Receiving a phone call in the dead of night is very rarely an enviable occurrence.
Think back to the 3:00 a.m. phone calls you’ve received in the past. They’re anxiety-inducing. Rarely, if ever, do they contain any positive information.
But the phone call that Josh Allen received Friday morning was a bit different.
Instead of creating anxiety, it provided relief. Instead of creating restlessness out of angst, it created restlessness out of excitement.
It was a life-altering call, but not in the way that 3:00 a.m. calls typically are.
After all, this one informed him that he was set to sign one of the biggest contracts in NFL history.
“Nothing usually happens good after midnight, right?,” the Buffalo Bills signal-caller joked to reporters Friday afternoon. “That’s the saying. But that call was pretty cool.
“It was progressing [Thursday] night. It was making some real progress, and I was just being kept in the loop, really from both sides. About 3:45 a.m. is when I got the call and I woke up. The deal was pretty much done, and we were good to go. As you can imagine, it was kind of hard to sleep after that. A little tired this morning.”
The terms of the six-year, $258 million contract were agreed to on Friday afternoon, and the deal was inked that evening. The initial news came as a bit of a shock to the Buffalo faithful, as all signs had pointed to an Allen extension being punted into next offseason.
General manager Brandon Beane told reporters that there was “no momentum” on an extension in late July. Allen said that a new deal was “the least of [his] worries” shortly thereafter. On August 2, Beane again told reporters that contract discussions would be put on hold if an agreement could not be reached by Week 1.
There didn’t seem to be any rush, from either side, to finalize a deal.
Until 10:00 p.m. on Thursday.
“Sometimes you get to points, a point of the deal, that both sides are just stuck, and trying to figure that out,” Beane told reporters Friday evening. “I credit Josh. I think Josh was staying in touch with his representatives, you know, ‘we’ll give on a couple of things,’ and giving them the go-ahead. Last night, around 10:00 p.m., you never know when it’s going to happen, got the phone call. We worked on it through the night and we got it done.”
The signing, though just an addition to what has become an extensive list of blockbuster moves on behalf of Beane, is perhaps the executive’s new crowning achievement.
It’s not as flashy as the high-stakes acquisition of Stefon Diggs, as this extension was expected, after all, but it more so serves as the culmination of his work as the Bills’ general manager. Upon taking the reins in Buffalo, he and his staff identified a major need at quarterback, took a risk on a controversial quarterback with a sub-60 collegiate completion percentage, and turned him into a superstar, a legitimate MVP contender who got his team within one game of the Super Bowl last season.
Beane took a risk, and with news of Allen’s extension, it’s clear that it paid off.
“You always want to be able to draft, develop, and re-sign your own,” Beane said. “Obviously, it’s a quarterback league. Sean [McDermott] and I knew early that we needed to go draft a quarterback, a franchise guy. Josh has been everything we could’ve asked for and then some. We think the best has yet to come.”
Extensions of this magnitude don’t get done entirely overnight. They often take months – if not years – to work out, and the Allen deal is no different. A second deal for his franchise signal-caller has been in the back of Beane’s mind since Allen’s arrival in 2018.
“I think [we knew] very early on,” Beane said. “You know you can’t do it for three years, but Sean and I have been very proud of him each year when we kind of do our end of season recap, we do them with all players . . . Josh is his own worst critic, and he beats us to the punch of the things that we want to focus on in the offseason.
“That’s what we had learned about him, whether it was [McDermott] talking to [Wyoming] Coach [Craig] Bohl, or some of the people I talked to, or what our scouts found out about him. He’s been everything that we thought and then some. It’s an exciting moment for him and our franchise.”
It is his work ethic, a trait that Buffalo’s brass continues to praise, that has allowed Allen to push himself in his current position. Offseason workouts with Jordan Palmer and a driven, coachable personality have transformed Allen from a raw prototype into a generational-esque quarterback.
His unprecedented progression has been astonishing to watch. Though some believe that the development came out of nowhere, that Allen was a non-NFL caliber passer who magically became an MVP candidate in his third season, his progression was actually much more methodical and linear.
While Allen wasn’t stellar as a rookie, he was serviceable, even showing the occasional flash of brilliance. Sure, he completed just 52% of his passes and threw for just over 2,000 yards, but he found ways to help the offense in other facets, particularly as a runner. He finished the season as Buffalo’s leading rusher, picking up 631 yards on the ground while almost single-handedly carrying a very bad Bills roster to six wins.
Allen improved with an upgraded supporting cast in 2019, finishing the season with 3,089 passing yards and 29 total scores. He was far from fantastic, but he was again serviceable, leading the Bills to a 10-6 record and playoff appearance.
He took his largest and most publicized leap in his third season, throwing for over 4,500 yards and 37 touchdowns while leading the Bills to the AFC Championship game.
Within three years, Allen evolved from a laughing stock, the butt-end of bad jokes about player analysis, into a near-unanimous top-five quarterback.
And he’s not finished yet.
“It’s surreal to be in this spot right now,” Allen said. “I’m just thankful that we could get it done, and now we can focus on going out and earning it, and making sure that they understand that I know they didn’t pay me for what I’ve done, they did this because they expect me to continue what I’m doing, and expect me to go win this team some championships. We’ve got a lot of work to do, I know that, I’m just excited to put this behind me and start focusing on football now.”
Allen’s road to this point has been far from glamorous. He’s been doubted, laughed at, and cast aside at nearly every turn, with who, and what, he truly is being consistently questioned by those who neglect to do their own research.
Buffalo head coach Sean McDermott is familiar with this narrative.
“I think it fits Buffalo,” McDermott told reporters Friday. “That was part of, as you guys have heard Brandon and I talk about when we went through that vetting process, the scouting process, of making sure that we could check that box of the fit with Buffalo and the community.
“I think that just fits well, right? People doubt. They don’t know. That’s, to me, true about our city here. People say things about Buffalo, but they really don’t know, and they don’t take the time to come find out. I think Josh is changing that and I think we’re changing that.”
Just how important Allen’s extension is cannot be overstated. He can go to bed Friday night – and every night for the next eight years – knowing that he and his family are taken care of. Beane and McDermott can rest easy knowing that the swing they took at the quarterback position was warranted, and they’ll reap the rewards of that for the better part of the next decade. Bills fans can breathe a sigh of relief, as not only has the team finally landed a franchise quarterback – but he’s now locked up for the foreseeable future.
Allen realizes the importance of this, but he doesn’t want to focus on it.
He just wants to focus on Week 1.
“I personally think it was a match that was made to work,” Allen said. “Me being in this great city here in Buffalo, and kind of trying to embody what the city is. It’s blue-collar, hard-working, don’t complain, figure it out mentality. I’m very internally driven, and I’ve always had this goal in mind to play this game for as long as I can. Again, I’ve had so much help along the way. It’s a blessing.
“I’m still trying to find words to really tell you how to feel, all I know is that we’ve got a game coming up here in a few weeks. We’ve got to be ready, I have to be on top of my game and be the best quarterback that I can be for this team.”