The Buffalo Bills’ roster stood at 89 players heading into the beginning of this week, but that changed on Tuesday as the team inked linebacker Jamari Lattimore to a free agent deal. Terms of the contract were not disclosed.
Lattimore visited Buffalo on May 19, but left One Bills Drive without a contract before getting a deal done with the team Tuesday.
Most recently with the New York Jets, the 27-year-old outside linebacker appeared in 15 games for New York last season and racked up 13 tackles (12 solo, one assist) while playing predominately on special teams.
Prior to his stint with the Jets in 2015, Lattimore spent the first four seasons of his career with the Green Bay Packers, who signed the 6-foot-2, 229-pound linebacker as an undrafted free agent out of Middle Tennessee State in 2011.
A defensive end in college, Lattimore totaled 137 tackles (93 solo, 44 assists), 30 tackles for loss, 20.5 sacks, four fumble recoveries, three forced fumbles and one interception during his three seasons with the Blue Raiders. He graduated with a degree in criminal justice.
Lattimore spent his first collegiate season at Dodge City Community College in Kansas where he racked up 66 tackles (47 solo, 19 assists), five sacks, two tackles for loss and one interception en route to earning a scholarship to MTSU.
Thus far in his NFL career, the Hialeah, Fla., native has tallied 98 tackles (66 solo, 32 assists), two sacks, two pass breakups, one forced fumble and one interception in 64 career games.
Lattimore will be 28 in October.
How Does Jamari Lattimore Fit?
Despite going undrafted out of college, the former Packer and Jet has carved out a fairly successful career for himself so far, primarily because of his play on special teams.
And, unless something unforeseen occurs between now and the beginning of September, Jamari Lattimore’s role and best chance to make Buffalo’s roster in 2016 will be just that — special teams.
Voted one of two special teams captains by his teammates in Green Bay heading into the 2012 NFC Playoffs, he proved to be a versatile player for the Packers as he converted from a collegiate defensive end to play outside linebacker and inside linebacker in addition to his duties on special teams.
Starting a total of nine games during his four seasons with Green Bay, Lattimore’s most extensive action on defense came in 2013 when he appeared in 15 games, including four starts at inside linebacker following injuries to starter Brad Jones and top backup Robert Francois.
He continued on the starting tract at inside linebacker in 2014 before being replaced early in the season and eventually winding up on injured reserve on Dec. 13 of that year due to an ankle injury. He finished that season with a career-high 39 tackles (23 solo, 16 assists).
Although Lattimore didn’t see much time on defense with the Packers or the Jets, he has proven to be useful in a pinch and is certainly a capable player.
Coming into the league as an undersized EDGE rusher, Lattimore is also fairly athletic.
At his pro day in 2011, the former Blue Raider posted a 4.71 in the 40-yard dash, a 7.04 3-cone drill, a 31-inch vertical jump, a 9-foot-2-inch broad jump and 20 reps of 225 pounds.
While those aren’t superb numbers, they at least show that Lattimore is capable of playing in space, which is probably why he has had success on special teams.
The Bills have signed several other players this offseason with their coverage and return units in mind, so Lattimore should at least feel a sense of comfort that general manager Doug Whaley seems to value players who can contribute in the that third of the game.
Nobody should run out and buy a Jamari Lattimore jersey, but there’s a good possibility that the player nicknamed “Latt” could be on Buffalo’s roster when the Bills hit the field to take on the Baltimore Ravens on Sept. 11.
He’ll need to compete with the likes of Randell Johnson, Max Valles, Kevin Reddick, Eric Striker and more if he hopes to find a spot, but Buffalo was wise to bring in another player who’s capable of playing multiple roles.
Lattimore will get his first big chance to impress Rex Ryan and company when the Bills hold their mandatory mini-camp in two weeks.
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