BUFFALO, N.Y. — The offseason questions about a contract extension kept coming, no matter how coy Buffalo Bills general manager Brandon Beane was in answering or how many times quarterback Josh Allen deflected.
But even with the possibility of tabling the conversation until 2022, neither side showed signs of angst; Allen and the Bills publicly expressed their desire to get a deal done and knew it was a matter of when and not if.
As it turns out, the when came Friday afternoon.
Allen and the Bills agreed to a six-year contract extension worth $258 million with an NFL-record $150 million guaranteed, according to ESPN analyst Adam Schefter. The $43 million average annual value makes Allen the second-highest-paid player in league history, behind Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes, and the highest-paid player in Bills’ history.
It’s a fitting accolade for the franchise’s highest-drafted quarterback in history and will serve as one of the most notable rags-to-riches stories in sports — the unrecruited kid from a farm town in central California whose only Division I offer came when a coach from Wyoming attended a junior college game to scout one of Allen’s teammates. The same kid whose selection at No. 7 in 2018 was met with widespread criticism and whose rookie season (10 TD passes, 12 interceptions and a 52.8 completion percentage) did little to quiet that skepticism.
Allen was the third quarterback drafted in 2018, behind Baker Mayfield (Cleveland Browns, No. 1) and Carolina Panthers starter Sam Darnold, who was selected No. 3 by the New York Jets; now Allen is one of the richest players in NFL history.
But Allen in Buffalo was simply too perfect of a fit to fail.
“I personally think it was just a match that was made to work,” he said. “Me being in this great city here in Buffalo and kind of trying to embody what the city is: Blue-collar, hard-working, don’t complain, like, figure it out mentality. I’m very internally driven and I’ve always had this goal of mine to play this game for as long as I can.”
However, with the Bills’ investment comes enormous responsibility. Quarterbacks Jared Goff (the No. 1 selection, by the Los Angeles Rams) and Carson Wentz (Philadelphia Eagles) were the first two picks in the 2016 NFL draft. Both received huge contract extensions from the teams that drafted them but were traded this offseason.
Allen is now being paid like Mahomes, so anything short of winning the Super Bowl will be considered a disappointment.
The Bills are clearly confident Allen can meet expectations. His contract is a byproduct of a three-year investment. When Buffalo drafted Allen, Beane supported him in every way to ensure his success by improving the offensive line and keeping coach Sean McDermott’s staff intact to create stability.
Beane even traded for star wide receiver Stefon Diggs last season to help Allen take that next step forward.
In return, Allen turned in an MVP runner-up campaign (4,544 passing yards, 37 TD passes and a 69.2 completion percentage), setting franchise records in nearly every major statistical passing category. Beane isn’t worried about the 2020 season being an outlier. In his mind, Allen had checked the final box; he was a respected leader in the locker room and a treasured pillar in the Buffalo community.
“There’s no trepidation on our part of, ‘oh, let’s just extend it a year or two’ or anything like that — we believe in Josh,” Beane said.
Everything about Allen had screamed “franchise quarterback” except one thing — his on-field production. That final question mark was answered with gusto last season.
But as Dr. Dre once told Kendrick Lamar, “anybody can get it — the hard part is keeping it.”
As impressive as Allen’s 2020 season was, it is an outlier as far as his NFL career has gone. Few people could criticize Beane if he wanted to see another year of production before betting the house on his quarterback.
That’s the thing, though — with this contract extension, Beane isn’t betting the house on just Allen. Considering all Beane, McDermott, offensive coordinator Brian Daboll and quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey have done to get the face of their franchise to this point, Allen’s deal represents Beane’s innate confidence in their work.
“They understand what he does well,” Beane said. “Then we’ve been able to figure out what kind of weapons he likes the best, what he sees, what he meshes well with, and we’ve added those things. … and as Sean said, we got a full development staff here to help people continue to grow.
“Josh is by no means a finished product; he’ll be the first one to tell you. But those things, and where he’s come from to where he’s at today, that gives you the confidence to ask [owners Kim and Terry Pegula] to allow you to make this move.”
How can anyone be sure Allen’s focus is still on the task at hand? According to ESPN’s Chris Mortensen, Allen found out from his agent that they were close to a deal around 4 a.m. Friday. He practiced as usual and signed the deal afterward.
As if nothing had changed.
“That’s the way he’s wired,” McDermott said.
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