ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. -- The joy Dawson Knox experienced in signing a $53.6 million, four-year contract extension with the Buffalo Bills on Wednesday was undercut by the recent death of the tight end's younger brother.
As a result, Knox couldn’t think of a better way to pay tribute to Luke Knox than by dedicating this season to him.
“I know that he’s up in heaven right now, and he’s smiling down, couldn’t be more excited, so this is for him, too,“ Knox said in a pool report released by the Bills, who are in Los Angeles preparing to open the NFL season on Thursday night against the Rams.
“I know he wanted me to give it my all in everything I did, so there’s a little extra motivation for me there this year, because I know he’ll be able to be watching,” he added. “He’s always been my biggest supporter and wants me to be the best player and be the best man I possibly can be.”
The signing comes three weeks after Luke Knox, a Florida International University player, died of unknown causes.
While the Bills announced the move, which locks up Knox through the 2026 season, a person with direct knowledge of the contract confirmed its value to The Associated Press after it was first reported by ESPN. The person spoke on condition of anonymity because the team did not reveal the figure, which currently ranks Knox as the NFL’s sixth-highest paid tight end.
The person said Knox is guaranteed $31 million, with the remainder made up in incentives and bonus money.
Knox, who has one year left on his rookie contract, is coming off a season in which he established himself as one of Josh Allen’s top red-zone targets. He finished second on the two-time defending AFC East champions with nine touchdown receptions, setting the franchise’s single-season record for tight ends while also tying for second in the NFL among players at his position.
“I knew I wanted to be here for as long as I possibly could be, so I couldn’t be more excited to lock this deal in,” Knox said. “I love the city of Buffalo. It couldn’t be a better football city.”
Knox was reminded of the Bills' passionate fanbase after it donated more than $200,000 to Buffalo’s P.U.N.T. Pediatric Cancer Collaborative in his brother’s name.
“It’s more than I could have expected, but at the same time, it’s weirdly not surprising just because this is such an incredible city with such an incredible fanbase and people,” he said Monday. “It means the world to me. I love all the people in Buffalo.”
From Tennessee, the 25-year-old Knox was already anticipating the possibility of signing a long-term extension by purchasing a home in the Buffalo area this offseason.
Selected in the third round of the 2019 draft out of Mississippi, Knox is coming off a breakout season in posting career highs with 49 catches for 587 yards, while also becoming Buffalo’s first tight end to score in four consecutive games. He nearly doubled the production from his first two seasons in which he combined for 52 catches for 676 yards and five TDs.
At 6-foot-4 and 254 pounds, Knox’s emergence last year provided Buffalo’s pass-first offense a dependable and sizeable dimension particularly inside opponents’ 20, while taking advantage of opposing teams focusing their coverage on top receiver Stefon Diggs.
Locking up Knox ensures the Bills offense will have a semblance of continuity beyond this season, with Allen and Diggs already signed to long-term deals, and No. 2 receiver Gabe Davis still having two years left on his contract.
Knox was already looking ahead to building on his production this year.
“I’ve always just took the stance that I want to do whatever I can to help the team win games,” Knox said, noting he also needs to play a valuable role in blocking and pass-protection situations. “But I’d also love to continue contributing in the passing game as well, just because I know the weapon that I can be. And I kind of want to use last year as a foundation going forward.”
This story has been corrected to reflect Gabe Davis having two years remaining on his contract.
More AP NFL: https://apnews.com/hub/nfl and https://apnews.com/hub/pro-32 and https://twitter.com/AP—NFL