Buffalo Bills training camp roster preview: linebackers


The Buffalo Bills had several choices to make as linebacker this offseason, from re-signing one key element to extending another, keeping a veteran and reshuffling depth. The net result has been a group that will largely be alike on the pitch, however. There’s plenty to do in our State of the Bills Roster series before training camp as linebacker.


Matt milano

Contract status for 2021: Signing of a contract for $ 41.5 million over four years this offseason (ceiling of $ 7.8 million reached, dead ceiling of $ 20 million)
Age: 26 (27 on 7/28/2021)
2020 Playing time: Ten games (five starts), 335 defensive snaps (31.28%), 15 ST snaps (3.38%)
Key statistics 2020: 45 tackles, four TFLs, nine quarterback hits, 3.5 sacks, three pass breakouts, one interception

Milano is a great cover linebacker and is constantly around the ball. Despite an injury history that is less than stellar, he quit with the Bills on a huge deal that fell short of the market. It was a good deal for Buffalo and Milano no longer has to worry about the injury virus reducing his earning potential. He will continue to be a leader on the defensive side of the ball as a player who does everything from blitzing to stopping the run to covering the midfield.

Tremaine Edmunds

Contract status for 2021: Sign; fourth year of rookie contract (fifth year picked up this offseason); the cap reaches $ 4,028,037, which is fully guaranteed
Age: At 23 on 05/02/2021
2020 Playing time: 15 games (15 starts), 911 defensive snaps (85.06%), 69 special team snaps (ST) (15.54%)
Key statistics 2020: 119 tackles, three breakage passes, two sacks, four tackles for loss (TFL), three quarterback hits

Edmunds had a pretty decorated start to his professional career and it’s hard to believe he’s still only 22 years old. He did his second Pro Bowl last season, finishing second on the team in tackles while playing one game less than point guard, safety back Jordan Poyer. At first, Edmunds was treating a shoulder injury, and although he missed a game for this reason, it appears he tried to eliminate it by coming back too early, and his effectiveness was compromised for a great deal. part of the first half of the year. . He settled in well after the week off, as did the rest of the Bills’ arrest unit. Edmunds is a rare athlete with the ability to play both man and zone cover in the middle, and he’s proven to be a fan of the blitzer when the team decide to use him that way. Buffalo took his fifth-year option in May, so they have two more years to review it before it hits the open market.

AJ Klein

Contract status for 2021: Sign; second year of a three-year agreement (cap reached of $ 6.4 million; cap charge of $ 4 million in case of reduction)
Age: 29 (30 to 7/30/2021)
2020 Playing time: 16 games (11 starts), 652 defensive snaps (60.88%), 147 ST snaps (33.11%)
Key statistics 2020: 75 tackles, five TFLs, five sacks, nine quarterback hits, one fumble recovery, two forced fumbles, four breakthroughs

The veteran of the free agent signing was given a bigger role than expected early in the season, as injuries to Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano exposed him to cover far too often, that is. that is to say never, because Klein is do not someone you want in the cover. As a result, he struggled a bit early in the season. However, as Edmunds regained his health, the Bills and defensive coordinator / assistant head coach Leslie Frazier found a groove with Klein’s use, ensuring he was in a blitz position often. Klein finished tied for the team leader in the sacks thanks to a mid-season push. He also led all of the Bills linebackers in pass breakouts, although he allowed 73% of passes thrown his way to be completed. It’s an expensive insurance policy in this position, but he’s proven worth it this year, adjusting to a new old defense (he played under head coach Sean McDermott with the Carolina Panthers) in a season modified by the pandemic.

Tyrel Dodson

Contract status for 2021: Sign; last year of the recruit contract ($ 782,000 limit reached, $ 2,000 limit fee in the event of a cut)
Age: At 23 on 06/25/2021
2020 Playing time: Ten games (two starts), 172 defensive snaps (16.06%), 138 ST snaps (31.08%)
Key statistics 2020: 22 tackles, two TFLs, one sack, two assists

Dodson has shown some promise when replacing Edmunds and Milan in 2020, although he ultimately hasn’t been able to match what these two do. It’s a tough standard to match, so I don’t blame it – there aren’t a lot of people with athleticism from Milan and Edmunds on the planet, let alone the NFL – but it shows the downfall of two dog tops to their backups. Dodson has also been a valued special teams contributor throughout the year, but he’s been a good scratch throughout the team’s playoff run.

