Just hours before the Buffalo Bills (12-3) primetime matchup against the Cincinnati Bengals (11-4) kicks off on Monday, January 2, the team announced they were elevating a fresh face to the active roster, offensive lineman Alec Anderson.
The UCLA alum made headlines when he first signed with Buffalo’s practice squad as an undrafted free agent back in May, as his uncle is the Bills’ assistant special teams coach, Cory Harkey. Sycacuse.com’s Ryan Talbot noted at the time that it wasn’t just Anderson’s familial relations that went into Harkey’s nephew signing with Buffalo. Talbot tweeted, “Anderson was a priority free agent for many teams so I wonder how much having family in Buffalo helped with his decision.”
While Anderson still had two years left of collegiate eligibility, he was the first Bruins player to declare for the draft in December 2021. With Anderson at right tackle, “UCLA had the top offense and the No. 1 running game in the Pac-12 since 2019,” per Sports Illustrated‘s Sam Connon.
Cannon called Anderson, “one of the most physical blockers upfront while also boasting plus athleticism” while playing under Bruins offensive line coach Justin Frye’s system.
Following his elevation on Monday, Anderson has a chance to make his NFL debut in what’s arguably the most highly-anticipated and most important game of the Bills’ regular season. While it may seem questionable as to why the Bills would activate a 23-year-old rookie ahead of such a pivotal matchup, The Athletic‘s Joe Buscaglia offered some insight into the decision.
Buscaglia tweeted, “Anderson might be a case of the Bills rewarding a hard-working practice squad player for his role throughout the year with a regular season, active roster game check which is substantially more than normal pay. They easily could make Anderson inactive tonight.”
UPDATE: Just before kickoff, the Bills released their list of inactive players, which included Anderson. So, while he won’t take his first official snap on Monday night, he will see a nice pay bump.
NBC Sports‘ Eric Mullen reported, “Players with two or fewer accrued NFL seasons earn at least $11,500 per week, which equals $207,000 for 18 weeks spent on the practice squad… If a practice squad player is promoted to the active roster, he earns the prorated minimum salary for a player with his years of experience. So a rookie called up to the active roster ahead of a game would see his pay increased from $11,500 to over $39,000.”
Harkey Used to Play for the Rams, Hired By the Bills in February
Anderson’s uncle was hired by the Bills in February 2022 to fill the vacant role left by Matthew Smiley, who was promoted to special teams coordinator, per The Buffalo News. Like his nephew, Harkey played football for four seasons at UCLA and entered the NFL as an undrafted free agent. In 2012, the former tight end signed with the Rams, where he played until he was released on September 2, 2017.
During his time with the Rams, which overlapped with Bills backup quarterback Case Keenum’s tenure in Los Angeles, Harkey appeared in 64 games, catching 27 passes and recording three touchdowns. Before joining the Bills coaching staff, Harkey, 32, served as the tight ends coach at Azusa Pacific University for two years before taking on the same position at Tennessee State in 2021.
Anderson Celebrated Signing With the Bills By Throwing His Brother Into a Table
Back in May, Anderson, who’s 6-foot-5 and 305 pounds, celebrated his new contract by performing a quintessential Bills Mafia tradition, breaking tables. However, Anderson didn’t break a table himself, instead, he slammed his brother down on it. The offensive tackle shared the video on Twitter, where it quickly went viral.
Anderson proudly changed his Instagram bio to read, “Buffalo, NY new home,” and captioned a series of photos from training camp, “Summer update wouldn’t want to be doing anything else right now.”
After his elevation was announced ahead of the Bills vs. Bengals matchup at Paycor Stadium, Anderson celebrated by posting several congratulatory messages on his Instagram Stories. He replied to one, “Great opportunity, very happy,” and “Bills Mafia, baby!” to another.