On Wednesday, it was announced that Buffalo Bills’ linebacker, Andre Smith, has been suspended for the first six games of the 2022 NFL season. Smith’s suspension is for violating the league’s performance enhancing drugs (PEDs) policy. Smith quickly took to twitter stating, “The recent turn of events have been very unfortunate. I have been appealing since November to prove my innocence. I do not agree with the decision that was made and I have never and will never take PED.” In a crowded Bills’ linebacker room, the suspension could be a key factor in whether he makes the team or not.
Smith By the Numbers
Andre Smith has spent the last two seasons in Buffalo after the Bills acquired him from the Carolina Panthers in a 2020 trade. Buffalo sent Carolina a conditional 2023 seventh round pick in return for Smith. Smith was originally cut by Buffalo, then re-signed to the practice squad and would eventually crack the roster and play 12 games in 2020. Smith would make his impact on special teams. In 2020, he played 62 percent of the teams special teams snaps, and in 2021 he played 68 percent of them. After the 2020 season, the Buffalo Bills signed Smith to a two-year $2.4 million contract extension. Smith is scheduled to hit free agency after the upcoming season. In his contract year, he will miss the first six games.
The Buffalo Bills’ Linebacker Room
The Buffalo Bills have a very good linebacker room, headlined by homegrown players Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano. Behind those two, they have soon to be fourth year man, Tyrel Dodson, and special teams stud, Tyler Matakevich. New draft pick, Terel Bernard, is a very intriguing prospect with lots of upside who the team likes a lot. They also added another draft pick in Baylon Specter. Rounding out the rest of the room, is Andre Smith, Joe Giles-Harris and Marquel Lee. There is loads of talent and athleticism in this group and it will be a sure-fire battle through ought all of training camp for the reserve linebacker spots.
Smith’s suspension is going to put a damper on his chances to make the team this year. Edmunds and Milano are locks to make the team for obvious reasons. Tyrel Dodson is as close to a lock as it can get, after the team felt comfortable enough to release veteran A.J. Klein and promote Dodson to linebacker three. It’s also worth mentioning how much the team seems to like Dodson, keeping him around through personal issues and re-signing him to a one-year deal back in March. Matakevich is a core special teams contributor. Landing in the top total tackles for special teamers the past few years, (7th last season). That is four guys right away that are essentially locks to make the team.
The Bills have kept six linebackers on the roster the past two seasons. So, if that holds true again this season, there’s only essentially two open linebacker spots left. Terel Bernard, the rookie, also pretty much seems like he is a lock after the Bills made him the 89th overall pick in the 2022 NFL Draft. That leaves one linebacker spot open. Smith, Spector, Harris, and Lee will fight for that last spot. Smith can practice with the team and attend training camp, but cannot play in any games until week 7. The Bills could just opt to cut ties with the soon to be free agent anyway and go with someone who’s able to play from week one, on. Spector is a name to watch, especially on a rookie deal. With a lot of depth along the d-line, at wide receiver, and even running back, it is also possible the Bills shave down to only five linebackers.