The Buffalo Bills don’t usually do much in the free agent market. However, the team gave a big free agent deal to a former Carolina Panthers defensive tackle in hope that he will help to restore Buffalo’s run defense and pass rush to more respectable levels.
In the latest installment of our “90 players in 90 days” series, we look at the man who signed the second-richest free agent contract in Bills’ history.
Name: Star Lotulelei
Height/Weight: 6’2” 315 lbs.
Draft: Drafted in the first round (14th overall) by the Carolina Panthers in the 2013 NFL Draft.
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Lotulelei signed a massive contract this offseason. The five-year deal totals $50 million, $24.65 million of which is guaranteed. In 2018, his cap hit will be $6.7 million.
2017 Recap: Lotulelei is coming off a down year. He only made 25 total tackles while playing 58.84% of the Panthers’ defensive snaps. He also had 1.5 sacks on the year. Granted, it wasn’t his job to make the “sexy plays”—the majority of his snaps involved eating space so that Luke Kuechly, Kawaan Short, and others could operate—but Pro Football Focus was also down on his season, grading him 109th out of all defensive tackles with a 49.5 overall grade.
Positional outlook: Lotulelei will line up next to Kyle Williams as the first wave of defensive tackles when both men are healthy. Rookie Harrison Phillips will probably slot in as Lotulelei’s primary backup. The other defensive tackles looking to battle for time and roster space are Adolphus Washington, Rickey Hatley, and Tenny Palepoi.
2018 Offseason: As expected, Lotulelei has run with the first-team defense thus far. He has been at all offseason activities to date.
2018 season outlook: Barring an injury or further downturn in performance, Lotulelei figures to start along the defensive line and play a majority of the snaps. While head coach Sean McDermott will probably employ a heavy rotation at defensive tackle, Lotulelei will be counted on to eat space and allow Williams and rookie Tremaine Edmunds to use their instincts and natural abilities to create havoc along the interior of the defense. His presence will also allow defensive ends Jerry Hughes and Trent Murphy, among others, to rush the passer more freely. Lotulelei will be on the roster in 2018. The question is whether he will be the player that the Panthers thought that he’d be when they drafted him in the first round of the 2013 NFL Draft.