AFC Notes: Bills, Dolphins, Patriots


The Bills had braced themselves to lose LB Matt Milano in free agency if he decided to test the open market this past offseason but instead kept the key defender on a four-year, $44 million extension. It’s possible Milano could have gotten more in free agency — the Buccaneers signed LB Lavonte David for $12.5 million a year and Milano is four-and-a-half years younger — but staying in Buffalo was important. 

“When we were on the precipice of free agency, Matt called me and said, “Hey, go get a deal with the Bills. Get it done. I want to stay here,’” Milano’s agent Joel Segal said via WGR 550’s Sal Capaccio. “We talked with Matt, talked to his family, and went over it together. We understood a baseline number we needed to stay, and then I went to go try to get a deal on his request.”

Bills GM Brandon Beane felt like the deal was fair for both sides and was happy to be able to give a long-term deal to a player he drafted. 

“They had to make sure it was something they were happy with, excited about, and we needed to make sure it was something we thought was a good deal for us, and those are the best deals,” Beane said. “To re-sign a guy that started his career here, it backs up what we preach around here, which is draft, develop, and sign your own. This was an exciting one. It was cool. Until it was agreed upon, I didn’t have a feeling either way. I thought it could go either way. At the end of the day, we were excited that we’re going have Matt here for the foreseeable future. He’s done great things and we think he will continue to.”


The Dolphins ranked 28th in the NFL in pass plays of 25 yards or more, so adding a big-play element back to the offense was one of their priorities this offseason. They double-dipped with speedy receivers, adding Will Fuller in free agency and Jaylen Waddle with the No. 6 pick in the draft, both of whom run 4.3 40s. 

“I think any time you can stretch the field vertically, it puts the defense in a bind,” Dolphins co-OC George Godsey said via the Athletic’s Josh Tolentino. “I have some experience with Will and we’re catching Jaylen up to the speed of NFL football, so that’s been the fun part of this. They have a little bit of a different skill set, although they both have very good speed. That’ll help us pushing the ball downfield. … They are also good route-runners underneath. Being able to add all of those elements are important to both of those players.”


Patriots’ LB coach Jerod Mayo is excited to have LB Dont’a Hightower back in 2021 and had plenty to say about Hightower’s mind and football IQ.

“I’ll be honest, it was huge,” Mayo said, via Phil Perry of NBC Sports Boston. “It was kind of like — and I’m not trying to toot my own horn here — but it’s like, the times that I wasn’t hurt, I was kind of like a coach on the field. So having a guy like Hightower… At the end of the day, you can call the play, but as soon as you cross the white lines, those guys are in charge. Anytime you have a guy as smart as Hightower that’s able to cross the white line, you feel comfortable. Like, this guy is going to make the right decision nine times out of 10. That’s a very comforting feeling. I’m not saying that we didn’t have that at times last year. But just getting it on a down-after-down basis is something we look forward to having this year.”

However, Mayo acknowledged that a year away from football is tough to bounce back from, especially for older, veteran players. 

“I’ll say this: Hightower’s a true professional,” Mayo added. “Obviously, opting out last year, hopefully, we get the same Hightower we got in 2019, but we’ll see… I’m not worried about Hightower mentally. He’s one of the smartest players that I’ve been around, had the pleasure to coach. He knows all the X’s and O’s. He’ll probably be a coach one day, honestly. This guy, he’s very smart. The one thing you’ve got to be concerned about with a guy like that, you know, you’re coming off a year of not playing football. Training camp and this period right now, these are times right now where you really want to see them get back into football shape. Then in the summertime when we get back, get back into that football shape. But I’m excited to get him back in the building. He’s always a pleasure to have in the room.

  • The Athletic’s Jeff Howe believes the Patriots were initially interested in WR Julio Jones but were either unhappy with the Falcons’ asking price or unwillingness to take on more of his contract so they decided to move on.
  • Sports Illustrated’s Albert Breer writes Patriots QB Cam Newton won’t lose his starting job because of his hand injury but it could open the door a crack for first-round QB Mac Jones to show he deserves more of a chance to win the job in camp. 

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