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Comparing contracts for Shaq Lawson, Jordan Phillips, and their Buffalo Bills replacements

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Did the Bills upgrade?

Heading into this offseason, whether or not to pay free agents Shaq Lawson and Jordan Phillips was a hot topic among Buffalo Bills fans. Both produced well in 2019 and the team’s defense was pretty good, so wanting them back made sense. Now that we’ve seen what they made on the open market, we can compare their contracts to the deals Buffalo signed with free agents Mario Addison, Vernon Butler, and Quinton Jefferson to replace them.

Jordan Phillips
Arizona Cardinals
Three years, $30 million
$14.5 million fully guaranteed over two seasons

Shaq Lawson
Miami Dolphins
Three years, $30 million
$21 million fully guaranteed over two seasons

Mario Addison
Buffalo Bills
Three years, $30.45 million
$13.25 million fully guaranteed in year one

Vernon Butler
Buffalo Bills
Two years, $15 million plus incentives/escalators
$7.8 million fully guaranteed in year one

Quinton Jefferson
Buffalo Bills
Two years, $13.5 million
$6.25 million fully guaranteed in year one

After looking at all five contracts, what stands out the most is the difference in guaranteed years on the contract. Lawson’s first two seasons are all fully guaranteed while Phillips’s is fully guaranteed in year one and half his 2021 salary is guaranteed. The Bills didn’t give out any guaranteed money past year one in any of their contracts.

Looking at the average annual salaries, the two former Bills will average $10 million per season while Buffalo’s new trio is at $8.42 million. Collectively, it’s $20 million per season for the old Bills and ~$25 million per season for the new three, so it’s not accurate to say “Buffalo signed three players for the price of two”.

What the Bills were able to do is add flexibility in 2021 if the signings don’t work out. By bypassing the hefty guarantees in year two of the deals, Buffalo gave themselves an out in each of the contracts. The Dolphins and Cardinals are counting on at least two good seasons from their newest free-agent defensive linemen.