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2020 NFL Free Agency: contract projection for Buffalo Bills DT Jordan Phillips

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It could be a doozy.

The Buffalo Bills claimed Jordan Phillips off waivers in 2018, inheriting his contract from the Miami Dolphins. When that contract expired, they gave him a one-year deal to play in 2019 and he blew up with a great season.

Admittedly, I was way off on my contract projection last year. I projected a $2 million contract for the veteran, who was released by the team who drafted him. Instead, Buffalo gave him a $4.5 million deal. He’s going to want more now.

Massive defensive tackle deals have been handed out recently to several players who have long track records of being disruptive forces in other teams’ backfields. Phillips has one season of doing that. Still, he’s going to want a massive dollar figure after a 9.5-sack season. Three of those sacks came in one game, which could raise a red flag for teams in his ability to consistently produce. At age 27 you could argue he’s entering his prime and this is the tip of the iceberg.

Here are some players Phillips and his reps will look at for comps:

Malik Jackson
Signed a three-year, $30 million contract in March 2019

Jackson was 30 when he signed his deal with the Philadelphia Eagles after being released by the Jacksonville Jaguars. He had four straight seasons of production at DT, notching 5.5, 6.5, 8.0, and 3.5 sacks and at least 30 tackles while playing a ton of snaps for the Denver Broncos and Jaguars.

Phillips never got close to his playing-percentage totals and barely topped 30 tackles in 2019. He did get over Jackson’s career-high sack numbers, something Phillips’s team will no-doubt point to as a reason to pay him, but in every other season, Phillips has been below Jackson’s career low.

Sheldon Richardson
Signed a three-year, $37 million contract in March 2019

A former first-round pick, Richardson is on his fourth NFL team for a variety of reasons. He signed a big contract last offseason at the age of 28 and has been very consistent and durable throughout his career. He had eight sacks in a season once, but it was way back in 2014 and his tackle numbers far exceed anything Phillips has ever done as do his snap counts.

Here are some better comparisons for Phillips:

Malcom Brown
Signed a three-year, $15 million contract in March 2019

Brown’s playing-time numbers and tackles numbers are closer to Phillips. He averaged two sacks per year on his rookie deal, but Phillips was below that until his breakout 2019. Both averaged right around 50% of their teams’ snaps. Phillips is sure to ask for higher than the $5 million average based on his sack numbers, but this is probably a really good market indicator.

Mike Daniels
Signed a one-year, $8.1 million contract in July 2019

After being released by the Green Bay Packers, Daniels signed with the Detroit Lions. He was coming off an injury-plagued 2018 season and 2019 didn’t go any better for him, but before that he was consistent, notching 60% of playing time over the previous four seasons from 2014-2017. He averaged 40 tackles per year—a figure Phillips hasn’t approached—and produced a consistent few sacks per season.

Contract Projection

Three years, $21 million with $8 million guaranteed
$7 million average

...but it won’t be from the Bills. Buffalo invested a high first-round pick in Ed Oliver in 2019 and he’s going to be the starting 3-tech defensive tackle for the team going forward. You can’t justify paying a rotational player that kind of money and Phillips is going to be hard-pressed to replicate his high sack numbers again. He’s going to regress hard to the mean: 2.0, 0.5, 2.0 and 1.0 is 1.375 sacks per season and is 5.5 sacks TOTAL in his career before this year. That’s an average of three sacks per year even with the monster 2019.

If I’m Buffalo, I probably offer him a slightly better deal than I gave him last year—say one year and $5 million—and that would likely be too high for what his role is going to be going forward.

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