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.

The fifth year of the contracts is guaranteed, though the Bills can renegotiate the deals.

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.”

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 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.

COWBOYS: Dallas 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.

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.

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.

BEARS: Chicago released veteran left tackle Charles Leno Jr. on Monday. Leno tweeted that his “time in Chicago has officially come to an end” and called it “a bittersweet day.” He said he will “be rooting for the young guys to succeed” and thanked Bears fans.

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 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. And general manager Ryan Pace said the Bears believe he can play both tackle spots in the NFL.

BROWNS: Cleveland signed free agent defensive tackle and former Seattle draft pick Malik McDowell and five undrafted free agents Monday.

Selected in the second by the Seahawks in 2017, McDowell was sentenced to 11 months in jail in 2019 for several offenses, including the assault of a Michigan police officer who couldn’t subdue the 6-foot-6, 295-pounder despite using a Taser.

McDowell suffered a head injury in an ATV accident three months after being drafted and never played for the Seahawks.

Cleveland General Manager Andrew Berry said the club has done “extensive work” on McDowell over the past two months and is comfortable signing him.

FALCONS: Wide receiver Calvin Ridley, the team’s top draft pick in 2018, had his fifth-year, $11.116 million option picked up Monday by the team.

It was previously reported that team was set to make this move, but General Manager Terry Fontenot would not confirm it.

“Yeah, those are things we discussed, but we need to discuss that with those players and those agents and make sure we have those communications with them as opposed to doing it in this forum,” Fontenot said to local media when asked about Ridley and Hayden Hurst’s fifth-year options.

Hurst’s option – worth $5.4 million – was not picked up after the Falcons drafted former Florida tight end Kyle Pitts with the No. 4 overall pick.

Ridley signed a four-year deal with a team option for a fifth season after being drafted 26th overall in 2018. In three seasons with the Falcons, Ridley has 217 receptions for 3,061 yards and 26 touchdowns – including 90 catches for 1,374 yards and nine touchdowns in 2020.

COLTS: Indianapolis tight end Mo Alie-Cox signed a restricted free agent tender, a one-year deal that will pay $3.384 million next season. Two other restricted free agents – starting receiver Zach Pascal and All-Pro special teams player George Odum – already had signed their tenders.

The 6-foot-5, 267-pound Alie-Cox first joined the Colts as an undrafted free agent in 2017. He was waived with an injury settlement three months later but was signed back to Indy’s practice squad in October. Over the next three seasons, Alie-Cox played an increasingly more valuable role. He’s appeared in 40 games and emerged as an athletic target who can make catches in traffic.

VIKINGS: Minnesota declined the fifth-year contract option for cornerback Mike Hughes on Monday, with the injury-hampered 2018 first-round pick’s future with the team in doubt.

Hughes has 13 passes defensed, three fumble recoveries and two interceptions in 24 career games. He has missed more than half of them to injuries, first tearing the ACL in his left knee as a rookie. He cracked a bone in his neck in the last regular-season game in 2019 that kept him out of the playoffs, and that trouble persisted last year, limiting him to four games.

Hughes becomes the fifth first-round draft pick to have his fifth-year option declined by the Vikings since the rookie contract structure began in 2011, joining wide receiver Laquon Treadwell, quarterback Teddy Bridgewater, wide receiver Cordarrelle Patterson and quarterback Christian Ponder.

BRONCOS: Denver released quarterback Jeff Driskel on Monday when it signed veteran tight end Eric Saubert.

Driskel began last season as Drew Lock’s backup and played well in relief during a Week 2 loss at Pittsburgh. He lost his one start the following week, 28-10 to Tampa Bay, and was leapfrogged by Brett Rypien for the No. 2 job the rest of the season.

JAGUARS: Jacksonville declined to pick up the fifth-year option in defensive tackle Taven Bryan’s rookie contract, meaning 2021 likely will be his final year with the Jaguars.

The 29th overall selection from Florida that year, Bryan has played in every game in three seasons. But he has just 11 tackles for loss, including 3 1/2 sacks. He finished with a career-low 18 tackles and half a sack in 2020 while counting $2.77 million against salary cap.

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

The complaint against Weaver, 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.

Weaver was not at the scene when police arrived. His attorney, Dennis M. Blackwell, called the allegations against Weaver “completely false and reckless.”

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