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90 Buffalo Bills players in 90 days: LB A.J. Klein

The veteran looks like a solid insurance policy in what is a tremendously important season

Buffalo Bills v Detroit Lions Photo by Nic Antaya/Getty Images

Last year, the Buffalo Bills took on a bit of a Blues Brothers vibe at times. No, not in the sense that it felt like they were on a supernatural mission — although it felt like that sometimes, as well — but instead in the sense that general manager Brandon Beane kept putting the band back together by signing free agents with a connection to the squad.

While some of those midseason re-signings have since moved on, there are quite a few players who were re-acquired last year who are still on the roster. Those savvy veterans are locked in fierce battles with some younger players who are trying to forge their own legacy with the Bills.

In today’s installment of “90 players in 90 days,” we discuss a player who came back to Buffalo by way of Sweet Home Chicago lats season.

Name: A.J. Klein

Number: 52

Position: LB

Height/Weight: 6’1”, 240 pounds

Age: 32 (33 on 7/30/2024)

Experience/Draft: 11; selected by the Carolina Panthers in the fifth round (No. 148 overall) of the 2013 NFL Draft

College: Iowa State

Acquired: Re-signed with Buffalo on 4/17/2023

Financial situation (per Spotrac): Klein inked a one-year deal worth $1,317,500 overall. Of that deal, just $100,000 is guaranteed, so that number represents the dead-cap charge if Buffalo releases him prior to the first week of the regular season. Klein carries a cap number of $1,092,500 if he makes the roster. Since he’s a vested veteran, his entire base salary becomes guaranteed if he makes the team out of camp. His base salary is $1.165 million.

2022 Recap: Klein was released by the Bills on March 8 in a move designed to clear some cap space. He was a free agent until October, when he signed to the New York Giants’ practice squad. From there, he was a bit like Johnny Cash, as he ended up everywhere, man. On October 6, the Baltimore Ravens signed him to their active roster. He appeared in two games with the Ravens, playing 18 defensive snaps and eight special teams snaps. He made five tackles in those two games, but he was traded by the Ravens to the Chicago Bears at the trade deadline in a deal that sent Roquan Smith to the Ravens. Klein played nine special teams snaps in two games with the Bears before he was waived November 16. On November 17, Buffalo claimed him off waivers. He started Buffalo’s Thanksgiving contest against the Detroit Lions, playing 100% of the snaps in the process. He made nine tackles, including one for a loss, in the victory. He wound up playing 86 defensive snaps and 83 special teams snaps across six regular-season games for Buffalo, finishing with 11 total tackles. He played in both of the Bills’ playoff games, but he didn’t register on the stat sheet.

Positional outlook: Klein is one of eight off-ball linebackers on the current roster. He’s joined by Travin Howard, Tyler Matakevich, Matt Milano, Dorian Williams, Tyrel Dodson, Tyrel Bernard, and Baylon Spector.

2023 Offseason: Klein is healthy and participating in training camp. He has appeared exclusively with the backup defense.

2023 Season outlook: While I initially thought that Klein might see some run, albeit in a limited capacity, as the middle linebacker with the starting defense in training camp, that has yet to materialize in the first week of practices. That’s probably a good thing, as the Bills already know what they have in Klein, who’s a solid veteran who can be exposed in the modern game thanks to his limitations in coverage. Klein is a valuable special teams contributor and a smart reserve who can play any linebacker spot in a pinch.

The longer Tyler Matakevich remains on the PUP list, the greater Klein’s chances at making the roster become. He’s probably the last linebacker released, which is less an indication of his talent than it is an indication of the coaching staff’s comfort with him as a reserve. Klein may be willing to remain with the Bills as a practice squad player early in the season, and Buffalo would be wise to keep his cell number close by in the event of injuries. However, given the strong competition happening at middle linebacker and the overall youth at the position, I think Klein’s chances at staying on the team this year are slim.