The Bills had signed Kirksey on August 30 after his surprise release by the Houston Texans, with Kirksey joining their practice squad.
“Former #Texans captain and starting LB Christian Kirksey, a surprise cut on Tuesday, is planning to sign with the #Bills practice squad now that he has landed there, source said. He prioritized winning,” NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport reported on X, formerly known as Twitter.
But Kirksey will now be heading off into retirement, leading the Bills to bring back a familiar face to replace him.
Bills Lose Christian Kirksey, Add A.J. Klein
The Bills announced Kirksey’s intention to retire on Thursday, noting that they signed veteran linebacker A.J. Klein back to the practice squad to make up for his departure.
Kirksey’s planned retirement is an abrupt change of course for a player who looked to be a major factor in the Texans’ plans on defense this season. SI’s Coty M. Davis wrote before the season that Kirksey entered training camp as a “lock” to make the 53-man roster, but he was quickly handed a major setback.
“But a few days into camp, the veteran linebacker sustained an injured hamstring. The injury forced Kirksey to miss nearly a month, which included all three preseason games,” Coty wrote.
The Bills had their eyes on Kirksey in the past, hosting him for a workout in 2020 before he eventually signed with the Green Bay Packers. SB Nation‘s Rachel Auberger predicted that the Bills could move quickly to add Kirksey this offseason after the departure of starting middle linebacker Tremaine Edmunds in free agency.
“The Bills were interested enough in 2020 while they still had both (Matt) Milano and (Tremaine) Edmunds to take a look,” Auburger wrote. “Now with Edmunds gone (and with no clear cut replacement) and with recent injuries to both Terrell Bernard (who did return to practice late last week) and Baylon Spector — both of whom were listed as possible candidates for the team’s MIKE position — it might be time for Buffalo to take another look at Kirksey.”
Klein will now return for another stint in Buffalo, where he played from 2020-2021 before returning again late last season. Klein hinted before the season that this could be his final year in the NFL, and he wanted it to be in Buffalo.
“This is the one place I knew I could come to and win the Super Bowl and be around quality people and quality teammates,” Klein told The Buffalo News. “If this is the end of my journey as far as football goes, I want it to be here in Buffalo.”
Bills Faced Another Retirement
Kirksey is now the second veteran Bills player to opt for retirement in a matter of weeks. Offensive lineman Brandon Shell, who was seen as a key offseason addition to the offense, also announced his retirement during training camp.
“Bills OL Brandon Shell was not at practice today and intends to retire, I’m told,” ESPN’s Alaina Getzenberg wrote on Twitter on August 15. “Shell signed with the Bills in late May. He was a fifth-round pick in 2016 by the Jets and has played in 83 games, starting in 72, throughout his career.”