With the nineteenth pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, the Buffalo Bills selected Clemson defensive end Shaq Lawson. A solid athlete, Lawson was coming off an incredible junior year, having notched 12.5 sacks and 24.5 tackles for loss as a junior with the Tigers. He was expected to come in and contribute immediately to a pass rush that had sputtered the year before, totaling only 21 sacks in 2015. Lawson’s rookie season was derailed by a shoulder injury that either occurred during rookie minicamp or was aggravated during the same minicamp.
In 2017, the Bills hoped that a switch to a 4-3 defense would help Lawson to utilize the natural ability that helped make him such a force in college. After showing some improvement against the run, Lawson missed the last six games of the year, including Buffalo’s 10-3 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars in the wild card round of the playoffs, due to an ankle injury.
As one of Buffalo’s higher-paid players, the former first-round pick has not lived up to expectations, hence his position at number four on our list of the worst salary cap values of 2017.
2017 Cap Hit (per Spotrac): $2,336,130 (1.51% of 2017 Cap)
2017 Cap Hit Rank by Position: 48th among defensive ends
2017 Vital Stats: 11 games, 10 starts (39.35% defensive snaps), 33 tackles, 4 sacks, 2 passes defended, 1 fumble forced
No, the Bills couldn’t pay Lawson any differently than they did, as he is still on his rookie contract. However, the Bills did not receive great value from a first-round pick on a lucrative contract, either. Although Lawson improved as an edge-setter in run support, he still only earned a grade of 64.4 from Pro Football Focus, which placed Lawson 83rd among all edge defenders.
While Lawson’s production increased from his rookie year to his second season, he still did not represent surplus salary cap value for his employer in 2017.