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Bills pick up fifth-year options on QB Josh Allen, LB Tremaine Edmunds

The Bills made moves to shore up its foundational pieces by picking up the fifth-year option on its 2018 first-round draft picks: QB Josh Allen (above) and LB Tremaine Edmunds (not pictured).
The Bills made moves to shore up its foundational pieces by picking up the fifth-year option on its 2018 first-round draft picks: QB Josh Allen (above) and LB Tremaine Edmunds (not pictured).Reed Hoffmann/Associated Press

Buffalo Bills quarterback Josh Allen and linebacker Tremaine Edmunds are staying around for at least two more seasons.

The Bills on Monday exercised the fifth-year options of both players’ contracts and retained the 2018 first-round draft picks through the 2022 season. The move comes at a combined price of about $36 million, with Allen set to make nearly $23 million in his final year.

Bills general manager Brandon Beane had raised concerns how he’ll fit both contracts under a slow-growing salary cap. The key now becomes negotiating extensions before the fifth-year options kick in for next season.

“It’s not an ideal scenario for that to pick them both up and not extend them,” Beane said a week before the draft. “So we just got to kind of figure out how we can make that work in our system.”

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The salary cap has become a larger issue after its projected growth was stalled by the economic effects of the novel coronavirus pandemic.

Beane was required to be creative this offseason in retaining three key starters in linebacker Matt Milano, a former Boston College standout, and offensive linemen Jon Feliciano and Daryl Williams despite the salary cap shrinking to $182.5 million. He’ll face an even bigger challenge to retain his core players next year, with the Bills currently featuring 26 players eligible to become unrestricted free agents.

Allen and Edmunds represented the cornerstones of the future when selected in the first round of the 2018 draft. Beane used a stockpile of draft picks he accumulated by maneuvering Buffalo up the order.

Buffalo moved up five spots to select Allen at No. 7, and then jumped from 22nd to 16th to draft Edmunds.

Cowboys decline option on LB Vander Esch

The Dallas Cowboys declined the fifth-year option on linebacker Leighton Vander Esch’s rookie contract Monday, setting up an interesting season at the position after the club used this year’s first-round pick on a potential replacement.

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Vander Esch had a strong rookie season after the Cowboys drafted him 19th overall in 2018. But injuries limited him to 19 games the past two years, most notably the revelation that the former Boise State player has always had spinal stenosis, a narrowing of the spinal column that makes neck injuries more risky.

The 25-year-old was due to make $9.1 million in 2022. Vander Esch has a $2.1 million base salary in the fourth year of his $11.8 million rookie contract.

Leighton Vander Esch, center, has struggled with injuries the last two seasons.
Leighton Vander Esch, center, has struggled with injuries the last two seasons.Ron Jenkins/Associated Press

Declining the option doesn’t mean Vander Esch won’t return to the Cowboys. Cornerback Morris Claiborne re-signed for less money in 2016 after Dallas declined his fifth-year option.

Executive vice president of personnel Stephen Jones said on his radio show the club wants to keep Vander Esch longer term, saying the salary cap dictated the decision to decline the option.

Titans draft pick faces assault charge

Tennessee Titans fourth-round draft pick Rashad Weaver has been charged with simple assault following an incident in Pittsburgh last month.

The complaint against Weaver, 23, of Cooper City, Fla., who played defensive end at the University of Pittsburgh, was filed Friday, a day before the Titans selected Weaver with the 135th overall pick in the draft.

The charge stems from an alleged altercation between Weaver and a woman in the early hours of Sunday, April 18, in Pittsburgh’s popular South Side entertainment district. At least one witness told police Weaver struck the woman. Another witness said she saw the woman fall, but did not see what precipitated it.

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Weaver was not at the scene when police arrived.

His attorney, Dennis M. Blackwell, called the allegations against Weaver “completely false and reckless.”

“Without question and without hesitation, we deny Rashad punched anyone, especially a woman,” Blackwell said in a statement. “We intend to conduct a full investigation of these charges, and intend to pursue all legal remedies available to Rashad.”

Bears release veteran OT Leno

The Chicago Bears released veteran left tackle Charles Leno Jr. Drafted by Chicago in the seventh round in 2014, Leno started every game the past five seasons and 93 in a row dating to 2015. He made the Pro Bowl as an alternate in 2018. Leno’s release comes after the Bears traded up to draft Oklahoma State tackle Teven Jenkins in the second round of the NFL draft on Friday. The 6-foot-6, 317-pound Jenkins made 35 starts over four seasons for the Cowboys, including 26 at right tackle and seven at left tackle . . . The Atlanta Falcons picked up the fifth-year option on receiver Calvin Ridley’s contract, meaning he will make $11.1 million in 2022 and be in line for a long-term deal. Ridley, the No. 26 overall pick of the Falcons from Alabama, is coming off his best season. He had 90 catches for 1,374 yards and nine touchdowns in 15 games, stepping into a lead role with Julio Jones enduring an injury-plagued season. Ridley has the most receptions (217), receiving yards (3,061) and touchdown receptions (26) through the first three seasons in Falcons history.

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