If the Buffalo Bills move on from both Matt Milano and A.J. Klein at linebacker this offseason, there are some intriguing depth options who could be ready to take the next step. It’s not ideal on an AFC Championship squad, but the replacement options exist in a pinch.
The first name that would pop up is Tyrel Dodson, who played in ten games in 2020, starting two in place of the injured Tremaine Edmunds. He is better in coverage than Klein and got the nod despite being in his first NFL season. (He spent 2019 on the practice squad after being an undrafted free agent.) With one sack, two passes defended, and 22 tackles on 172 snaps, his numbers are pretty good. He also landed on injured reserve during the year with a hamstring injury.
For some reason, Dodson fell out of favor after his return from IR. It could be they already saw him and wanted looks at other players, but Andre Smith out-snapped him 21 to 2 in the season finale against the Miami Dolphins. Smith is only 23 and played in 12 games for the Bills in 2020 (mostly on special teams) after Buffalo traded for him late in the offseason. He had nine tackles and a forced fumble on the season playing only 42 defensive snaps. Until the season finale, his biggest game was against the New England Patriots on November 1 with Milano barely able to play and Dodson on IR.
It’s a longshot to think either of these guys has a good chance at landing the job in 2021, but it’s not impossible. The Bills will certainly either keep Klein, re-sign Milano, or bring in multiple players this offseason to fill the position room for training camp, but there are two possible young linebackers already in the building.
- All-22 Analysis: Matt Milano’s 2020 season
- All-22 Analysis: A.J. Klein’s 2020 season
- Contract projection: What will Matt Milano make in the 2021 offseason?
- Contract analysis: How much would it cost to move on from A.J. Klein?
- Could the Bills rely on their young depth at linebacker?
- Free agent options exist at the linebacker position
- 2021 NFL Draft has linebackers that could fill Buffalo’s needs
- Opinion: I’m as shocked as you that the Bills aren’t going to re-sign Matt Milano