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91 players in 91 days: Linebacker Tyler Matakevich

The special teams ace looks to bolster Buffalo’s “third phase”

NFL: DEC 15 Bills at Steelers Photo by Mark Alberti/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images

The Buffalo Bills lost one of their top special teams performers over the last few years, as linebacker Lorenzo Alexander announced his retirement following the 2019 NFL season. Alexander was, of course, more than a special teams contributor, as he played linebacker and defensive line for the Bills at varying points over the course of the last four seasons.

Rather than trying to find one player to fill Alexander’s various roles, the Bills signed multiple players who can contribute in the place of their departed emotional leader. In today’s installment of “91 players in 91 days,” we focus on one of those newcomers.

Name: Tyler Matakevich
Number: 44
Position: LB
Height/Weight: 6’1”, 235 lbs.
Age: 27 (28 on 12/22/2020)
Experience/Draft: 4; drafted in the seventh round (No. 246 overall) by the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 2016 NFL Draft
College: Temple
Acquired: Signed as UFA with Bills on 3/30/2020

Financial situation (per Spotrac): Matakevich signed a two-year deal with Buffalo worth a total of $7.15 million. Of that total, $3.45 million is guaranteed. Matakevich is set to carry a salary-cap number of $3.45 million in 2020.

2019 Recap: As a special teams stalwart for the Steelers, the man they know as “Dirty Red” (reminds me of “The Dirty Mac”—Yer Blues, John...Yer Blues) led the NFL in special teams tackles in 2019, tying with New Orleans Saints defensive back J.T. Gray and Los Angeles Chargers fullback Derek Watt, the latter of whom replaced Matakevich in Pittsburgh. Matakevich played 340 special teams snaps, leading Pittsburgh by a wide margin, to go with a paltry 16 defensive snaps. He totaled 18 tackles on the season.

Positional outlook: Matakevich slots in as a backup linebacker almost immediately, as Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds stand to handle the lion’s share of the snaps at the position for the third consecutive season. Free agent signee A.J. Klein will probably fill Lorenzo Alexander’s role as the team’s third linebacker. The other linebackers fighting for roster spots are Vosean Joseph, Mike Bell, Tyrel Dodson, Del’Shawn Phillips, and Corey Thompson

2020 Offseason: Matakevich seems really pumped to be in Buffalo, which makes me really pumped that he’s in Buffalo.

2020 Season outlook: Matakevich should be viewed as a special teams player and nothing more, even if his contract seems to indicate that he could have a shot at earning more time. The top three of Milano, Edmunds, and Klein seems pretty easy to establish, and younger players like Joseph offer more upside on defense. Matakevich should excel in his roles of chasing down return men and White Walkers alike.