Tremaine Edmunds: The Core of the Buffalo Bills Defense

Bills

Tremaine Edmunds is a beast. Enough said, right? Wrong. The 16th pick in the 2018 NFL Draft has done more than Sean McDermott has asked for on his defensive unit. But with other high-profile contracts looming, can the Bills pay for Edmunds value or worth?

Plug-In and Play

There is a reason why Edmunds left Virginia Tech a year early. In his junior season, he recorded 109 total tackles (14.0 for loss) and 5.5 sacks. He also forced three fumbles. Edmunds could have easily been a top 10 pick if it were not for the strong quarterback class that went before him.

The amazing part of these stats is that Buffalo Bills Edmunds was able to create so much carnage at only twenty years old. Scouts compared him to Brian Urlacher. The Hall of Famer was a hard hitter with a lot of forced fumbles and passes defensed. This comparison is a lot to live up to for a young prospect.

But Sean McDermott had a plan for Tremaine Edmunds, throwing him in at middle linebacker on a rebuilding defensive unit. This may seem like a throwing to the wolves mantra, but Edmunds had to learn somehow.

Edmunds took the challenge and did not disappoint in his rookie campaign. The 6’5″ 250 lb. linebacker led the team with 121 tackles and 12 passes defended. He also walked into the record books, becoming the youngest player to record 100+ tackles in a season since 2000.

Coach McDermott knew that the sky was the limit for Edmunds once the season ended.

“It’s significant the growth that he’s made to this point, and I think the arrow continues to point up with more upside,” McDermott said. This praise not only boosts Edmunds’s confidence, but it’s nice when your coach raves about your progress.

Even with his strong rookie season, Edmunds fell behind in the defensive rookie of the year voting. In fact, he did not even show up on the ballot. If Buffalo did not finish 6-10 that season, he possibly would have had a better shot.

Tremaine Edmunds has become a defensive juggernaut for the Bills. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

2019: Continued Growth

Turning the page to 2019, the media stayed silent about Edmunds. Maybe Buffalo’s 6-10 record was the reason. However he continued to put in the work.

Edmunds led the team with 115 total tackles and ten tackles for loss in 2019 and continued his ball-hawking mentality. Take the play below. In Buffalo’s week nine loss to the Cleveland Browns, Edmunds sacks Baker Mayfield in the end zone for a safety.

Look closely at Buffalo Bills Edmunds before the snap. He decoys coverage of RB Dontrell Hilliard on his left shoulder before Micah Hyde picks him up in coverage on the snap.

With Hilliard covered, Edmunds runs McDermott’s and Frazier’s blitz package to perfection. Making the right tackle commit to the covering Jordan Phillips, he swoops around to lay a blindside hit on Mayfield. And once Edmunds latches onto Mayfield, he does not let go.

For Edmunds, this single play shows his huge improvement in the missed tackle department. In 2018, Edmunds had 24 missed tackles, according to Pro Football Reference. Last season, it was cut to 12. Its little things like these that Edmunds need to work on in order to stay in Buffalo.

Defensive Leadership

Tremaine Edmunds records a sack on Deshaun Watson during the wild card game against Houston in 2019. (Christian Petersen/Getty Images)

In his third year, Edmunds is ready to take a step foward as a leader on and off the field. Being the defensive signal caller, a lot is expected from the linebacker. And he has answered the call.

“He’s the epitome of what you would want to one of your star players to be, one of your leaders to be. A guy you don’t have to worry about late at night,” Defensive Coordinator Leslie Frazier said.

“You know he’s going to be where he’s supposed to be. You know he’s going to do what he’s supposed to do when it comes to football.”

Frazier hasn’t been the only Bills personnel that has praise for Edmunds. Offseason addition, Mario Addison, has seen Edmunds’s determination shine during their adjusted training camp.

“To see how determined he is to fly around the ball and make plays is great to see. He is the quarterback of the defense and to get us all lined up correctly, he is a beast, and I am expecting big things from him.”

Frazier and Addison’s comments are a feather in Edmunds’s cap. They show that the team has trust in their young middle linebacker.

Media Snub

Numbers wise, you would think Edmunds is getting the press he deserves? Well, don’t put all your chips on black.

On May 28th, NFL.com came out with their all-under-25 team. Since their are only two linebacker positions on their list, it is a tough list to get on.

Well, they chose Cowboy, Leighton Vander Esch, and Colt, Bobby Okereke, instead. Putting the stats in full view, this ranking is incorrect.

