- Associated Press - Thursday, August 13, 2020

First, the Buffalo Bills made sure that their improvement could continue under coach Sean McDermott.

Then they made sure their franchise left tackle would remain a big part of it.

One day after locking up McDermott with a contract extension through 2025, the Bills signed Dion Dawkins to a four-year, $60 million deal.

The team announced the signing, while a person with direct knowledge of the contract provided the value of the deal to The Associated Press. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the team did not release that figure.

Dawkins, 26, has established himself as one of the top young offensive tackles in the league. He was initially selected by the Bills in the second round of the 2017 draft out of Temple. Dawkins had one year left on his rookie contract, and is now signed through the 2024 season.

“It’s just a blessing to be a part of it,” Dawkins said. “McDermott, he came in here and preached to trust the process, respect the process, respect your peers and believe in yourself. To see that the Pegulas had locked in our head spear, which is Sean McDermott, it just shows that we’re all preaching what we say. We’re just taking it one step at a time and I’m just glad they had me in their vision and I’m just a piece to the end puzzle.”

At 6-foot-5 and 320 pounds, Dawkins has 43 career starts, all at left tackle.

Dawkins showed immediate promise as a rookie, becoming a full-time starter midway through his first season. He experienced a difficult second season and was critical of his own play before rebounding in a big way in 2019 as part of a revamped unit that included four new starters.

Dawkins also has two receiving touchdowns, scoring against AFC East rivals New York Jets and the New England Patriots.

Now with a lucrative contract extension, Dawkins said he learned from his 2018 experience and vowed not to become too comfortable or satisfied as a result.

“Never get comfortable with the cushion,” Dawkins said. “It just means that it’s time to go earn it. It’s definitely time to go out there and earn every penny of it and just to believe in yourself and to continue to take it one day at a time.

“It just gives me that much more respect and it just shows the respect that they had for myself that, listen, this is our franchise tackle and Dion Dawkins is a piece that we can build around and we can continue to win games with. It means a lot to myself, it means a lot to being a pro. I have a billionaire organization that believes in the kid from Rahway, from Temple, the second-round draft pick, the kid that nobody thought could be a left tackle. And here I am.”

Dawkins is the first member of McDermott’s initial draft class to receive a contract extension. Extending fellow 2017 picks Tre’Davious White and linebacker Matt Milano is likely to be next on Buffalo’s wish list, with White expected to become one of the highest-paid cornerbacks in the league.

“It shows a lot of respect to Coach McDermott and to the organization as a whole,” Dawkins said. “They are big on what they preach. If they’re going to walk around here and speak on we’re going to take care of our players, trust the process, treat guys with respect, take care of yourself and do right by others, this just shows that they mean exactly what they say and they’re doing exactly what they say. I’m just glad I’m a part of it.”


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