The Buffalo Bills aren't done reshaping their roster.
On Tuesday morning, a league source confirmed to The Buffalo News that the team has reached a contract agreement with former Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Tyler Matakevich. Mike Garafolo of NFL Network was first to report the agreement. The News has learned the deal is for two years and up to $7.15 million.
Matakevich, 27, is a former seventh-round draft pick of the Steelers out of Temple. He's missed just one game in his four-year career, but made just one start.
Matakevich's primary role with the Steelers came on special teams. He has averaged more than 300 special-teams snaps per season since he joined the team in 2016. He tied for the NFL lead in tackles on special teams in 2019 with 16, and has finished in the top 10 of the league in that category during three of his four seasons.
Nicknamed "Dirty Red" because of his red hair and thick red beard, Matakevich served as the Steelers' captain on special teams most weeks. He led the team with 337 snaps on special teams.
Conversely, Matakevich played just 17 snaps on defense in 2019, a career low, and has played just 150 defensive snaps in his career. That's a big adjustment from his college career. At Temple, he became just the seventh player in NCAA FBS history to have 100-plus tackles four consecutive seasons. As a senior in 2015, he won the Bronko Nagurski and Chuck Bednarik awards as the nation’s best defensive player. He became just the fourth member of the Steelers this century to join the team as a seventh-round draft pick and play out his entire rookie contract.
"I have been playing linebacker all my life,” Matakevich told the Pittsburgh Tribune Review at the end of the 2019 season. “It kills me when I am not out there. If the opportunity presents itself where I can get a chance to do my team’s role and get a chance at linebacker, who knows?"
Barring injury, it seems unlikely Matakevich will project to have a large defensive role with the Bills. Tremaine Edmunds and Matt Milano are every-down players, while the team reached a contract agreement Monday night with linebacker A.J. Klein, who figures to get the first crack at stepping into the starting lineup spot left open by the retirement of Lorenzo Alexander.
If Matakevich continues to fill primarily a role on special teams, he indicated that's fine.
"Am I going to be one of the guys who are in the category like, 'I don't want to do (special teams)?' " Matakevich said. "You do that, then boom, that’s the end of it. That’s my value. I know what I bring at that and the numbers I put up at that.
"I mean, do I wanna do this? Are you kidding me? You are telling me you want me to run down on kickoffs for 10 years? Are you kidding me? I’ll tackle the guy with the ball. I have been doing this since I was 9 years old. ‘Find the guy with the ball!’ "
The Steelers played a base 3-4 defense. The Bills use a 4-3 scheme. It remains to be seen which for linebacker spot Matakevich will serve as the primary backup. Julian Stanford, who has been the Bills' primary backup to Edmunds, is an unrestricted free agent who led the Bills with 297 special-teams snaps in 2019. Maurice Alexander, who played 130 special-teams snaps before ending 2019 on injured reserve, is an unrestricted free agent for the Bills.