The Bills got Sean McDermott a wrestling buddy on Thursday.
Buffalo signed free agent linebacker Gerald Hodges. According to ESPN’s Adam Schefter, it’s a one-year contract.
McDermott hinted at the signing during his press conference Thursday morning, saying there was a “good chance he signs with us.”
The ink was dry on the contract before practice was over.
Hodges was a fourth round pick by the Vikings in 2013. He didn’t play much his rookie year, but injuries got him seven starts in 2014.
He responded with 60 tackles and a pick six on the first play of the game in a win over the Jets (courtesy one of Geno Smith’s many donations to defenders).
The Vikings traded Hodges to San Francisco four games into 2015 for center Nick Easton and a 2016 6th round pick.
Last season was by far the best for Hodges. He made 80 tackles with three sacks and two interceptions in 15 games for the Niners. He was graded 21st of 87 linebackers by Pro Football Focus for 2016.
The Bills website reported today Hodges would likely compete for the starting spot at weak side linebacker. With career backup Ramon Humber currently listed as the starter there, the competition might not last long.
Hodges entered the NFL with a reputation for being strong in coverage. He was a converted safety at Penn State and totaled over 100 tackles both his junior and senior year. That included a team high 106 tackles in 2011 while the Jerry Sandusky scandal hung over the school.
In high school, Hodges played quarterback and safety. He also was a top wrestler and made it to the state semifinals his junior season. It was his only loss in 41 matches.
He told the Penn State Daily Collegian in 2011 that wrestling helps him with tackling, staying square and staying low. The ultra-rigorous workouts were another plus.
“The main way [wrestling] helped me is mentally, just with my mental toughness, with running, being able to play tired,” Hodges said.
Hodges is also a class clown. He got in plenty of trouble growing up. He’s admitted to being a jokester and to wearing the same underwear to practice for days and even weeks at a time.
He’s also a guy that can lift his teammates, according to Vikings corner Captain Munnerlyn in this 2015 Minneapolis Star Tribune article.
The Bills badly needed starting caliber linebackers and they seem to have landed exactly that in Hodges.
With his mischievous side under control, Hodges appears to be a good personality to mix in the Bills locker room. And he can even go toe to toe with McDermott in a wrestling ring.
All in all, a quality addition for the Bills, especially for late May.