Bills Milano Football

Buffalo Bills outside linebacker Matt Milano is congratulated by teammates after intercepting a pass intended for New York Jets receiver Jamison Crowder during the first half in 2020 in Orchard park, New York.

BUFFALO, N.Y. — Starting linebacker Matt Milano will explore free agency next month because of Buffalo’s salary-cap constraints, a person with direct knowledge of the situation told The Associated Press on Friday.

Milano has been a starter since his rookie season in 2017, and his decision is based on the Bills not being in position to match the offers he is expecting to receive once the NFL’s signing period opens on March 17. His decision was confirmed by the person who spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity because the discussions between the player and team have been private.

Milano is projected to be among the top linebackers available on the market, and the Bills are currently estimated to have only $3 million available under a salary cap that is dropping due to revenue losses incurred during the coronavirus pandemic.

The league this week informed teams the cap minimum will be $180 million, which is down from $198 million from last season.

The Bills are already expected to create more space by cutting or restructuring existing salaries in order to address other more affordable needs, such as offensive line. The team also needs to free future salary cap space to re-sign quarterback Josh Allen, who is coming off a breakout season and entering the final year of his rookie contract.

General manager Brandon Beane last month raised the prospect of not being able to afford re-signing Milano.

“Listen, we want to keep good players. Matt’s a good player, so we’d love to keep him here,” Beane said. “But, again, he’s earned this right and we’ll just have to see how it plays out.”

Buffalo is coming off a 13-3 finish in which it won its first AFC East Division title in 25 years, and reached the conference championship for the first time since 1994.