Bills sign two free agent linebackers: Tyrell Adams and Marquel Lee

Sal Maiorana
Rochester Democrat and Chronicle
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Tyrell Adams’ first chance to play for the Buffalo Bills occurred during head coach Sean McDermott’s inaugural season with the team in 2017. However, Adams failed a physical and was released.

Wednesday, a second opportunity arose as Adams signed a one-year contract with Buffalo to compete as a backup linebacker and special teams player.

Hours later, the Bills signed another linebacker to a one-year deal, former Raider Marquel Lee who missed all of 2020 with an injury.

Adams has had a circuitous start to his NFL career. If you look at his Pro Football Reference page, his name has been involved in nearly 30 transactions since he first entered the league as an undrafted free agent in 2015 out of Division II school West Georgia. That includes being signed, being waived, and being cut.

Tyrell Adams enjoyed a breakout 2020 season at linebacker for the Texans.

However, he finally found a home in Houston and saw action in nine games between 2018 and 2019 before breaking through on the field in 2020.

Last season, stepping in for injured linebacker Benardrick McKinney, Adams played in 16 games with 12 starts, was in on 122 tackles and had two sacks, two forced fumbles and a fumble recovery. He put on quite a show in Houston’s Thanksgiving Day victory over Detroit when he made 17 tackles and forced two fumbles.

The 6-foot-2, 230-pounder filled a hole in the Texans defense and former defensive coordinator and interim head coach Romeo Crennel spoke highly of him.

“RAC (Romeo Anthony Crennel) was really encouraging from the start of the season and how he praised me about taking on the role,” Adams told the Houston Chronicle a couple months ago. “I learned a lot from him and his positivity when the season didn’t go the way we wanted. I just kept working, and he gave me advice on how to up my game and read things faster.”

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The 28-year-old Adams, who has also been with the Seahawks, Chiefs, Colts, 49ers, and Raiders but only played in games for the Raiders (12 combined in 2016 and 2017), was not exactly a favorite of the analysts at Pro Football Focus and his grades were routinely subpar.

Still, 2020 was a big year for Adams because he proved he could be a contributing member of the Houston defense. 

“I just kind of built on some things and showed that I can play in this league and produce at a high level,” he told the Chronicle. “I want to continue to get better. The door is open, and the ceiling is a lot higher. I want to keep working and getting better. To put my talent on display at a high level was a good thing for me. I was blessed with the opportunity, and I was able to take advantage of it. I watched the film of last year, and I still left a lot of plays out there. I’m hungry for a lot more.”

Adams played in a 3-4 defense last season and the Bills’ 4-3 scheme may be a better fit.

“Playing in a 4-3 gives me the ability to move and really excel physically,” he said. “During my rookie year in Seattle, we were a 4-3 defense and with the Colts. So being in a 4-3, would be a familiar fit. I think I’m really versatile. I play smarter and quicker than most guys, and I’m good in zone and man coverage. Coming downhill and playing really physical, adding that to my repertoire, I’m an all-around linebacker. I’m pretty well-versed in all aspects of being a complete linebacker. I can run and get to the ball.”

Lee was a 2017 fifth-round draft pick of the Raiders who played 34 games with 19 starts during his first three seasons. He totaled 85 tackles on defense and was also contributor on special teams where he made 19 tackles.

The 6-foot-3, 235-pounder played college ball at Wake Forest.

Sal Maiorana can be reached at Follow him on Twitter @salmaiorana. 

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