Tyler Matakevich

Contract status for 2021: Signed a one-year extension this offseason, so there are two years left on his contract ($ 2.95 million cap reached; $ 3.35 million cap fee in the event of a cut)
Age: 28 (29 12/22/2021)
2020 Playing time: 16 matches, 342 ST snaps (77.03%), 72 defensive snaps (6.72%)
Key statistics 2020: 23 tackles, two missed passes

The veteran specialist came to Buffalo hoping to play in defense, and while the team suffered numerous injuries in that position, Matakevich’s role in defense was limited to blowouts. It was a dynamic presence of special teams that led the Bills in a few moments in the “third phase”. The team saved ceiling space by adding an extra year to their contract this offseason.

Andre Smith

Contract status for 2021: Signature of a minimum two-year veteran’s contract this offseason ($ 1.128 million ceiling reached, $ 50,000 ceiling in the event of a cut)
Age: At 24 on 04/20/2021
2020 Playing time: 12 matches, 215 ST snaps (48.42%), 47 defensive snaps (4.39%)
Key statistics 2020: Nine tackles, one TFL, one pass break

The 23-year-old backer was one of the team’s best players in special teams in terms of snaps played. It makes sense that the bills would bring it down to a low price. He’ll have a harder time making the roster this year because of the other linebacker depth the team has given him.

Mike bell

Contract status for 2021: Signed one year, $ 660,000 this offseason ($ 0 money guaranteed)
Age: 24 on 12/12/2021
2020 Playing time: N / A
Key statistics 2020: N / A

Bell spent part of the 2019 and 2020 offseason with the Bills, but was never part of the roster or the practice squad. A security that has horribly tested in 2019 Combine NFL, he was not drafted and has since become a linebacker. He had a great strip at Fresno State but has a steep curve towards the practice team at a position he’s never played in a real game.

Tyrell Adams

Contract status for 2021:
Age: At 29 on 11/4/21
2020 Playing time: 16 games (12 starts) for Houston Texans; 812 Defensive Snaps (73.29%) and 122 Special Team Snaps (27.42%)
Key statistics 2020: 125 tackles, 4 defended passes, 2 forced fumbles, 1 recovery fumble, 2 sacks for the Texans

A successful season with the Houston Texans didn’t even translate into a mid-size contract for the journeyman, who spent time with seven different NFL teams. Every stat in his stats line was a career high by far. He’s likely to be a seasoned reserve who can step in and play as well as a special teams player for the Bills as a sixth LB, replacing the late Del’Shawn Phillips.

Marquel Lee

Contract status for 2021: Signed a one-year contract this offseason for $ 970,000 ($ 25,000 guaranteed)
Age: 24 (25 on 10/21/21)
2020 Playing time: N / A
Key statistics 2020: N / A

A player who could potentially see the back of the roster as a special teammate and veteran insurance, Lee still has some work to do to make it happen. He is experienced and started 19 games for the Oakland Raiders from 2017 to 2019. He spent 2020 on the sidelines after sustaining an injury throughout the offseason.

Joe giles-harris

Contract status for 2021: Signed a one-year contract and $ 850,000 this offseason ($ 0 guaranteed)
Age: At 24 on 1/4/21
2020 Playing time: 9 games (3 starts) for Jacksonville Jaguars; 204 Defensive Snaps (18.20%) and 170 Special Team Snaps (38.46%)
Key statistics 2020: 23 tackles, 1 sack for Jacksonville

Giles-Harris comes from Jacksonville, where he played quite a few snaps after being undrafted in 2019. With a change of coaches, the Jaguars released him in May. He’s another guy who can fight for the back of the roster and has experience in the NFL.

The players who left this offseason


Milano and Edmunds are going to get the lion’s share of the shots with Klein as the first replacement and Matakevich as a lock in a special teams role. That probably leaves two places free for the other six players. All of them have experience on the NFL rosters which makes it even more fascinating. The Bills did a great job of building depth.

Dodson has been in the system and has shown good covering ability which probably gives him the way to go for a job and Adams has had a great year in 2020 but can that translate to Buffalo? Maybe one of the guys will be treated for a conditional late-round draft pick during the preseason if there’s an injury somewhere, but the Bills are going to unleash some NFL-caliber talent as linebacker. in August.

With Milano and Edmunds under contract together for a guaranteed two more years, perhaps the biggest question to be answered this season is whether or not Edmunds is worth a big long-term contract.


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