunds is a vital piece of this defense. His off-the-charts athleticism allows defensive coordinator/assistant head coach Leslie Frazier to make a variety of calls, and pairing him with Milano gives Buffalo two of the league’s better coverage linebackers. There’s never a bad time to break out, but if Edmunds were to put it all together and have the All-Pro year we’ve been waiting for during a season where he’ll be playing for a long-term extension, it would certainly be fortuitous for the young man. I think 2021 is going to be that kind of year for Edmunds.