When Lorenzo Alexander inked a one-year deal with the Bills in the 2016 offseason, not even he anticipated that he would still be with the team three years down the road.
He was a journeyman; a career special-teamer who had played for three teams in the four years leading up to his arrival in Buffalo. A strong work ethic and an innate ability to take advantage of every opportunity he's afforded have allowed Alexander to become a mainstay in Western New York, as the 35-year-old inked a one-year extension with the Bills on Wednesday morning.
"I just needed an opportunity to play," Alexander said. "Up until I got here, I never really had a true opportunity to play an extended time on defense. I got my opportunity on special teams, and so I relished in that and was a Pro Bowler there. When I went to Arizona, I got injured and hurt and disappeared. In this league, the league keeps on going. It doesn't wait for you to be ready.
"Fortunately enough for me, I built up enough of a reputation as a leader and a good guy that I was given another chance in Oakland. Then here when I came to Buffalo, things fell my way, and when I got the opportunity to play, I went out there and did what I do as far as playing hard. If you understand how to play in this league, plays eventually come your way and you have to take advantage of them. I'm definitely fortunate and blessed to be having this opportunity at the age of 36 now, because many guys don't get to play this long in the NFL."
Over the past three seasons, Alexander has established himself as an invaluable member of the Bills' roster. Not only does he play at a high level on the field, but he's also a role model off it, serving as a leader that inexperienced players can go to for guidance.
Alexander is coming off a 2018 season in which Buffalo's coaching staff utilized him in a variety of ways. In addition to starting at strongside linebacker, the veteran also saw time on special teams, playing on 39 percent of the team's special teams snaps. He also played across the entire defensive line, rushing opposing quarterbacks off the edge while also playing as an interior lineman in third-down packages.
Alexander totaled 74 tackles, nine pass deflections, and 6.5 sacks in the 2018 campaign. The impact that he makes both on and off the field made re-signing him a priority for Buffalo.
"Obviously the team wanted me back, they feel like I'm an important piece as far as helping this team in a leadership role, and then obviously what I do on the field," Alexander said. "For me, being at the end stage of my career, having a family that has been acclimated to this culture and accept it after bouncing around for a couple of years, from Arizona to Oakland then here, it just made sense for us to get something done early, know where we're going to be at, knowing what our kids' school is going to look like, all of that stuff that kind of gets overlooked often times in negotiations."
On the doorstep of 36 years of age, Alexander knows that the 2019 season will likely be his last. The confidence that he has in head coach Sean McDermott's vision made re-signing with the Bills an easy decision.
"For me, I think I can think that way," Alexander said. "I'm going to put the work in. If you asked me today, yeah, this is my last year. At some point, you have to eventually walk away from the game and then start the second half of your life.
"I think we have something being built here that's special. [McDermott] has a lot to do with that. I think next year, we can really make a run. At this point, that's what it's all about for me, is trying to find a way to have an opportunity to play for the championship."