The Buffalo Bills ran into some injury troubles last year at linebacker, which tested the team’s depth early on in the 2020 NFL season. While the team was able to overcome the injuries, it showed the Bills that they didn’t have much protection behind their solid starting duo of Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano.
This offseason, general manager Brandon Beane has revamped the linebacker group, signing four free agents to compete for backup roles. Each of those players has different skills that can help the Bills to cover the loss of their stud starters, albeit imperfectly, because there aren’t many players in the league capable of performing at the level of Milano and Edmunds.
In today’s installment of our “90 players in 90 days” series, we profile one of those young linebackers who signed on to fight for a role as a backup in Buffalo.
Name: Joe Giles-Harris
Height/Weight: 6’2” 240 lbs
Age: 24 (25 on 4/1/2022)
Acquired: Signed with Bills on 5/16/2021
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Giles-Harris signed a one-year deal worth a total of $850,000 this offseason. None of that money is guaranteed, so Buffalo can release Giles-Harris before Week 1 without owing any dead-cap charges.
2020 Recap: Giles-Harris played in nine games for Jacksonville, and he even made his first three NFL starts. While he only played on four defensive snaps as a rookie, he managed 204 defensive snaps last season. He also came close to doubling his special teams snap share, appearing on 170 snaps in that phase of the game after playing 92 in his rookie year. In total, Giles-Harris accounted for 20 tackles, one sack, two tackles-for-loss, and five quarterback hits on the season.
Positional outlook: Giles-Harris joins a crowded linebacker group where four of the spots are essentially set in stone, as Edmunds and Milano are joined by A.J. Klein and Tyler Matakevich in my “roster locks” section. Andre Smith, Marquel Lee, Tyrell Adams, Tyrel Dodson, and Mike Bell make up the rest of the group.
2021 Offseason: Giles-Harris is healthy and he participated in OTAs.
2021 Season outlook: A signing like this one isn’t meant to be the centerfold of a defensive regrouping, but it’s instead meant to bolster depth. Giles-Harris is a big, physical player who is limited in the situations he can play, as he lacks burst in coverage. That makes him a liability on third downs and in many situations throughout what has become a pass-happy NFL. Of the Bills’ offseason signings, I’d give Tyrell Adams a better shot at making the final roster than Giles-Harris, but that’s the great thing about the NFL: they aren’t just going to give it to him. Someone has to step up and earn the spot, and Giles-Harris has solid instincts and football smarts per his NFL Draft profile. He may end up on the practice squad, but I doubt Giles-Harris finds his way on the opening-day roster this year.