The Buffalo Bills had a solid 2023 NFL offseason. They made reasonable moves in free agency, drafted well, and re-signed several key players. The big Bills free agent risk isn’t about who they signed this NFL offseason, though. It is about who they let get away. And with the big Tremaine Edmunds Chicago Bears signing, the Bills could have a problem in the middle of the defense next season.

Why the Tremaine Edmunds Bears signing is the riskiest Bills free agent move of the 2023 NFL offseason

The Bills walked off their home field last season for the last time after the Bengals embarrassed them 27-10 in the AFC Divisional Round. The road team was more dangerous on defense, more explosive on offense, and had more talent up and down the roster.

For years, the Bills built their squad to keep up with the Kansas City Chiefs, and then they got beat by a younger team before they even made it to Patrick Mahomes and company. The Bengals are a more balanced offense than the Chiefs, and now the Bills have to find a way to construct a defense to stop (or at least slow down) both of these juggernauts.

To do this, Buffalo needed to add talent this offseason, not let it get away.

Now, building an NFL roster is a complex process, and general managers like Brandon Beane need to make tough decisions all the time. They need to save in some areas to be able to spend in others.

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This NFL offseason, the Bills' free-agent decisions prioritized the offensive line on one side and the secondary on the other. This makes sense in a lot of ways when you are facing the Chiefs and the Bengals in big games.

Beane also looked at two Pro Bowl linebackers and decided on one vs. the other.

Matt Milano is the best coverage and spy linebacker in the game. Last season, he kept QBs like Mahomes and Lamar Jackson bottled up, while also slowing down prolific pass-catchers like Mark Andrews and Travis Kelce. Because of this, Buffalo rewarded Milano with a two-year, $28.33 million contract.

That was a steal for the 28-year-old first-team All-Pro in 2022.

Next to Milano last season was the now 25-year-old Tremaine Edmunds. The 2018 first-round pick has put up over 100 tackles in every season he’s played for the Bills, and as one of the youngest rookies in NFL history, he is a unique blend of youth and experience. He’s also the size of a defensive end at 6-foot-5, 250 pounds, but covers ground like a traditional sideline-to-sideline LB.

Bean looked at these two potential Bills free agents, and he decided to go with the better overall player than the younger, more physically impressive player. That’s a commendable strategy.

However, it is also a risk, especially when you don’t really replace him.

Tremaine Edmunds' Bears contract was a massive four-year, $72 million deal with $50 million guaranteed, per Spotrac. That was too rich for Beane’s blood. But for less than half of Edmund’s $18 million per season, the GM could have gone out and gotten any of the following LBs who are all making $.5 million per season, such as Erik Kendricks, Alex Anzalone, Bobby Wagner, Lavonte David, or Devin Bush.

Buffalo could have also replaced him in the first three rounds of the 2023 NFL Draft with players like Drew Sanders from Arkansas, Marte Mapu from Sacramento State, Daiyan Henley from Washington State, Trenton Simpson from Clemson, or DeMarvion Overshown from Texas, who were all higher-rated prospects than the Bills’ third-round pick, Dorian Williams from Tulane.

Williams is a fine prospect and could be as good or even better than the four players drafted before him (although Sanders is on a different level). However, he almost certainly won’t be ready to start in Year 1.

That leaves the options for Edmunds' replacement as A.J. Klein — who is Matt Milano Lite — last year’s third-round pick, Terrel Bernard, who 110 snaps last season and made 22 tackles; last year’s seventh-round pick, Baylon Spector, who played 12 defensive snaps and made six tackles; and special teams specialists Tyler Matakevich and Tyrel Dodson.

That’s not a group that puts the fear of God in offenses.

Inside linebacker isn’t a premium position in the NFL these days, but not replacing Tremaine Edmunds with a Bills' free agent or top draft pick is a risky proposition for Buffalo’s defense, which will have head coach Sean McDermott as the de facto defensive coordinator this season.

The 2023 NFL offseason still has time on the clock. But for now, it sure looks like the Bills are going to go with replacement-by-committee for their lost LB star.