The Bills did some housekeeping today, clearing out some roster spots as a result of recent injuries and preparing to refill them. Losing two defensive starters in London was tough, but Buffalo has no choice but to reset and reload from their existing stock of talent.
After a potentially season-ending injury to veteran linebacker Matt Milano and a pectoral injury to defensive tackle DaQuan Jones that likewise doesn’t look promising, the Bills have placed both players on injured reserve. This now opens up two new spots on the active roster for the staff to fill. To fill Milano’s roster spot, Buffalo is calling up practice squad linebacker A.J. Klein. The veteran, who has become a mainstay in Buffalo over the past few years, will be signed to the active roster.
Klein started 11 games for the Bills during his first year with the team back in 2020 before taking a bit of a smaller role the following season. Buffalo released him two years into his three-year deal. Klein signed to the Giants’ practice squad before getting signed off of it three days later to the Ravens’ active roster. Three weeks later, he was shipped to Chicago with a second- and fifth-round pick in exchange for Roquan Smith. He lasted a couple weeks in Chicago before getting waived and picked up by the Bills, who have kept him close ever since.
Buffalo didn’t immediately fill the second roster spot opened by the two IR moves, but they did set a plan in motion for it. Today, the team designated linebacker Baylon Spector to return from IR. After only appearing in six games as a rookie last year, Spector has spent the first five weeks of the season on IR with a hamstring injury. With Spector returning to practice, he’ll enter the 21-day window in which he can return to the active roster.
While Spector doesn’t replace the position slot of Jones, the Bills did add a defensive tackle to the practice squad. Already a bit of a journeyman in his sixth NFL season, new defensive tackle Andrew Brown will be joining his seventh team since getting drafted in the fifth round of the 2018 NFL Draft. He only has one start in his career and hasn’t appeared in more than five games for a team in a season since his rookie year in Cincinnati.
September 21st, 2023 at 8:42am CST by Sam Robinson
Just before the season, Christian Kirksey ventured to Buffalo on a practice squad agreement. The veteran linebacker prioritized signing with a contender, upon not making the Texans’ 53-man roster. But he does not plan to stay on with the Bills.
Instead, the 10th-year vet has informed the team he plans to retire, NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo reports. Kirksey, 31, spent time with the Browns, Packers and Texans before coming to Buffalo. Prior to this season, the former third-round pick had been a regular starter in each of his previous nine seasons. The Bills have since announced Kirksey’s retirement plan.
To fill Kirksey’s spot on the practice squad, Garafolo adds the Bills are planning to bring back A.J. Klein. The off-and-on Bills regular was with the team during training camp. Klein re-signed with the Bills in April but was among the vested veterans not to make the team’s 53-man roster in August. The 11th-year veteran has remained in free agency since that cut.
Chosen by the Browns during what became an infamous draft for the team, Kirksey ended up a long-term starter for the downtrodden franchise. After selecting first-round busts Justin Gilbert and Johnny Manziel, the Browns did very well on Day 2 of the 2014 draft. They added Joel Bitonio in Round 2 and Kirksey in Round 3, taking the Iowa linebacker at No. 71 overall. Bitonio has become one of the Browns’ best players since the 1999 reboot, while Kirksey became a six-year starter for the team.
Kirksey’s post-Cleveland tenure provided a bounce-back effort after injuries sidetracked him as the 2010s wound down. After the Browns released him in 2020, Kirksey wound up with the Packers and started for a team that reached the NFC championship game. The Packers also released Kirksey, however, leading him to the Texans as one of the many veterans to stop through Houston on short-term accords during Nick Caserio‘s GM tenure. Kirksey spent the past two years in Houston, starting 29 games with the rebuilding team. After signing an extension to stay with the Texans in 2022, he started all 17 games and posted a 124-tackle, three-sack, two-interception season.
