Aaron Schobel was the second pick of the Tom Donahoe era during the 2001 NFL Draft. Yesterday, he was released by the only NFL team he has ever played for.
Upon being drafted, Schobel made an immediate impact for the Buffalo Bills, playing in every game and starting the final 11 while racking up 6.5 sacks as a rookie. As a high note, he sacked Patriots QB Tom Brady twice in each game as a rookie. In Gregg Williams' transition from the long-standing 3-4 defense to the 4-3, Schobel was a key cog along the new defensive line. In 2002 and 2003, he sacked opposing quarterbacks 8.5 and 11.5 times. 2003 also saw the Bills' lone win over the Patriots in Schobel's career.
When Mike Mularkey arrived in 2004, the Bills maintained the 4-3 defense. Schobel rebounded from an 8-sack performance in 2004 to record 12 in 2005 - alongside a career-high 54 tackles and support for the Pro Bowl. That team fell just one win short of making the playoffs, and was the only year the team was over .500 during Schobel's Bills career.
Under Dick Jauron and the new Tampa 2 defense, he finally broke through in 2006, and was elected to the Pro Bowl after posting a career-high 14 sacks, good for third-best in the NFL, to go along with 4 forced fumbles. Following this performance, the Bills rewarded Schobel with a lucrative 7-year, $50.25M contact with $20.25M guaranteed.
He made a return trip to Hawaii in 2007 despite contributing only 6.5 sacks. In 2008, Schobel missed 11 games when a nagging foot injury called Lisfranc fracture hobbled the Pro Bowler. The ailment leads to extreme pain in the foot caused by a dislocation or fracture in the bones in the arch of the foot, something that is detrimental for anyone trying to push off. Until the injury, Schobel had started 107 consecutive games for the Bills.
In 2009, Schobel experienced somewhat of a rebirth. He reached double-digit sacks (with 10) for the fourth time in his career, compiled 34 tackles, forced three fumbles, and made the biggest play of his career in the opener against New England. With the score knotted at 7-7 in the second quarter, Schobel read a screen pass being set up by Brady. He leaped, pulled down the lob designed to go over his head, and returned it 26 yards for the only touchdown of his career. Schobel also added to his sack total against former league MVP in that game; he has sacked Brady more than any other player - 12 times.
Upon Dick Jauron and Perry Fewell's dismissals, the Bills hired Chan Gailey as head coach, who hired George Edwards to transition to a 3-4. It's unclear whether the scheme change, the decade-long playoff drought, the distance from his family home in Texas, or actual retirement plans for the 32-year-old kept the defensive end from returning to Buffalo to play outside linebacker. When he didn't report to any off-season workouts, mandatory or otherwise, and failed to arrive at training camp, GM Buddy Nix decided it was time to move on Monday. By Wednesday morning, Nix released him, saying, "that was a fair thing to do for a guy who has played hard for us the past nine seasons."
Schobel ranks No. 54 in NFL history in sacks, and is tenth among active players, but has never played in a playoff game. In 2009, Buffalo Rumblings named Schobel the 31st-best player in Buffalo Bills team history before he rebounded for his last season.
- Second in team history with 78 career sacks (93 behind Bruce Smith and 16.5 ahead of Phil Hansen)
- Third in team history with 21 forced fumbles
- Eleventh in team history with 337 tackles
- Led the team in sacks in each of his first seven seasons in the NFL, eight times overall
- One of two Bills (Bruce Smith) with four 10-plus sack seasons
Good luck, Mr. Schobel.
There has been strong interest from both sides in Schobel joining the Houston Texans. It would reunite the DE with his former defensive line coach, Bill Kollar, and he would be an hour's drive from his house, playing in a 4-3, for a team that could turn the corner and make the playoffs.