The Buffalo Bills retooled their special teams heading into the 2020 season, adding some designated gunners and legitimate players in the “third phase” of the game to shore up a shoddy unit from the year prior. The results were definitely there, as the Bills consistently kept their opponents in poor field position thanks to solid coverage from both their kickoff and punt coverage squads.
Sometimes, though, we look at the salary of a special teams-only player and wonder whether that cap figure is justifiable. When given the choice between someone who can step in on defense and someone who is limited to covering kicks, the specialists are often the ones fans want to see released to save money.
In our second installment of our “90 players in 90 days” series, we profile one such player—a special teams stalwart whose contract made him a popular candidate for offseason think-pieces on roster cuts.
Name: Tyler Matakevich
Height/Weight: 6’1” 235 lbs
Age: 28 (29 on 12/22/2021)
Experience/Draft: 6; selected in the seventh round (No. 246 overall) of the 2016 NFL Draft by the Pittsburgh Steelers
Acquired: Signed as UFA on 3/30/2020
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Matakevich signed a one-year extension this offseason, so this is the final year of his original deal, but he now has another year, as well. His cap hit for the 2021 season is $2.95 million, and he carries a dead-cap figure of $3.35 million if released.
2020 Recap: Matakevich tied a career high by making 23 tackles last season, of which ten came on special teams. His ten special teams tackles was tied for the team lead and was good for a tie for 18th overall in the NFL. Matakevich also set a career high with two pass breakups and 72 defensive snaps played. He led the Bills in special teams snaps, appearing on 343 special teams snaps, which accounted for 76.4 percent of the team’s total.
Positional outlook: The Bills’ top three linebackers are pretty well set in stone, with Tremaine Edmunds, Matt Milano, and A.J. Klein an easy pick for the top three. Matakevich is probably the next safest bet at the position, as his importance to the special teams was cemented by giving him that one-year contract extension that guaranteed some money for him in 2020. The rest of the linebackers include Mike Bell, Tyrel Dodson, Andre Smith, Tyrell Adams, and Marquel Lee.
2021 Offseason: No news is good news here.
2021 Season outlook: Matakevich came in and did exactly what he was expected to do last year: he made the special teams better and he didn’t contribute much on defense. He should continue in very much the same role moving forward.