The Buffalo Bills’ linebacking corps is something of an unknown heading into the 2017 season. The 2016 squad produced two Pro Bowlers at the position, but one left in free agency and the second is coming off such an anomalous season that it’s almost universally expected he’ll regress to the mean this year.
The Bills addressed the position in the latter half of the 2017 NFL Draft, but they also needed to look to free agency to shore up the depth while providing legitimate competition for the starters. That’s what they did by bringing in today’s subject.
Name: Gerald Hodges
Height/Weight: 6’2”, 236 lbs.
College: Penn State
Draft: Round 4, Pick 120 by the Minnesota Vikings (2013)
Financial Situation (per Spotrac): Hodges is on a one-year contract that will pay him $855,000. Only $80,000 of that is guaranteed.
2016 Recap: Hodges played in 15 games for the San Francisco 49ers last year, starting 12. He finished second on the team with 80 tackles, and tied for third with three sacks. He also had a forced fumble, a fumble recovery, and two interceptions. The Bills were one of only two teams he played against last season without recording a stat.
Positional Outlook: When training camp opened, the nominal starting outside linebackers were Lorenzo Alexander and Ramon Humber. That hasn’t changed up to this point, but Hodges is primed to play a key reserve role with the chance to become a starter with a strong preseason.
2017 Offseason: Hodges signed with the Bills near the end of May. He’s been standing out in training camp by making plays in several sessions, but he has yet to make the jump to to the first-team defense. He was part of a rotation among the top reserve linebackers during Thursday’s camp session.
2017 Season Outlook: Hodges is a pretty safe bet to make the roster, as none of the other second-unit linebackers have performed at his level so far in camp. He should see plenty of playing time during the regular season, and if someone struggles early on he’s a prime candidate to move into the starting lineup later in the season.