Excepting his 2020 Green Bay cameo, Kirksey did his best work for struggling teams. The off-ball ‘backer notched a career-high 148 tackles (11 for loss) during the Browns’ 1-15 season in 2016, earning a four-year, $38MM extension during the 2017 offseason. Cleveland then completed the NFL’s second 0-16 season, doing so despite rostering the likes of Bitonio, Kirksey, Joe Thomas and well-paid ILB Jamie Collins. The Browns cut bait on Kirksey’s deal with two years remaining, and he never came especially close to securing that kind of cash again. Still, Kirksey will leave the game having made more than $37MM.
Offering intermittent sack production despite his place on teams’ defensive second levels, Kirksey finishes his career with 16.5 sacks and 45 tackles for loss. He produced three 100-plus-tackle seasons.
Dean Marlowe was traded to the Bills last November, and the safety began his second stint with the organization after spending three-plus seasons with the organization between 2017 and 2020. The veteran ended up starting a pair of playoff games for Buffalo, collecting seven tackles and an interception. The 31-year-old re-signed with the Bills back in May.
A.J. Klein was another former Bills player added midway through the 2022 season. It was a whirlwind season for the veteran LB. Klein was released by Buffalo in March, and he ended up spending time with the Giants, Ravens, and Bears before returning to the Bills in November. He collected 11 tackles in six games before putting up zeros in a pair of playoff games.
The veteran linebacker agreed to terms Monday on a one-year deal that will give him another shot in Buffalo. Klein, who has enjoyed two stints with the Bills, finished last season with the team. Though, Klein enjoyed a complex route back to Western New York.
Thirteen months ago, the Bills released Klein from the three-year, $18MM contract he signed in 2020. The former Saints starter remained out of the league to start the season but resurfaced in October and proceeded to take a four-city tour over the next six weeks. The Giants added Klein to their practice squad in October; the Ravens poached him three days later. Klein began his 2022 game work with Baltimore, suiting up for two contests, but the Ravens included him in theirRoquan Smith trade. The Bears then used Klein in two contests but waived him, leading the former Luke Kuechly backup back to Buffalo to finish out the season.
The contingent of ex-Panthers on the Bills’ roster has thinned, given the time that has passed since Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane were with the NFC South team. But Klein is still going. The former Panthers fifth-round pick will attempt to play an 11th NFL season. Both the Bills and Ravens used Klein as a one-game starter last year.
Klein, 31, started 15 games for the Bills on his original contract with the team; he has made 82 starts during the course of his career. Klein finished with 75 tackles and five sacks for the 2020 Bills, who began the franchise’s three-year streak of AFC East titles, but played just 29% of Buffalo’s defensive snaps a year later. He logged just 104 defensive snaps last season but was a Bills regular on special teams.
The Bills added a familiar face off waivers today. The team announced (via Twitter) that they’ve claimed linebacker A.J. Klein off waivers from the Bears. The veteran was waived by Chicago yesterday. To make room on the roster, Buffalo placed wideout Jake Kumerow on injured reserve.
Klein spent two seasons with the Bills between 2020 and 2021. He had a career year during his first season in Buffalo, finishing with a career-high 75 tackles, five sacks, and two forced fumbles in 16 games (11 starts). He saw a reduced role in 2021, starting only four of his 15 appearances, but he still finished with 35 tackles. Klein also got into five playoff games during his first stint with the organization, collecting another seven tackles.
The 31-year-old has bounced around a bit since getting released by the Bills back in March. He joined the Giants practice squad in October before getting signed to Baltimore’s active roster. He was later sent to Chicago in the Roquan Smith trade before getting waived a few weeks later. He’s totaled five tackles in four games (one start) this year.
Kumerow has seen time in six games for the Bills this season, hauling in four catches for 64 yards while also playing a role on special teams. The veteran suffered an ankle injury during Buffalo’s Week 10 loss to the Vikings, and now he’ll be sidelined for at least the next four games.
Charlton has had a rollercoaster of a career through six seasons. He’s coming off of a down season in Pittsburgh where the Steelers barely used him. As a rotational pass rusher, Charlton only played more than half of the team’s defensive snaps twice in the season. In his lone start, he earned his only half-sack and a quarterback hit. In the only other game that saw him play more than half the Steelers’ snaps, he recorded his only other quarterback hit of the season.
