A.J. Klein

Minor NFL Transactions: 1/20/24

With three games remaining this weekend, six teams were required to announce their roster moves today:

Buffalo Bills

Detroit Lions

Green Bay Packers

Kansas City Chiefs

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

The Bills and Lions move forward with the same pair of standard gameday practice squad elevations as last week. The Packers and Buccaneers, on the other hand, will give Banks and Dzansi a chance to make their NFL debuts in the Divisional Round of the playoffs.

NFL Practice Squad Updates: 1/11/24

One practice squad move to pass along:

Buffalo Bills

Klein has spent much of the past four seasons in Buffalo, collecting 110 tackles and five sacks in 39 games (16 starts). He was cut by the Bills at the end of the 2023 preseason, but following the sudden retirement of Christian Kirksey, he was added back to the practice squad. He ended up getting into a pair of games this season, with all of his snaps coming on special teams. He was cut from the active roster back in December.

Matt Milano remains on injured reserve as he recovers from a broken tibia, and replacement Tyrel Dodson suffered a shoulder injury in the regular season finale. This left the team shallow at linebacker, and there’s a chance the veteran Klein finds himself on the active roster for Sunday’s first-round matchup against the Steelers.

Bills Activate TE Dawson Knox From IR

Set to enter their second juggernaut matchup in a row, the Bills will be getting a reinforcement to their offensive unit. Tight end Dawson Knox has officially been activated off of injured reserve and should be available this weekend against the Chiefs. In order to make room on the active roster, Buffalo has waived veteran linebacker A.J. Klein.

Klein was signed to the active roster back in mid-October, after spending some time on the practice squad, and has been a bit of a nonfactor this year. Since being promoted, Klein has only appeared in two games, serving special teams duty in both contests.

Knox has missed the team’s last five games as he’s recovered from a wrist injury that required surgery back in late-October. He’ll be able to return to the offensive lineup this week, but he could be returning to a bit of a different situation than when he left. Knox’s absence has given rookie first-round pick Dalton Kincaid every opportunity to learn on the job and take over his role as the primary pass-catching tight end.

Knox had signed a significant four-year, $52MM extension prior to the 2022 season, and though he took a slight step back from an impressive 2021 campaign, Knox still was a heavy factor in Buffalo’s passing attack, even earning a Pro Bowl selection. Matters were slightly complicated by the decision to draft Kincaid, with many questioning the call to utilize such high draft capital on a position they had just dedicated a lofty contract extension to.

Regardless, Knox and Kincaid shared the load through the first few weeks of the season, with each staying fairly even in terms of targets and snaps. Neither really seemed to be taking control of the job too much until Kincaid delivered a 75-yard performance while catching all eight of his targets in Week 7. Kincaid has been impressive since then, embracing his larger role in the offense and striving in it. Add in the fact that the team has recently been mentioned in the same breath as veteran free agent tight end Zach Ertz, and things get a little more complicated for Knox.

The Bills will be happy to see Knox back in the fold, but with the price tag he carries, it will be interesting to see how they use him after watching Kincaid look a bit more effective in his role as a rookie. Things could get even more complicated if Ertz does indeed enter the picture, as well.

Bills Place LB Matt Milano, DT DaQuan Jones On IR; Sign LB A.J. Klein From PS

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.

Bills LB Christian Kirksey To Retire

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.

Bills Reduce Roster To 53 Players

The Bills have been busy today, releasing a pair of offensive linemen, trading defensive end Boogie Basham to the Giants, and shifting Von Miller to the reserve/PUP list. The team eventually finalized their roster, cutting down their squad to 53 players:



Placed on IR:

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.

Bills Re-Sign LB A.J. Klein

Familiar faces on defense continue to re-sign with the Bills. Following the team’s moves to retain Jordan Phillips and Shaq Lawson, A.J. Klein will remain in the fold.

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 their Roquan 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.

Buffalo lost five-year starter Tremaine Edmunds in free agency but still rosters Matt Milano, Tyrel Dodson, 2022 third-rounder Terrel Bernard and veteran special-teamer Tyler Matakevich. Klein will likely factor into the competition for a second-string role as the Bills begin their offseason work.

Bills Claim LB A.J. Klein

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.

Bears Sign DE Taco Charlton, Cut LB A.J. Klein

The Bears acquired some depth on the defensive line today, signing former first-round pick Taco Charlton from the Saints practice squad, according to Brad Biggs of the Chicago Tribune. Additionally, the Bears activated linebacker Matthew Adams from injured reserve.

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. Klein with 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.