OPINION: Why the Bills should consider trading Tremaine Edmunds

Making a case for moving on from the Bills' middle linebacker

Before any of you try to use this column as ammunition for your anti-Tremaine Edmunds takes, know that I am a fan of the soon-to-be 24-year-old linebacker.

This isn’t meant to besmirch Edmunds, rather paint a picture as to why now is the time consider moving on to create more cap flexibility, stabilize more valuable positions across the roster, and give the Bills a road map to extend some of their higher priority assets.

Live On-Air
Ask Your Smart Speaker to Play W G R 5 50
WGR 550 SportsRadio
Listen Now
Now Playing
Now Playing

When I consider all of the options for the Bills and Edmunds moving forward, there are definitely several options for the Bills, which is always a good thing. They aren’t pigeon-holed. They aren’t in a bad spot. They are not without leverage. But this is coming to a head quicker than we all probably realize.

There are essentially four outcomes for the Bills and Edmunds over the next 24 months or so, and most of them simply aren’t ideal options for a Bills team in a win-now window:

Tremaine Edmunds and Byron Pringle
Photo credit Jay Biggerstaff - USA TODAY Sports

Option 1: Edmunds plays out his fifth-year option, Bills figure it out later

I may want to label this option as the most likely outcome for the 2022 season.

Edmunds is set to count for $12.716 million against the salary cap playing under his fifth-year option, which is right around 6% of the team’s salary cap for the season. When you combine that with Matt Milano’s $9.97 million cap hit, the Bills will be dedicating more than $20 million this season to their linebackers, which is one of the highest cap hits in the NFL.

The problem with this scenario is Edmunds will only get more expensive, when you consider Options 2 and 3 below.

Tremaine Edmunds
Photo credit Mark Konezny - USA TODAY Sports

Option 2: Edmunds plays out his fifth-year option, gets franchised tagged in 2023 offseason

According to Over The Cap, the projected franchise tag figure for linebackers is set to increase to $19.642 million next offseason, which is a notable jump for Edmunds and his $12 million cap hit for 2022.

At that point, Bills general manager Brandon Beane would have very few great options. He could play under that franchise tag and the Bills would see that combined cap hit for Milano and Edmunds balloon to over $30 million dollars, which is obviously not ideal. He could attempt to extend Edmunds (which we’ll go over more in Option 3) after tagging him and hope to reduce that $19 million dollar cap hit. Or, Beane could look to tag and then ultimately trade Edmunds next offseason, which would give the Bills a chance to run back their defense in 2022 and hopefully recoup some value in the trade market.

Considering tight end Dawson Knox will be an unrestricted free agent next offseason with no apparent extension talks in the works, it would make way more sense to potentially franchise tag Knox next season at $12.778 million. That is projected to be notably cheaper than the tag number the Bills would be dedicating to Edmunds.

Tremaine Edmunds and Sean McDermott
Photo credit Mark Konezny - USA TODAY Sports

Option 3: Edmunds plays out his fifth-year option, gets extended next offseason

I view this option as the least likely for the Bills going into 2023.

I mentioned Knox in Option 2, but you also have to consider what defensive tackle Ed Oliver is going to cost. I think the Bills should absolutely prioritize paying Oliver over Edmunds, but it is possible Beane thinks differently.

Overall, the problem becomes where the money is supposed to come from. Yes, the salary cap is expected to jump significantly when the TV deal hits the books next year and over the next several seasons, but Josh Allen’s cap hit will only grow, and hopefully the Bills will have other top draft picks to retain, as well.

Long story short, I simply don’t see a path to extend Edmunds and everyone else. Something has to give.

Tremaine Edmunds and Derrick Henry
Photo credit Christopher Hanewinckel - USA TODAY Sports

Option 4: Edmunds plays out his fifth-year option, walks for nothing in free agency in 2023

Here’s your worst-case scenario for the Bills.

A former first round pick that walks for nothing in a Super Bowl window is simply not a scenario I’m willing to accept, and neither should Beane or the Bills.

I think it’s completely fair to think Edmunds would have a deep market if he were to become an unrestricted free agent next season. Letting him test the market, just to come back at a hometown discount, doesn’t feel like a realistic result for Edmunds or the Bills.

Simply put, Beane cannot let the situation evolve to this. He just can’t.

Podcast Episode
Howard and Jeremy
HJS - Bills general manager Brandon Beane
Listen Now
Now Playing
Now Playing

That brings us to why I believe Edmunds should be moved this offseason, which will create much-needed cap space to add elsewhere across the roster, and potentially add a high-end draft asset or another starting-caliber player in exchange.

If the Bills were interested in trading Edmunds, they would not be on the hook for any of his $12.716 million cap hit for 2022, which is a big reason why he’s a prime candidate to trade.

Naturally, many of you will wonder, “What could Edmunds possibly be worth in a trade if I think he stinks?” To help you better understand what the Bills could get in a trade, Kendall Mirsky, a contributor at Cover 1, put together some data to help put in perspective the true on-field value he brings each week, and where that ranks across the league.

To Kendall’s point, if Edmunds is as bad as some Bills fans want to consistently point out, it’s interesting to see the players he’s grouped in with here.

It’s always telling, as well, what coaches around the league continually say about Edmunds. New York Jets head coach Robert Salah raved about the young linebacker last season, even comparing him to a former Chicago Bears Hall-of-Famer.

"He is special in every sense of the imagination," Saleh said. "The amount of space he takes away just by his mere presence in the middle of the field is unlike anything that's been seen in a very long time. Think [Brian] Urlacher would probably be one of those guys."

It’s completely possible that his current contract situation hurts his value, considering whoever would be trading for Edmunds would have to immediately turn around and sign him to a long-term extension. But when you consider his age, experience and athleticism, it’s not out of the realm of possibilities that the Bills could get a late first round or early second round pick in trade compensation. They could also get another young player in a player-for-player-type trade at wide receiver or cornerback.

Regardless of what Beane and the Bills decide to do, Edmunds has his best football in front of him, which is really the unfortunate part of this conversation. Wherever Edmunds ends up signing a long-term extension, he immediately makes the acquiring team better without question.

So, for all you “the salary cap isn’t real” people, I assure you it is very real. It’s exactly why the Bills will have to move on from Edmunds, one way or another.

Photo credit Losi and Gangi
We strive to be a platform where varying opinions may be voiced and heard. The views, thoughts, and opinions expressed by the author(s) of this article and/or by those providing comments are theirs alone, and do not represent those of Audacy, Inc. We are not responsible for any damages or losses arising from this article and/or any comment(s).
Featured Image Photo Credit: Bryan M. Bennett - Getty Images