FILE - In this  Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021 file photo, Buffalo Bills outside linebacker Matt Milano (58) sets up for a play in the second half of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins in Orchard Park, N.Y. The Buffalo Bills re-signed linebacker Matt Milano to a four-year contract on Thursday, March 11, 2021 less than a week before the three-year starter was eligible to become a free agent. The signing comes a day after the Bills freed up more than $14 million in space under the salary cap by releasing receiver John Brown and defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson.(AP Photo/Adrian Kraus, File)
FILE - In this Sunday, Jan. 3, 2021 file photo, Buffalo Bills outside linebacker Matt Milano (58) sets up for a play in the second half of an NFL football game against the Miami Dolphins in Orchard Park, N.Y. The Buffalo Bills re-signed linebacker Matt Milano to a four-year contract on Thursday, March 11, 2021 less than a week before the three-year starter was eligible to become a free agent. The signing comes a day after the Bills freed up more than $14 million in space under the salary cap by releasing receiver John Brown and defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson.(AP Photo/Adrian Kraus, File)

BUFFALO, N.Y. (AP) — The Buffalo Bills re-signed linebacker Matt Milano to a four-year contract on Thursday, less than a week before the starter was eligible to become a free agent.

The signing comes a day after the Bills freed up more than $14.4 million in space under the salary cap by releasing receiver John Brown and defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson.

Milano had been preparing to test free agency, which opens Wednesday, after believing the Bills wouldn’t be able to match the offers he anticipated attracting on the open market.

Bills general manager Brandon Beane in January even raised the prospect of not being able to afford re-signing Milano by saying: “He’s earned this right and we’ll just have to see how it plays out.”

The 26-year-old Milano has been a starter since the second half of his rookie season in 2017. Drafted in the fifth round out of Boston College, he has developed into a key contributor when healthy. Milano's versatility at the outside linebacker position to defend against the run and pass made him a valuable three-down player in Buffalo’s defensive system.

An assortment of injuries limited him to appearing in just 11 regular-season games and six starts this past year in which Milano still posted career-bests with 3 1/2 sacks and nine quarterback pressures. Including playoffs, the Bills had a 12-1 record with Milano in the lineup last season.

Buffalo finished 13-3 and then followed by making its deepest playoff run in 27 years by reaching the AFC championship game, which it lost to Kansas City.

In 2018, he was the NFL’s only player with at least 75 tackles, three interceptions and three fumble recoveries. Overall, Milano has five interceptions, five fumble recoveries and a forced fumble in 55 career games, including 39 starts.

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