In the next segment of “who’s injured now,” it looks as if the Buffalo Bills will be sending linebacker Baylon Spector, who injured a hamstring in the preseason finale just three days ago, to the in-season Injured Reserve (IR) list.
The Bills are planning to place LB Baylon Spector on in-season Injured Reserve, according to a league source.— Joe Buscaglia (@JoeBuscaglia) August 29, 2023
This will open up another spot for someone they initially release. Spector will be eligible to return this year with this move. He's dealing with a hamstring injury. https://t.co/MNAMUWxs0I
For Spector, a seventh-round pick for the Bills in the 2022 NFL draft, this likely means the end of his run at attempting to gain the starting middle linebacker position left vacant by Tremaine Edmunds’ offseason exodus to the Chicago Bears. Not that Spector genuinely had a shot at the spot — the Bills listed him third on their official depth chart behind both Terrell Bernard and Tyler Dodson.
Just because the second-year linebacker out of Clemson wasn’t likely going to win a starting job doesn’t mean he wasn’t going to be on the field. As a rookie, Spector appeared in six games for the Bills and recorded six tackles — five of them of the solo variety.
The question is, who will head coach Sean McDermott — who is now pulling double duty and also serving as the Bills’ defensive coordinator — going to replace Spector with? There were no exceptional standout candidates during the preseason.
Buffalo is currently carrying just a small handful of linebackers with only one — Matt Milano — being a true stand out. Milano is joined by rookie Dorian Williams as being listed as the Bills’ only outside linebackers. For the MIKE position, Buffalo currently lists Bernard, Dodson, Spector, and Tyler Matakevich (who plays most of his downs on special teams). So, if Spector is headed to the IR, Buffalo is going to need to look outside their locker room for a linebacker.
They did release both Travin Howard and A.J. Klein during their cut down to the league-required 53 players. It’s likely that it will be Klein who is brought back, giving him a chance to prove himself worthy of a permanent spot while Spector is out. Or did he already prove himself?
In the roster gymnastics that teams go through before the start of every NFL season, it’s feasible to think that the Bills could have given Klein a handshake deal that they would bring him back as soon as Spector goes on IR. With Klein being in the league for over 4 years — this being his 11th season — he would not be susceptible to waivers. Spector would. So, to keep them both: cut the veteran; wait until the league year starts; put the youngster on the IR; sign the veteran back to the active roster.
With the team likely to bring back long snapper Reid Ferguson and make official the signings of right tackle Germain Ifedi, there will need to be additional roster moves made to bring Klein (or Howard) back to the active roster.
If this is what the Bills are doing, the question will become what player they keep when Spector comes off the IR list. Or, do they cut someone at another position and keep them both?
Of course, Klein could not even be in the equation here. Maybe Buffalo is looking somewhere else. Whatever they are doing, they better get doing it — their opening-game date with the New York Jets is getting closer and after last season’s patchwork defensive secondary, it would be nice to know there’s a solid plan to start the new season.