Buffalo Bills Free Agency Potential Re-signing: Tyrel Dodson

Buffalo Bills Free Agency Potential Re-signing: Tyrel Dodson
Buffalo Bills linebacker Tyrel Dodson (25) runs out for introductions before an NFL football game against the New York Jets in Orchard Park, N.Y., Sunday, Nov. 19, 2023. (AP Photo/Adrian Kraus)

Every season, the Buffalo Bills manage to find players who were drafted late or overlooked altogether and turn them into quality players. Back in 2019, the Bills found Tyrel Dodson as a UDFA out of Texas A&M. 

After sticking with Dodson through a domestic violence suspension and stint on the practice squad, he has since been a mainstay on the active roster, appearing in 59 games over four seasons. With all the time and effort that the Bills put into Dodson, he elevated his game to the next level and still provide key special teams contributions throughout the season.

In 2023, it all came to a head as he experienced his best season this past year and could potentially cash in during free agency this year.The Bills have a difficult decision to make whether to bring him back, spending valuable cap space or letting him walk. Add in his injury history, this could complicate some things once teams get a better look at him.

Below is Tyrel Dodson’s publicly known injury history and concerns in re-signing him.

College Injuries

No publicly reported injuries.

Pro Injuries

2019 Buffalo Bills

No publicly reported injuries.

2020 Bills

Neck strain, Week 1, missed 0 games.

Right hamstring strain, Week 6, went to IR, missed 6 games.

2021 Bills

No publicly reported injuries.

2022 Bills

Missed a week of practice during second week of August with a left leg injury, observed wearing a compression sleeve on his left leg suggesting a calf, hamstring, or quad injury.

Knee injury, Week 17, missed 0 games.

2023 Bills

Left Shoulder injury, Week 18, missed 1 game. 

Injury Concerns

Left shoulder

Based on how he hit the shoulder against Miami, there is a strong concern that he suffered a tear to his rotator cuff and labrum. If that is indeed the case, then he could potentially need to get it repaired at some point. As of publication, I have not seen any evidence that he underwent surgery. 

He could rehab the rotator cuff issue and not require surgery if the tear was small enough. The labrum could also be rehabbed but depending on the size of the tear, it could eventually require surgery if he suffers further instability leading to more damage to the area. Plenty of players play through torn labrums in their shoulder with Dodson taking a risk to cash in before he gets it fixed.


He did suffer a pretty serious hamstring strain that sent him to injured reserve back in 2020. However, he has not had the associated soft tissue injuries afterward. He’s not immune from further issues but he appeared to have given himself the time to rehab rather than rush through the injury. 


Dodson is a player that has improved to the point where the Bills may not be able to afford him. For the Bills, it is a drawback because he can’t come back cheaply. 

Another drawback could be how close to his ceiling he is. He was a UDFA coming out of college and while guys like Dodson do develop into reliable players, would the Bills be paying someone that they could replace in the draft for much cheaper?

Stay or Leave

As a former UDFA player who came up through the practice squad and parlayed it into a starting role, this is every team’s dream to find a low cost option. Dodson is a good problem in that he developed to a point where he exceeded expectations.

While he has been a valuable contributor, Dodson has earned the right to go explore how much he can really make on the open market. 

Market Value

According to Spotrac, Dodson is expected to command an AAV of $4.8 million per season. For a team strapped with cash already paying Matt Milano and plenty of other players, every million counts. 

Looking at comparables, Germaine Pratt, Alex Anzalone, EJ Speed, and Leighton Vander Esch are players with similar contracts and age. Without digging into the stats, Dodson is already a better value than Vander Esch who has dealt with several neck injuries. Even if these are Dodson’s true contemporaries, that is still a lot of money being paid to depth linebacker when you consider Bernard and Milano see most of the snaps when healthy.

Even looking at the other comparable statistics for Dodson vs the others, he doesn’t stack up as well. While his stats don’t match as well, it doesn’t mean he won’t warrant a pay bump, but he may have to take less money than those others, but this is also more than what the Bills are likely to pay.

Final Thoughts 

The Bills should offer Tyrel Dodson a contract that they feel that they can afford. If it’s something that works for him, great, he can return to a system he can excel in. But the market is clearly indicating that there is more money to be had elsewhere. As Brandon Beane has stated in the past with other players, he has earned the right to test free agency. 

I wouldn’t put much effort into keeping Dodson only because more time and energy can be spent elsewhere working to retain other guys. Use his contract to factor into the compensatory pick formula and find another UDFA to begin to develop. 

I’m also concerned about that shoulder suffering further damage and potentially leading to him not living up to his contract like we’ve seen so many other free agents over the years. The Bills know what his medicals look like and will factor that into the negotiations.

If he can remain available, then the contract will be worth it. My fear is that he doesn’t live up to expectations in a new setting.

I wish Tyrel Dodson the best of luck in his free agency this off-season.

Top Photo Credit: Adrian Kraus/AP