The Buffalo Bills have stockpiled plenty of talent at linebacker this offseason—at least as far as depth is concerned. The team is fairly set on the top two players at the position, and given that the team’s nickel corner, Taron Johnson, played on 85% of the team’s defensive snaps last year, it’s fair to say that any linebacker after that top two is a depth player.
Long gone are the days where teams play with either three or four linebackers on the field for a majority of the time. Of course, that doesn’t mean that additional linebackers aren’t needed. Injuries occur, after all. The Bills are fortunate to have two three-down players, though, which is the blueprint for defensive success in the modern NFL.
In today’s edition of “90 players in 90 days,” we profile one of those depth linebackers—an old friend returning to Orchard Park to try and make the roster.
Name: Marquel Lee
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 235 lbs
Age: 26 (27 on 10/21/2022)
College: Wake Forest
Acquired: Signed with Buffalo as UFA on 3/18/2022
Financial situation (per Spotrac): The terms of Lee’s one-year deal are modest, as he’s set to make $1,187,500 if he makes the roster. His cap hit for the year would be $1,047,500. Of the total amount, $252,000 is guaranteed.
2021 Recap: Lee began last offseason with Buffalo, but he did not make the final roster and he was cut on August 31. He was signed to the Raiders’ practice squad the following day, and he was promoted to the active roster on September 18. He ended up playing in 11 games with Las Vegas, serving primarily as a weapon on special teams. He only appeared on 33 defensive snaps, but he played on 240 special teams snaps, good for fourth among all Raiders. He totaled 11 tackles on the season.
Positional outlook: Lee enters a crowded positional group that has two top-flight starters in Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds, some incumbent special teams players in Tyler Matakevich, Joe Giles-Harris, and Andre Smith, and rookie draft choices in Terrel Bernard and Baylon Spector. Spot-starter Tyrel Dodson is also back, and the team lists pass rush specialist Von Miller as a linebacker, as well.
2022 Offseason: Lee is healthy and ready for training camp.
2022 Season outlook: Out of the ten players listed here, three are locks, as Edmunds, Milano, and Miller are going to make the team. I can’t imagine Miller playing a traditional linebacker role in Buffalo’s defense, but that’s a discussion for another day. Bernard will make the team given that he was chosen in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft, and the team clearly likes Smith, so I imagine he’ll be there, too. Lee will have to push a higher-priced veteran like Matakevich off the roster if he’s going to make the team, which is possible, but not likely. Matakevich is among the league’s best in kick and punt coverage, and while Lee may have the experience doing it, he doesn’t do it as well as Matakevich or Smith. The Bills made a wise choice by re-signing someone they were familiar with prior to the draft, but after stockpiling draft choices here, they hedged their bets effectively. I think Lee is once again on the outside looking in.