The Buffalo Bills signed Trent Murphy in 2018 as a way to bolster their sagging pass rush opposite Jerry Hughes. Murphy, coming off a torn ACL and a PED suspension, was eased into training camp, the preseason, and regular season as he worked his way back.
Over the course of the year, he had long stretches of invisibility on the field, but has a high motor and sharp work ethic. Does all of that combine to continue paying him $8 million per season?
We dove into replacement options and his film to decide.
(Read the entire article by Jeff Kantrowski)
Trent Murphy showed flashes of his 2016 form and remains an intriguing player when it comes to potential. At age 28 and with only two seasons at defensive end under his belt it’s not unreasonable to think Murphy might improve some. To be clear, Murphy simply becoming more consistent with a few skills should lead to improvement.
It’s hard to separate the Trent Murphy conversation from the Shaq Lawson one, with both players primarily working from the left defensive end position. When healthy, it was clear that Sean McDermott and Leslie Frazier preferred Murphy (as evidenced by snap counts). Missing three games and needing to be eased into a few others to accommodate for injury, Murphy’s durability is a concern. Shaq Lawson also had a better season than expected. Both factors could lead to Murphy being a surprise cut, though I don’t see it happening personally.
Salary Cap Cost
(Read the entire article by Dylan Zadonowicz)
If the Bills were to move on from Murphy after just one season, they’d save a decent amount of money but would have some dead money with it, giving the Bills only about $1.5 million in cash they can spend. Numbers via Spotrac:
2019 cap hit: $8.48 million
Salary due: $5.725 million
Roster bonus: $500,000
Per game active bonus: $31,250
Dead money if cut: $3.5 million
Cap savings if cut before roster bonus: $4.98 million
Cap savings if cut after roster bonus: $4.48 million
In-house Replacement Options
(Read the entire article by John Boccacino)
The most logical in-house replacement is Shaq Lawson. Lawson struggled to make an impact in Rex Ryan’s 3-4 scheme during his rookie season, and didn’t get much better in 2017—the first season with Sean McDermott as head coach and Frazier as defensive coordinator. But in 2018, Lawson turned a corner and showed why Buffalo selected him with the 19th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft out of Clemson.
After appearing in 14 games (six starts) and finishing with four sacks, 12 QB hits, 30 total tackles (five for a loss), five passes defended, and two forced fumbles, Pro Football Focus graded Lawson as the league’s 20th-best edge rusher. The 24-year-old Lawson carries a $3,270,586 million cap hit that is fully-guaranteed in 2019, but one season removed from an even timeshare with Murphy on the left side of the defensive line, Lawson should be in line for even more action this year. Lawson displayed the same athleticism that made him a standout at Clemson, leading the defensive line in balls batted down at the line of scrimmage, and when he wasn’t sacking the quarterback he was causing chaos in the opposing backfield.
When it comes to Lawson’s role with the Bills, the biggest issue isn’t whether he will have a place on Frazier’s defense in 2019—he has proven himself to be a valuable contributor—it’s what the Bills will do about the fifth-year option on Lawson’s rookie contract.
Free-Agent Replacement Options
(Read the entire article by Sean Murphy)
If Buffalo does decide to go the free-agent route, it’s a strong free-agent class to do so. The only problem, of course, is money. If Buffalo wants to land a big-name pass rusher, they will have to shell out big-time dollars at the expense, literally and figuratively, of other positions with more pressing needs.
The golden goose of this year’s free agent class is the young, dominant pass rusher. Coming off his second straight season of at least ten sacks, Lawrence turns 27 in April, and he should command a contract of at least $100 million. Over the last two seasons, he has 25 sacks, 29 tackles for loss, and 49 quarterback hits.
The veteran former first-round pick of the Detroit Lions is coming off an injury-plagued down year—one where he was only able to play in seven games total. However, he still managed four sacks, three tackles for loss, and seven quarterback hits in those seven games. For comparison’s sake, Hughes suited up in all of Buffalo’s games this year, and he totaled seven sacks, 13 tackles for loss, and 18 quarterback hits.
There may be some East Coast Bias here, but Clark is far more under-the-radar than the previous names on the list. Playing for a stellar Seattle Seahawks defense, Clark has amassed 35 sacks, 35 tackles for loss, and 72 quarterback hits over his four-year career. Last year, he totaled 13 sacks, 27 quarterback hits, four forced fumbles, and one interception.
The Bills could kill two birds with one stone with this signing, simultaneously strengthening their team and weakening a divisional opponent, the New England Patriots, in the process. Flowers is an excellent all-around player who had seven-and-a-half sacks, nine tackles for loss, and 20 quarterback hits last season. In his career, he has 21 sacks, 25 tackles for loss, and 59 quarterback hits.
NFL Draft Replacement Options
(Read the entire article with mini scouting reports by Andrew Griffin)
If the Bills do move on at defensive end, the team might best be served procuring some young, hungry talent in the draft. Currently, the 2019 Draft is loaded with talented pass rushers and defensive ends. Knowing the value teams place at the position, as many as five of the players listed below could end up as first-round picks.
Nick Bosa (Ohio State)
Josh Allen (Kentucky)
Clelin Ferrell (Clemson)
Nick Bosa is more athletic that his brother Joey, something he’ll prove at the combine in March. Importantly, he’s just as polished as Joey was when he came out for the draft. Allen appears to be athletic enough to handle multiple defensive roles, but he’s proven so effective as a pass rusher that coaches would be crazy to try to deploy him anywhere else. Although he isn’t as much of a natural bender as the names listed before him, Ferrell is big enough and good enough with his hands to the point where that lack of flexibility doesn’t matter too much.
Jachai Polite (Florida)
Brian Burns (Florida State)
Montez Sweat (Mississippi State)
Oshane Ximines (Old Dominion)
Jaylon Ferguson (Louisiana Tech)
Scouting reports available in the full article here.
Charles Omenihu (Texas)
Joe Jackson (Miami-Florida)
Zach Allen (Boston College)
Ben Banogu (TCU)
Scouting reports available in the full article here.
What do you think the Bills should do with Murphy this offseason?
What do you think the Bills should do with Trent Murphy this offseason?
This poll is closed
Keep Murphy, let him split time with Lawson
Keep Murphy, sign a big free agent to start
Keep Murphy, spend a high pick on a starter
Keep Murphy, draft/sign a guy to compete with Murphy & Lawson for starter
Cut Murphy, sign a big free agent
Cut Murphy, spend a high draft pick on a starter