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Buffalo Bills, Star Lotulelei agree to restructured contract ensuring he stays on the team in 2020

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Star will be back for sure now.

The Buffalo Bills and starting defensive tackle Star Lotulelei have agreed on a restructured contract which will assuredly keep him on the roster during the 2020 season. The news was first reported by ESPN reporter Field Yates.

According to Yates, Lotulelei’s salary drops in 2020 but becomes fully guaranteed. So even if the Bills release him, they still owe him the money. That’s why he’s either going to be traded or stay on the roster, with the latter option being the most likely by far.

Originally set to make $6.25 million in non-guaranteed base salary in 2020, his salary drops by $1.75 million to a guaranteed $4.5 million. He will also collect his $500,000 roster bonus due next month, $250,000 in a workout bonus, and up to $500,000 in per-game-active bonuses at $31,250 per game. If he plays in all 16 games, he will make $5.75 million in 2020. Lotulelei’s cap hit drops from $10.1 million to $8.35 million in 2020.

There is also a salary reduction in 2021 and 2022, according to Marcel Louis-Jacques. Instead of $6.5 million in 2021, his new salary will be slightly lower at $6.15 million but $2.5 million of it is now guaranteed for injury only. In 2022, he goes from $6.5 million to $4.6 million. All of his 2021 and 2022 roster, workout, and per-game bonuses stay in place.

Here’s a complete breakdown of each season. Old figures are in parentheses and italics.

2020

Signing bonus pro-ration: $2.6 million
Roster bonus: $500,000 due 3/22/20
Workout bonus: $250,000
Base salary: $4.5 million guaranteed (was $6.25 million non-guaranteed)
Per-game-active bonus: $31,250 per game, up to $500,000

Cap hit: $8.35 million (was $10.1 million)
Cap savings if cut: Not a whole lot now (was $2.3 million)

2021

Signing bonus pro-ration: $2.6 million
Roster bonus: $1 million due March 2021
Workout bonus: $250,000
Base salary: $6.15 million (was $6.5 million)
Per-game-active bonus: $31,250 per game, up to $500,000

Cap hit: $10.5 million (was $10.85 million)
Dead cap: $5.2 million
Cap savings if cut: $5.3 million

2022

Signing bonus pro-ration: $2.6 million
Roster bonus: $1 million due March 2022
Workout bonus: $250,000
Base salary: $4.6 million (was $6.5 million)
Per-game-active bonus: $31,250 per game, up to $500,000

Cap hit: $8.95 million (was $10.85 million)
Dead cap: $2.6 million
Cap savings if cut: $6.35 million

What’s it mean?

Earlier this offseason, we ran a series of articles about the Bills possibly moving on from Lotulelei. We analyzed his play in 2019, discussed the salary cap implications of the move, noted who was on the roster that could take his place, took a look at some free agent options, and looked ahead to the 2020 NFL Draft. Then I wrote that I would pay his roster bonus and workout bonus to give him a shot to make the roster. It seems like Lotulelei didn’t want to be a free agent in August, so he agreed to take less money. Buffalo lowered their cap and cash commitment to him for 2020 and it’s a deal that works for both sides in that regard.

This could be welcome news for the folks that want to re-sign DT Jordan Phillips and/or DE Shaq Lawson, as the Bills no doubt have a specific number they are trying to achieve on the defensive line. They created some cap and cash to re-sign one or possibly both of those players.

For me, it’s an indication of Harrison Phillips’s future with the team. They must be happy with his rehab and confident he’ll be ready to continue eroding snaps for the veteran’s play count.