The Buffalo Bills made their first big move to free up cap space on Tuesday, March 8, announcing the release of veteran linebacker A.J. Klein. By cutting Klein, the Bills, who started the day approximately $6.6 million over the salary cap, cleared up $5.1 million for the 2022 NFL season.
Immediately following Klein’s release, Bills linebacker Tyrel Dodson tweeted out a moving tribute to his now-former teammate. Dodson, who’s already re-signed with Buffalo for next season, made it clear he’s going to miss Klein.
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“Love you big bro. Thank you for showing me the way & teaching me how to be a better man. Hella respect for you & the fam ❤️,” Dodson tweeted.
Klein, who turns 31 in July, was entering the final year of his three-year, $18 million contract with the Bills. Over the last two seasons, the former fifth-round pick from the 2013 NFL Draft appeared in 31 games and made 15 starts, recording a total of 103 tackles, 5.0 sacks, and one interception.
The Iowa State alum’s contributions on the field took a stark dip this past season, during which he had only four starts, and participated in just 29% of the team’s defensive snaps, per SB Nation, his lowest number (277 defensive plays) since his rookie season.
Dodson Is Expected to Take Over Klein’s Role
Over the past two seasons, Dodson has appeared in 26 games, tallying 37 tackles, two passes defended, and one sack. And with Klein gone, the Texas A&M alum is now in line to become the team’s top backup in 2022.
After Dodson signed a one-year $895,00 contract with the Bills on February 10, SB Nation‘s Matt Warren pointed out that Klein’s “bloated cap hit is a luxury the team can likely no longer afford. Klein is due more than $5 million in salary and bonuses in 2022, but Matt Milano and Tremaine Edmunds both have cap hits of $10 million or more.”
Bills Wire reporter Nick Wojton pointed out that Dodson has cut himself out a niche as more of a special teams player, participating in 67% of the special team’s snaps last season, which is why it makes for the Bills to be able to fill the hole left by the veteran linebacker with Dodson.
While Klein’s production on defense declined, “He was a leader on special teams. He played 43% of special teams snaps last season, the highest number he’s played since 2016,” per Syracuse.com‘s Matt Parrino.
Following the news of Klein’s release, Spectrum News 1 reporter Jon Scott tweeted, “While Klein settled into a nice role midway through 2020, just can’t pay 3rd LB that money when running nickel base defense. This paves way potentially for more playing time for Tyrel Dodson, who #Bills re-signed recently.”
There Will Be More Tough Cuts Coming for the Bills Roster
Klein won’t be the only cap casualty from the Bills roster, and fans can expect a few more tough goodbyes before the start of free agency. The question is not if more people will get cut, but who’s next.
The easiest way to create more space would be to release wide receiver Cole Beasley ($6.1 million), guard Jon Feliciano ($3.5 million), and/or linebacker Tyler Matakevich ($2.5 million).
While appearing on WGR 550 on Tuesday morning, the Bills general manager Brandon Beane found some humor about the team’s salary cap restrictions.
“I need a loan,” Beane joked. “We’re in the red right now. I wish I had more room but that’s part of where we’re at… So we’ve got some moves that we’ve got to get done between now and next week. We have some ideas and we’ve had some conversations. We’ll get there in time and you have to.”