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Fan opinion: What should the Buffalo Bills do at 1-tech defensive tackle with Star Lotulelei?

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Here at Buffalo Rumblings, we strive to give you as much information as possible to be better fans of the Buffalo Bills. With that in mind, we’re looking at some potential cuts this offseason, but we can’t look in a vacuum. If you release a starter, you’ll need another starter.

We begin this series with defensive tackle Star Lotulelei, a common whipping boy of Bills fans. Read through the analysis of his game tape, the salary cap ramifications, and the replacement options before adding your opinion by voting.

All-22 analysis excerpt

(By Jeff Kantrowski)

Not even random play selection led to Star Lotulelei looking like a liability. On most of the plays above he’s solid or dare I say “good.” He demonstrates talent in a few areas as well as the benefit of years of experience in the league. He also shows some flaws but, in my never humble opinion, they’re outweighed by the good. Despite constantly defending the guy even I’ll admit there’s a valid conversation to be had about “value.” From a pure talent perspective though, Star Lotulelei isn’t as easy to replace as many suggest he is. If he’s still with Buffalo next season fans shouldn’t be concerned about a lack of contribution, even if reservations about his contract remain.

Read the entire article with embedded video analysis here

Salary cap ramifications excerpt

(By Matt Warren)

In 2020, Lotulelei is set to make $6.25 million in base salary, $500,000 in his roster bonus, up to $500,000 in per-game roster bonuses, and a $250,000 workout bonus. His cap hit is $10.1 million. If he’s released, Buffalo’s cap hit would go from $10.1 million to $7.8 million, saving $2.3 million. The cash savings would be $7.5 million.

2020 cap hit: $10.1 million
Salary due: $6.25 million
Roster bonus: $500,000
Workout bonus: $250,000
Per-game active bonus: $500,000 ($31,250 per game)

Dead money if cut: $7.8 million
Cap savings if cut: $2.3 million
2020 cash savings if cut: $7.5 million

Read the full breakdown of the financial implications here

In-house replacement options excerpt

(By Jeff Kantrowski)

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.

Read the entire look at Buffalo’s 1-tech depth here

Free agent replacement options excerpt

(By Sean Murphy)

Here is a brief list of players who could be viewed as realistic targets for the Bills to pursue at 1-tech defensive tackle.

Danny Shelton
As a 1-tech only who offers little in the way of pass-rush ability, Shelton’s overall contract value will be limited. Spotrac estimates that he’ll come at an annual average value of $4.7 million. If you add that total to Lotulelei’s dead cap charge ($7.8 million), you’re essentially replacing Star with a better player at a net cost of $2.4 million on the 2020 salary cap.

Michael Pierce
Pierce is an undersized nose with a big-time motor who has played his whole career with the Baltimore Ravens. At 6’ tall and 309 lbs, he isn’t the mammoth that Shelton is, but Pierce has made a good career for himself after entering the league as an undrafted free agent in 2016. The Ravens were fifth in the league in rushing defense this year. Pierce’s estimated annual value is the same as Shelton’s, so the same premise applies in terms of signing him while releasing Lotulelei.

Mike Daniels
If the Bills would rather release Lotulelei and take a risk on a veteran coming off some injuries, perhaps at a veteran’s minimum salary, then Daniels could be a player worth targeting. The big defensive lineman has experience playing as a 1-tech, a 3-tech, and a 5-tech in his career—and that versatility would definitely allow head coach Sean McDermott and defensive coordinator Leslie Frazier to mix and match their personnel groupings. However, Daniels has only managed to play 19 games over the last two seasons due to a litany of injuries.

Tyeler Davison
A former fifth-round pick of the New Orleans Saints, Davison played last year with the Atlanta Falcons, and he had a career year. A stout run defender, Davison is a bigger-framed player (6’2” and 309 lbs) who would make a sound rotational piece for the Bills. At 27 years old, he’s also three years younger than Lotulelei, and he would come at a far lesser cost over the long term.

A’Shawn Robinson
This is another guy who I think is going to end up a bit out of Buffalo’s price range, but he would be a tremendous addition to the defense, both literally and figuratively. He’s 6’4” and 330 lbs, and he has the ability to play as both a 1-tech and a 3-tech—giving him the versatility this coaching staff covets.

Beau Allen
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers boasted the NFL’s best run defense last season, as they allowed only 1,181 yards and 3.3 yards per carry for the season. A dominant defensive line was a big part of the reason why, and while Allen might not have been a huge factor in terms of snaps (he only played 15% of Tampa Bay’s total), his role was definitely to come in and eat blockers so his teammate could stuff the run. The big fella is 6’3” and 327 lbs of pure mass. Plus, his nickname is “The Polar Bear,” which would definitely play better in Buffalo than it does in Tampa Bay.

Read more on each of the potential free agent options in our full article

2020 NFL Draft options

(By Andrew Griffin)

Tier I

Derrick Brown (Auburn)
Raekwon Davis (Alabama)

Maybe the premier defensive tackle in this draft, Brown is a rarity at the position in that he can stop the run very well, but can also threaten passers thanks to his immense size at 6’5” and 320 lbs. Criticized by draft analysts as not living up to his immense talent, there is still value in Davis if all you’re expecting from him is to stop the run.

Tier II

Jordan Elliott (Missouri)
Leki Fotu (Utah)
Davon Hamilton (Ohio State)

Tier III

Raequan Williams (Michigan State)
Benito Jones (Ole Miss)
Darrion Daniels (Nebraska)

Read our one-sentence scouting reports on the Tier II and Tier III prospects here

Opinion: I’ll pay Star Lotulelei $750,000 to see if he should stay in 2020

(Excerpt by Matt Warren)

Buffalo Bills defensive tackle Star Lotulelei is due a $500,000 roster bonus on the fifth day of the 2020 NFL league year in March. If I’m general manager Brandon Beane, I’m gladly making that payment to a veteran leader and setting aside a small portion of my offseason trying to replace him.

If it’s up to me, I’m paying Lotulelei the $500,000 roster bonus and the $250,000 workout bonus. For the low cost of $750,000, 10% of his cap hit this year, I can get a look at Lotulelei throughout spring workouts, training camp, and the preseason. For the price tag of a minimum-salary player, I can buy myself the entire offseason to get a sense of where Harrison Phillips is in his recovery.

Right now they have Star and Vincent Taylor with Phillips coming back from injury. A few more options would go a long way toward releasing Lotulelei, but I’m spending some money on insurance first.

Read the complete opinion piece here


Now it’s your turn to vote and leave comments. If you’re using a mobile device, you may have to click all the way through to the site to vote in the actual poll.

Poll

What should the Bills do at 1-tech this offseason?

This poll is closed

  • 77%
    Keep Star & Harrison as the top two 1-techs
    (507 votes)
  • 8%
    Promote Harrison, re-sign Liuget, release Star
    (53 votes)
  • 8%
    Sign a free agent to rotate with Harrison, cut Star
    (57 votes)
  • 3%
    Draft a prospect to rotate with Harrison, cut Star
    (25 votes)
  • 2%
    Keep Harrison and Taylor as your 1-techs, cut Star
    (14 votes)
656 votes total Vote Now