Bills Veteran Hints at Retirement Ahead of Contract Year

A.J. Klein

Getty Buffalo Bills linebacker A.J. Klein.

The Buffalo Bills are once again entering the 2023 season with a Super Bowl-or-bust mindset, and linebacker A.J. Klein is really hoping this is the year the team hoists the Lombardi Trophy.

Klein initially signed a three-year, $18 million contract with the Bills in 2020 but was released as a cap casualty ahead of the 2022 season. While the veteran went on to have brief stints with Chicago Bears, New York Giants and Baltimore Ravens, the Bills claimed him off waivers in November and he finished the season in Buffalo.

In April, the Bills re-signed Klein to a one-year, $1.16 million contract. The former fifth-round pick from the 2013 draft, who spent the first four seasons of his career with the Carolina Panthers followed by three seasons with the New Orleans Saints before first landing in Buffalo, hinted this could be his final year in the league, and he wants to win it all.

“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.”

Klein, who turns 32 on July 30 and shares two children with his wife, Taylor, will not be looking to transition into a coaching position once he hangs up his cleats. “Oh, never, no,” he said, according to the News. “I’ve already spent a lot of time away from my family. To transition into NFL or college coaching, it’s too much time [to commit].”

As for becoming a broadcast commentator, Klein is at least open to the possibility. “That’s if they’ll have my face on TV,” he said.

A.J. Klein Faces Heavy Competition to Earn the Starting Job

Klein’s experience is one of the main reasons Buffalo re-signed the veteran, as he played 31 games with 15 starts during his first two seasons with the team, during which he recorded 110 total tackles, five sacks, one interception, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.

Last season, he made six appearances while participating in 52% of special teams snaps, per Bills Wire.

However, Klein will compete with several much younger players to earn the starting middle linebacker job left vacant by Tremaine Edmunds. Terrell Bernard, 24, Tyrel Dodson, 25, and Dorian Williams, the Bills’ third-round pick from the 2023 draft, will also be vying for the role. While SI’s Richie Whitt believes Klein is the “leading candidate” and the starting job “appears to be his job to lose,” USA Today’s Nick Wojton sees him more on the roster bubble.

“Klein is an under-the-radar player to potentially take over for Tremaine Edmunds,” Wojton wrote. “In the past, he was Buffalo’s third linebacker behind Edmunds and Matt Milano and would slide into a starting spot if someone was injured. But Klein’s contract and youthful players around him … aren’t doing him any favors. He reads as a player the Bills will hope to get onto their practice squad.”

The Athletic’s Joe Buscaglia sees the Bills cutting Klein “with the knowledge that they’ll probably get him back to the practice squad. … Klein could serve as an insurance policy for the middle linebacker spot in case things go sideways with the younger options during the regular season.”

A.J. Klein Is Ready to Give Everything He’s Got

Entering his 11th season in the NFL, Klein is ready to put it all on the line this year. “There is nothing that will hold me back (in camp),” he told The Buffalo News. “It’s been nice to work out and focus on conditioning. It’s good to sit back and have some mental reps and watch and continue to learn.”

As for his plan to win the starting job, “I don’t think there are any keys necessarily but to continue to be the player I’ve been in the last 10 years and show daily consistency and see how everything shakes out.”

Bills linebackers coach Bobby Babich said that Klein is handling the team’s biggest roster battle like a pro. “What’s amazing to me about A.J. is, as you get older, you run into some players who will try to protect their job,” Babich said.

“What’s unique about A.J. is there is no insecurity. He is here to help. He’s seen a lot of football, he’s played a lot of football and he’s played with a lot of good football players. He’s been nothing but tremendous and is there as a helping hand to those (younger) guys.”

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