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91 players in 91 days: Linebacker Tyrel Dodson

The second-year linebacker looks to make the roster on his second attempt

The Buffalo Bills boast a strong linebacker group that appears to have a very clear pecking order. They have an obvious top-line, then a list of players battling for jobs as reserves and special teams players right behind them.

While it would make sense for the Bills to keep six linebackers on the roster, the entire defense is so strong at other positions (defensive line, for example) that it could influence the balance of players that the Bills choose to keep. The competition for backup linebacker spots will be fierce this year.

In today’s edition of “91 players in 91 days,” we profile one of the young players looking to secure a roster spot as a backup linebacker.

Name: Tyrel Dodson
Number: 53
Position: LB
Height/Weight: 6’, 238 lbs.
Age: 21 (22 on 6/25/2020)
Experience/Draft: 1; signed with Bills as undrafted free agent following 2019 NFL Draft
College: Texas A&M
Acquired: UDFA signing; signed to practice squad after being waived in November ‘19

Financial situation (per Spotrac): Dodson’s two-year contract is worth a total of $1,114,000, with $4,000 guaranteed in the form of a signing bonus. For this year, Dodson carries a $612,000 cap charge if he makes the roster; Buffalo will be on the hook for that $4,000 guarantee in the form of a dead-cap charge if he is cut.

2019 Recap: Dodson had a tumultuous rookie season, as he was arrested and accused of domestic violence in May 2019. Buffalo didn’t release him, instead opting to keep him on the squad, even though he was suspended for the first six games of the 2019 NFL season. Dodson pleaded guilty to misdemeanor disorderly conduct in exchange for prosecutors dropping the domestic abuse charge upon Dodson successfully completing a diversion program. Dodson was allowed to play in the preseason, since the suspension didn’t kick in until the regular season began. He had an outstanding preseason overall, notching 19 tackles, good for a 15th-place tie among all NFL defenders. When Dodson’s suspension was up, the Bills chose to waive him rather than add him to the active roster. They signed him to the team’s practice squad on November 6, and that’s where he remained for the rest of the season.

Positional outlook: With Tremaine Edmunds, Matt Milano, and A.J. Klein pretty set as the team’s top three linebackers, Dodson will battle with Tyler Matakevich, Vosean Joseph, Mike Bell, Del’Shawn Phillips, and Corey Thompson for upwards of three remaining spots.

2020 Offseason: Nothing new to report.

2020 Season outlook: With three starters all but set, and one reserve (Matakevich) expected to contribute greatly to special teams, it really comes down to one or two roster spots remaining. I’d like to believe that Vosean Joseph is going to take one of those reserve spots, leaving Dodson as a top challenger to knock special teams stalwart Corey Thompson off the roster. Dodson is primarily an inside linebacker, as he served as the team’s third-team inside linebacker last year (and general manager Brandon Beane said that’s where he’s playing this offseason). With Matakevich also an inside linebacker, it may come down to how versatile the team thinks Dodson is, as Thompson and Joseph are both outside linebackers. In any case, Dodson has a strong chance to make the roster this year, but chances are equally good that he winds up just missing the cut. The linebacker group, like the rest of the defense, is deep.