The Buffalo Bills have amassed quite the stable of talented defensive linemen under the watch of current general manager Brandon Beane. Both the interior defensive line and the edge have been prioritized since Beane and head coach Sean McDermott arrived by way of the Carolina Panthers in 2017.
Since that time, Buffalo has spent four draft choices on defensive linemen. They’ve also invested significant free-agent dollars in the position, committing in excess of $125 million to a total of five players (Trent Murphy, Start Lotulelei, Mario Addison, Vernon Butler, and Quinton Jefferson) over the last three years.
In today’s installment of our “91 players in 91 days” series, we profile one of the team’s 2018 draft choices at defensive tackle—a player who is “The Process” personified.
Name: Harrison Phillips
Height/Weight: 6’3”, 307 lbs.
Age: 24 (25 on 1/25/2021)
Experience/Draft: 2; selected by Buffalo in the third round (No. 96 overall) of the 2018 NFL Draft
Acquired: NFL Draft
Financial situation (per Spotrac): Phillips enters the third year of his four-year rookie contract, a pact worth a total of $3,342,040. For the 2020 season, Phillips carries a salary-cap hit of $981,760, and the Bills would be on the hook for a dead-cap charge of $387,520 if he were to be released.
2019 Recap: Phillips looked to be on his way to a season full of increased playing time, as he essentially split snaps with Star Lotulelei for the first three games of the season. In fact, Phillips played more snaps than Lotulelei did (26 to 21) in Buffalo’s Week 3 win over the Cincinnati Bengals. That game would be the last that Phillips appeared in, however, as he tore his ACL late in the victory. All of the statistics Phillips registered came in Buffalo’s Week 2 victory over the New York Giants—a game in which he made three tackles, batted two passes, made one quarterback hit, and notched half a sack.
Positional outlook: The defensive line as a whole has been overhauled, but the defensive tackle position specifically is a crowded group in terms of overall talent. Lotulelei’s contract restructure essentially guarantees that he’s on the roster this year at least (and perhaps even next year, unless the team wanted to eat a $7.7 million dead-cap charge), and the team handed out sizable contracts to Butler and Jefferson this offseason. Ed Oliver and Vincent Taylor round out the positional grouping.
2020 Offseason: Phillips is still recovering from his ACL surgery—a procedure that often varies widely in terms of its recovery period. While rehabbing, Phillips has continued to do positive things in the community through his Playmakers foundation. He also gave an interview to Kelly Baker at the Bills’ official website where he provided some interesting tidbits. (Phillips wrote a book and he’s quarantining with his parents in a one-bedroom house!)
2020 Season outlook: Much will center on Phillips’s recovery from surgery with regard to his status on the roster come September. I don’t think it’s likely that he’s flat released, as the team would just place Phillips on injured reserve and stash him for a year if they felt that he wouldn’t be able to contribute immediately, but a stint on the PUP list to begin the year is a possibility, as well. I suspect that is the plan, but with Oliver’s recent arrest, that throws a big-ol’ monkey wrench in there, as a suspension could leave Buffalo down two of its top defensive tackles to start the 2020 season. Buffalo has upwards of ten defensive linemen who could be considered “roster locks,” but they obviously can’t carry ten defensive linemen on the 53-man roster for the duration of the season. With all that said, Phillips is a solid football player and an incredible human being. I’m rooting for the kid to come back even better than he was before the injury.