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In-house replacement options for Buffalo Bills DT Star Lotulelei

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It’s not a lengthy list, but here it is and there might even be a viable option

There’s no shortage of calls for the Buffalo Bills to cut Star Lotulelei. The defensive tackle is not a pending free agent but if Buffalo felt they really needed to make the move they’ve shown in the past they’re willing to do so. If that were to take place, the Bills have a short list of options “in-house” to replace him.

Corey Liuget is technically set to become an unrestricted free agent but we’ll count him as an in-house option because he’s familiar with the current coaching staff for the Bills after signing on November 5th. Liuget saw a healthy amount of playing time behind Lotulelei, only falling below 25% once with Buffalo. With Lotulelei often hovering around 50%, the gap in playing time isn’t as much as might be expected. This could signal some faith in Liuget’s playing ability. With the possibility to sign him for dirt cheap, he’s an intriguing option. The Bills won’t save a ton of cap space releasing Lotulelei so a value option might be what the doctor ordered. That’s Liuget.

Vincent Taylor is under contract with the Bills for 2020 and is even more of a value proposition than Corey Liuget. This is the least likely in-house for Buffalo as Taylor was signed in September to the practice squad, activated in November and swiftly replaced by Liuget. While Taylor is even better on the budget, the drop in talent level is likely going to be too steep.

A more likely scenario that could lead to the end of the Lotulelei era in Buffalo would be the emergence of Harrison Phillips as the starting 1-tech defensive tackle. Prior to his injury the consensus was that Phillips had begin realizing the potential that excited fans when he was drafted. While it’s accurate to say that Phillips backed up Lotulelei at the beginning of the season, they were 50-50 by the time Phillips was injured and the Bills relied on him to penetrate into the backfield far more than what’s asked of Star Lotulelei. However, Harrison Phillips may need to improve on the space-eating techniques Lotulelei is known for before the team is comfortable releasing the latter player.

The Bills won’t hesitate to rotate players to account for anticipated play calls so perhaps the most likely replacement would be a platoon at defensive tackle. A cost-controlled Harrison Phillips for the next two years could pair well with a more budget-friendly run plugger like Corey Liuget. There’s currently no 1:1 swap for Star Lotulelei in the building. That doesn’t mean there isn’t an option for replacement.

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