Charlton hasn’t played a full season since his rookie year for the Cowboys in 2017. Since then, injuries and inactive periods for other non-disclosed reasons have kept him off the field for weeks at a time. He signed with the Saints early in the offseason but was cut and signed to the practice squad at the roster cut deadline.
Adams is a reserve linebacker and core special teamer for the Bears. He was placed on IR after suffering a calf injury in the team’s Week 5 loss to the Vikings. His return adds some depth to the linebacking position behind starters Jack Sanborn, Joe Thomas, and Nicholas Morrow.
To make room for Charlton on the active roster, Chicago released linebacker A.J. Kleinwith a non-injury settlement agreement, according to Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network. Klein was acquired in the trade that sent star linebacker Roquan Smith to Baltimore. Klein appeared in each of the Bears’ last two games, playing sparsely on special teams. His departure is quickly remedied by the return of Adams.
3:43pm: The Bears will follow the Quinn formula with Smith’s contract. They will eat $4.8MM of the remaining $5.4MM on Smith’s deal, Schefter tweets. The Ravens’ cap situation made the Bears taking on some salary mandatory, but Chicago’s willingness to pay almost all of the money undoubtedly boosted the compensation value. Baltimore only owes Smith $575K the rest of the way.
2:29pm: Days after trading Robert Quinn to the Eagles, the Bears are making another seller move. They are sending contract-year linebacker Roquan Smith to the Ravens, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (on Twitter).
The Ravens are sending second- and fifth-round picks for Smith, according to ESPN.com’s Adam Schefter (on Twitter). Both picks are in 2023, Schefter tweets. Chicago will receive the higher of Baltimore’s 2023 fifths, Albert Breer of SI.com notes (on Twitter). The Ravens have their own 2023 fifth and the Patriots’. The Bears will also acquire veteran linebacker A.J. Klein in the swap, Rapoport adds (via Twitter). Klein signed with the Ravens earlier this offseason. The former Saints and Bills starter stands to provide a stopgap veteran presence for the Bears, who have dealt away considerable experience on defense this year.
This represents a nice return for a linebacker that would have been difficult for the Bears to cuff via the franchise tag. Because on- and off-ball linebackers are grouped together under the tag formula, Smith would require and edge rusher-level tag sum. The team will move on, and it has now added two second-rounders, along with fourth-, fifth- and sixth-round picks in deals involving Smith, Quinn and Khalil Mack this year.
The Smith move differs from the Quinn decision, as the former is a player squarely in his prime. The Ravens will acquire a fifth-year starter who is only in his age-25 season. Smith’s 30 tackles for loss between the 2020 and ’21 seasons ranked behind only T.J. Watt. This season, Smith leads the NFL with 83 tackles. During a brief run in Matt Eberflus‘ defense, the Georgia product has added 2.5 sacks. Pro Football Focus rates Smith behind Patrick Queen, Josh Bynes and Malik Harrison for 2022, but Baltimore’s trade certainly points to the organization not putting much stock in that placement. It will bet on the former No. 8 overall pick.
Smith is playing on a $9.74MM fifth-year option. The Bears ate most of Quinn’s salary to up the price tag from the Eagles; it will be interesting to see if the rebuilding team is doing the same with Smith. Otherwise, the Ravens will be responsible for more than $5MM of Smith’s Year 5 salary. Baltimore entered Monday with less than $3MM in cap space, so a salary arrangement — or a Ravens cap adjustment — will be necessary for the team to acquire Smith.
The Ravens have Queen signed through 2023, with a fifth-year option on the table to keep him on his rookie deal through 2024. Will Queen be playing alongside a big-ticket Smith extension next year? The Ravens making this move now would suggest they are prepared to extend Smith.
Baltimore made Bobby Wagner a competitive offer this year, signaling a willingness to pay up at the position, and attempted to keepC.J. Mosley from defecting to the Jets in 2019, but a record-smashing contract nixed those hopes. The Ravens have not spent big at this position in the years since, with Queen being their top 2020s investment at the position. Smith could change that, having been seeking a deal that eclipses Shaquille Leonard‘s $19.7MM-per-year contract. Seeing the Ravens go to such a place would be interesting, but the other Raven currently on a fifth-year option complicates their Smith path.
