WASHINGTON — Like fine wine, former Washington Redskins everyman Lorenzo Alexander just keeps getting better with time.
After a career of toiling in special teams and reserve defensive duty, the One Man Gang started every game for the Buffalo Bills last season, his first in the Rex Ryan defense, and led the NFL in sacks for most of the season.
Now entering free agency, Alexander is what NFL insider Jason La Canfora considers to be “the intriguing free agent in a lousy market.”
Trust me: even if he wasn’t coming off an intriguing season, Alexander would still be one of the most intriguing people in free agency.
La Canfora recaps his humble beginnings in the NFL, first as a defensive tackle, then as an offensive lineman, tight end, inside linebacker and finally outside pass rusher. What fans may not realize is that it was Redskins legend Joe Gibbs who imparted wisdom on him that inspires him to this day.
“Your role can change drastically from week to week, and within games,” Alexander told him. “So you always have to be ready, and I’ve always tried to make sure that I was that guy who the coach could trust if called on to do whatever he had to do for the team.
“I was taught that a long time ago by coach Gibbs. He told me the best guys don’t always last the longest, it’s the guys you trust who end up sticking around.”
Alexander has earned that trust on each of his last four teams, starting with the Redskins. He rose to role of special teams ace and team captain, and only left the team in 2013 because he had the opportunity for a payday in Arizona. At the time, he was 30 years old and it may have been the last payday of his career.
Instead, he played well enough despite injuries to latch on for a season in Oakland. Heading into the 2016 season, he took another low-money, incentive-laden contract to play special teams and third-string defense in Buffalo.
Once again, he earned that trust. It helps that he has always had a realistic confidence about his physical ability.
“I don’t think I’m a natural pass rusher, and I’m not a guy with the skill set of Von Miller and Khalil Mack. I need volume [of plays], and most guys need volume, because we aren’t as fast as some of those guys and we’ve got to set the tackle up and we go against some pretty good, very athletic tackles.
“So it takes three quarters sometimes to set a guy up, and this was really my first time to have opportunity to be on the field for that amount of time to do it.”
Despite that, he still finished the season with 12.5 sacks, more than doubling his career total, and started all 16 games, his previous career total. Now, he’s just looking for an opportunity to do it again.