Edmunds blows Okereke out of the water in solo tackles (146 vs. 48) and QB hits (11 vs. 1). To be fair, Edmunds has 15 more career games on Okereke. But why does an analyst put a young buck over a proven player in Edmunds? Maybe it is bias or opinion.

Leighton Vander Esch made the 2020 Under-25 team over Edmunds (Matthew Emmons-USA TODAY Sports)

The Vander Esch selection gets me heated. Vander Esch may have six fewer career games than Edmunds due to neck issues, but Edmunds has 11 career QB hits compared to Vander Esch’s two, according to Pro Football Reference. Edmunds also has three forced fumbles compared to Vander Esch’s zero.

There may be some nit-picking, but it is clear why Vander Esch gets more press than Edmunds. Dallas is known as “America’s Team” due to their location in Texas and has multiple prime time games every year. And Buffalo is a struggling team in a smaller market.

That should not take away Edmunds’s achievements. He came into a complicated defense at 20-years old and has become a quick learner. And he put his head down and worked while the media stays silent. His hunger will hopefully push the microphones and chatter into analysts’ ears.

Chemistry with Matt Milano

Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano tackle Chargers Melvin Gordon during their matchup in 2018. (Brett Carlsen/Getty Images)

There is no denying that Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano have become one of best linebacker duos in the NFL. Both players had over 100 tackles and nine passes defensed in 2019.

With Edmunds (6’5” 250 lbs.) and Milano (6’0”, 221 lbs.) staring down defenses, there is no stopping these two superstars from reaching the peak of the NFL statistics ladder. Both are hard hitting linebackers who do not take plays off.

According to footballoutsiders.com, Edmunds and Milano played over 1,000 snaps in 2019 (Edmunds: 1058, Milano: 1018). Keeping these two together may be tough with Milano’s contract expiring after 2020. But being the best linebacker duo in Orchard Park since Darryl Talley and Cornelius Bennett, it would be best to keep these two together.

Extension Time May Have to Wait

Tremaine Edmunds has been that 110% effort player that Sean McDermott wants on his defensive unit. And Edmunds knows that his defensive growth is not over yet.

“I have to learn the system and play as fast as I want to. My confidence level is high, but I know that there are guys around me that will push me to become the best player I can be,” Edmunds said.

But Edmunds may have to wait for an extension. Buffalo already has a lot on their plate. Defensive studs Tre’Davious White and Matt Milano will become free agents after the 2020 season. If I was Brandon Beane, I would lock these two in for the future now and push Edmunds extension talks back.

Also, the third year of a rookie deal is considered a prove it deal. Buffalo has a first round pick and defensive blueprints invested in Edmunds.

I am no way saying that Edmunds does not deserve the extension. But he has two years left on his deal. And considering that Buffalo is only paying him under $4 million over the next two years, McBeane can afford to let Edmunds play his deal out.

Allen vs Edmunds: Who Gets Paid First

Both Josh Allen and Tremaine Edmunds were drafted by the Bills in 2018 (The Associated Press/Jeffrey T. Barnes)

The cause for concern though is who he shares his contract year with: Josh Allen. It’s not a secret that the Bills and Allen are going to be tied together for a while. Adding Stefon Diggs to complement their solid wide receiver core is the icing on the cake that hopefully leads to a playoff berth.

In this situation, Edmunds needs to face the facts: Allen will be paid more. With quarterback being the most valued position in the NFL, teams often have to back up a Brinks truck in order to keep them around. I mean, the Chiefs just gave Patrick Mahomes $503 million to lock up the 2019 NFL MVP for 10 years.

Contract: Six Years, $53 million with $10 million signing bonus

This may seem like a weird number of years and cash, but look at past linebacker contracts. Jaguars LB Miles Jack signed a four year, $57 million contract extension last year with a $14.25 million signing bonus according to Spotrac.

Jack was 23 years old when he signed the contract. Edmunds will be 24 when his fifth year option is up for consideration in 2022. The Bills may have to pick up this option considering how things progress with the unknown salary cap.

I do not know how Edmunds can improve on two 100 tackle seasons in his first two years in the league. Record more interceptions and forced fumbles? It is all a toss-up right now.

With Josh Allen needing to be locked down at the same time, I feel this number fits well for both sides. Edmunds gets the pay day he deserves and Brandon Beane still has enough in the tank to pay good old Josharoo.

And considering that I have a ton of Tremaine Edmunds autos in my collection, I hope that he stay in Orchard Park for the rest of his career.

Let me know your thoughts on whether Edmunds deserves a new contract. by connecting with me on twitter @bigslugger18

Comment below!