News dropped Monday night that the Buffalo Bills we set to sign former Carolina Panthers and New Orleans Saints linebacker A.J. Klein. The veteran linebacker becomes a solid replacement for recently retired linebacker Lorenzo Alexander. He should be able to bring an effective skill set to the team’s defense, along with an injury history that isn’t too alarming.
Drafted in the fifth round by Carolina, he appeared in all 16 games, starting two. According to pro-football-reference.com, he had no documented injuries.
Appeared in 14 games, starting eight. Noted to be healthy throughout the season until a late -season ankle injury cost him the final two games of the regular season. He appeared to be trending in the right direction, missing the Wild Card game against the Arizona Cardinals, and was designated as probable prior to the Seattle Seahawks game but ultimately did not play. Hard to identify what exactly he was dealing with, but severe enough that it cost him four games.
Appeared in 15 games, starting six. Klein suffered a concussion in Week 4 that forced him to miss the next week against Seattle. He was able to return the following week and did not appear to have any further issues that season on his way to the Super Bowl.
Appeared in 15 games, starting seven. Klein had his best season since his rookie year with no reported injuries.
Signed with New Orleans in the offseason, appearing in 12 games, starting 12. Klein suffered an ankle injury midway through the season that cost him one game. Unfortunately, during the push towards the playoffs, Klein suffered a core muscle injury. This ultimately forced him to IR, missing the remaining three regular season and two playoff games. He eventually required core muscle surgery in the offseason to repair the damaged area.
Appeared in 16 games, starting 15. Klein was able to fully recover from his core muscle repair and did not miss any games due to injury that year.
Appeared in 15 games, starting 15. Klein suffered a knee injury around Thanksgiving that cost him a game. He was able to return the next week and finish out the season.
Looking back, Klein has been quite durable, appearing in at least 14 regular-season games every season with the exception of 2017 when he appeared in 12 games.
The biggest concerns are the ankle injury and core muscle injury. The ankle injury was six years ago and the core muscle surgery repairs have become quite routine with better evaluations and interventions. More than 89% of players who required the surgery were able to return to play at pre-level injuries over a four-year period.
He appears willing and able to be a plug-and-play linebacker in the Bills’ defensive scheme. Very few players are immune from missing games, but Klein isn’t a concern moving forward. In addition, the linebacker room has the necessary depth in order to absorb any injury concerns.
While his name doesn’t jump off the page, his skill set and favorable injury history does. I have no concerns moving forward and I believe he could become a vital cog in the linebacker corps.