- Associated Press - Saturday, March 11, 2017

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) - Journeyman linebacker Lorenzo Alexander’s breakout season with the Buffalo Bills has paid off.

The 10-year-veteran was rewarded for leading Buffalo with 12½ sacks by agreeing to a two-year, $9 million contract to re-sign with the Bills on Saturday.

The team announced the agreement, and a person with direct knowledge of the contract revealed its details to The Associated Press.

The person said $4.1 million of the contract is guaranteed, and spoke to The AP on the condition of anonymity because the Bills did not disclose the contract’s length and value.

The Bills also addressed their need at right tackle by reaching an agreement to re-sign Jordan Mills, who started all 16 games last season. The fourth-year player returns for a third season in Buffalo, where he’s had 21 starts in 26 games.

Alexander earned a significant jump in pay for the 33-year-old linebacker, who was supposed to play a backup and special teams role in signing a one-year, $885,000 deal with the Bills last spring.

Instead, Alexander won a starting job in training camp and more than doubled the nine career sacks he had in his first nine NFL seasons split over three teams, while also leading the Bills with three forced fumbles.

He became Buffalo’s first player to register a sack in each of the first five games of a season since sacks became an official NFL statistic in 1982. Alexander finished the year being voted a second-team All-Pro, and earned his second Pro Bowl selection.

Alexander then capped his season by being the Pro Bowl’s defensive MVP after his late interception helped seal the AFC’s 20-13 victory.

Alexander credited his career resurgence on the additional time he had rehabilitating a foot injury that hampered his performance over the previous three seasons in Arizona and Oakland.

Though he attracted interest from other teams since the NFL’s signing period opened this week, Alexander said he wanted to stay put after switching teams in each of the past three offseasons. The Bills, he added, also made him the best offer during a series of negotiations that began on Wednesday.

“Buffalo was a clear-cut favorite from contracts, to myself obviously being here last year and just the relationships that I have built,” he said. “So kind of all that really made it easy for me to sign.”

The test now for Alexander is finding his niche in what will be a revamped defense under new coach Sean McDermott, who was hired in January following Rex Ryan’s dismissal.

McDermott is Carolina’s former defensive coordinator and intends to introduce a four-lineman, three-linebacker formation after the Bills mostly played in a 3-4 scheme under Ryan.

Alexander doesn’t expect the adjustment to be difficult.

“I’ve played every position known to man,” he said. “I’m a football player and 4-3, 3-4, it doesn’t matter. Just show me where the ball is and I’m going to try to go get it.”

Alexander said he’s already spoken with McDermott several times by phone and also received glowing reviews in consulting with Panthers linebacker Thomas Davis to learn more about the Bills new coach.

“Sean doesn’t have anything to prove to me,” Alexander said. “For now, it’s just building that relationship, that chemistry and that bond that you have with your leadership and your head coach so that you can really get a whole team together from top to bottom and move in the right direction.”

Alexander spent his first six seasons in Washington, where he established a reputation for being a key special teams player.


For more NFL coverage: www.pro32.ap.org and https://twitter.com/AP_NFL

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