The Buffalo Bills lost Lorenzo Alexander to retirement this offseason, but they brought in several free-agent options and have some young players waiting in the wings. They didn’t address the position in the 2020 NFL Draft, so they must feel pretty confident. That’s how general manager Brandon Beane sounded during his post-draft press conference.
“Obviously we added A.J. Klein who can play inside can play outside,” said Beane of the signature addition to the linebacker corps from this offseason. “We got some young guys. We have Corey Thompson coming back who’s had a little bit of experiences and started a couple games. Vosean [Joseph] was out last year with a shoulder. He’s beefed up some I think it’s going to help him, but we got a lot of young guys that are going to have to come in and compete.”
Klein signed a three-year, $18 million deal with Buffalo early in free agency. As a veteran and someone who has played in head coach Sean McDermott’s defense, it’s expect he’s going to come in and solidify the spot during the offseason. Beane seemed to indicate he was already a starter in the eyes of the team later in the presser.
Thompson played in 12 games in 2019, but played in fewer than 6% of the defensive snaps. He was a core special teamer, playing nearly 50% of those snaps. But Buffalo added Tyler Matakevich for that role, so Thompson might not even make the team. Mentioning him in the same breath as Klein is a huge stretch.
Joseph injured his shoulder last offseason, but could come in and compete for a depth spot and may be a face we see in the future. He was drafted in the fifth round last year.
The other two linebacker spots are manned by three-down players in Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds. Edmunds plays middle linebacker with Milano on the outside, dropping into coverage or blitzing.
The competition to back up Edmunds is where Beane put the focus on the rest of the linebacker corps.
“Tyler Matakevich, he’ll come in and compete as a backup to Tremaine. He’s probably going to be more inside position first,” continued Beane. “And a lot of these guys, [Tyrel] Dodson’s, probably inside first over outside.”
As we get to training camp and the preseason, the linebacker positions, specifically the backup spots, will be one of the more contentious position groups to watch as they battle for roster spots.
“It’ll be interesting to see the cream rise to the top,” said Beane. “We got some young guys that have some talent. Now it’s going to be, who takes on the challenge and kind of that refuse to lose attitude.”