Lamar Jackson‘s status also makes Smith an interesting Ravens trade piece. Unless the Ravens and their superstar quarterback agree to terms on an extension before the March franchise tag deadline, the former MVP will be tagged. That takes a key option away from the team re: Smith, who is scheduled to hit free agency when the 2023 tampering period opens. Like Jackson, Smith does not have an agent.
For now, however, the Ravens are giving first-year defensive coordinator Mike Macdonald a major piece to upgrade a defense that ranks 24th in yards allowed and 20th in scoring. Smith will return to a 3-4 defense in Baltimore, after playing in 3-4 schemes for Vic Fangio, Chuck Pagano and Sean Desai. It will be interesting to see how the three-down linebacker looks with the Ravens, who will lead the AFC North regardless of the Bengals’ result Monday night.
The Bears drafted starting safety Jaquan Brisker with the second-round pick obtained for Mack, who joined Akiem Hicks, Eddie Goldman and Danny Trevathan in being replaced by a new Bears regime this offseason. The Bears entered Week 8 coming off an upset blowout of the Patriots, but they were routed in Dallas on Sunday. GM Ryan Poles has not let early-season wins over the Patriots and 49ers cloud a long-term plan, and he will have more to work with in the 2023 draft because of this seller’s approach.
A.J. Klein will go from being out of the NFL for the season’s first month to being part of two teams this week. The Ravens signed Klein off the Giants’ practice squad Thursday.
A veteran linebacker who had spent time with the Panthers, Saints and Bills, Klein joined the Giants’ P-squad on Monday. The Giants continued their busy acquisition stretch at inside linebacker today, however, reuniting withLandon Collins. Despite Collins playing safety during his first tour of duty in New York, the current regime prefers him at linebacker.
Klein, 31, instead will head to Baltimore to earn a chance on the Ravens’ 53-man roster. The former fifth-round pick will fill in behind starters Patrick Queen and Josh Bynes. The Ravens have shifted Malik Harrison to an outside ‘backer role, due to injury issues, leaving an opening for an experienced second-level defender to work as a second-stringer.
After working as a primary starter in place of the injured Matt Milano extensively in 2020, Klein slid back to a bench role last year in Buffalo. The Bills released Klein in March. Still, the one-time Luke Kuechly backup has made 80 career starts. Fifteen of those came in Buffalo, where Klein also contributed as a pass rusher. He led the AFC’s second-seeded Bills squad that season with a career-high five sacks, both highlighting Klein’s versatility and the Bills’ need to augment their 2020s pass-rushing situation.
An Iowa State product, Klein also crossed the 75% defensive snap threshold for two Saints playoff-bound teams (2017 and ’19) after signing a four-year, $24MM deal with New Orleans in 2017. After the Saints made Klein a cap casualty in 2020, he landed a three-year, $18MM deal with a Buffalo regime known to be rather high on ex-Panthers draft choices.
Despite Klein’s quick New York exit, the Giants have still added Collins and Jaylon Smith as veteran options to work alongside Tae Crowder at inside linebacker. Smith played 31 snaps in his 2022 Giants debut Sunday.
A.J. Klein‘s two-year run with the Bills ended Tuesday. The Bills released the veteran linebacker, creating some cap space in the process.
The Bills, who used Klein as a first- and second-string ‘backer during his tenure, will save just more than $5MM. This bumps Buffalo toward cap compliance, though more moves will be made to ensure the AFC East champions have a bit more breathing room.
One of many ex-Panthers to find a home in Buffalo in under Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane, Klein rejoined McDermott after three seasons in New Orleans. The Panthers selected Klein in the 2013 fifth round, with both McDermott and Beane still in Carolina, and he has managed a nine-year career thus far.
The team has Matt Milano tied to a long-term deal and Tremaine Edmunds heading into his fifth-year option season. Klein started 11 games in 2020 but only four last season, a healthier Milano campaign. Klein delivered a versatile season in 2020, tallying 78 tackles and adding five sacks to help a limited Bills pass rush. He is going into his age-31 season, should another team make a move for the role player.