INDIANAPOLIS -- After a decade's worth of doing the dirty work as one of the NFL's habitually unheralded utility men, Lorenzo Alexander got the football world's attention in 2016, making a stunning run at the NFL sack title. So when the Buffalo Bills' veteran pass rusher and special teams standout got singled out by then-offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn at a team meeting the night before a mid-November game at Cincinnati, he expected to soak up some hard-earned glory.
"Rex (Ryan) asked some of his coaches to get up and talk, and A-Lynn was one of them," Alexander laughingly recalled last Wednesday at the Westin in downtown Indianapolis, where, in his role as an NFL Players Association executive committee member, he had come for meetings timed to coincide with the NFL Scouting Combine. "During his speech, [Lynn] goes, 'We got guys out here like Lo Alexander ... Where are you, Lo? Stand up.' So I stand up, and he looks at me and says, 'Lo, when you came here (in 2016), I thought you were a bum. I didn't think you would make this team. But you proved me and everybody else wrong, and you're out here working hard and making plays, and it's great to see.'
"I was [thinking], Was that a compliment? Thanks ... I guess. But hey, I'll take it."
Now, as Alexander explores his options heading into the market as an unrestricted free agent -- free agency begins at 4 p.m. ET on Thursday, with wall-to-wall coverage on NFL Network -- the 33-year-old outside linebacker is looking for a more tangible reward. With the Bills among numerous teams interested in his eclectic skill set, Alexander hopes to land a deal that reflects the unexpected boost to his reputation.
"People say I'm a one-hit wonder, that I've never done those things before this past season, but it's the first time I've been asked to do them," Alexander said. "So now I get to hit the market, and look: You don't need to wine and dine me. The contract you offer is gonna show me how much you love me. I don't need to go to dinner. I don't need a tour. I don't need to see the city. Just show me the offer."
All things being equal, Alexander said he would like to re-sign with the Bills, the sixth franchise that has employed him since he went unselected in the 2005 NFL Draft -- 12 years and at least 75 pounds ago. His agent, Peter Schaffer, met with Bills executives on Saturday in Indianapolis, and Alexander said he has been told by new Bills head coach Sean McDermott and general manager Doug Whaley that they would like him to return, despite a switch to a 4-3 defensive scheme.
It remains to be seen whether the Bills, who paid Alexander $885,000 for his services in 2016, will be willing to offer as much as other potential suitors, but this much is clear: Adapting to a new system shouldn't be an issue. Originally a 315-pound defensive tackle, Alexander has transformed his physique and become a beacon of versatility, adding stints at defensive end, outside linebacker, inside linebacker, short-yardage safety, fullback, H-back, tight end and guard to his résumé.
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