What should the Buffalo Bills do at 1-tech defensive tackle this offseason? It’s going to be one of the bigger questions so the first day of our in-depth offseason coverage dives into the position, looking at Harrison Phillips, Star Lotulelei, the rest of the Bills’ roster, free agents, the 2022 NFL Draft, and a whole lot more.
Check out the excerpts from our individual articles below (or better yet click through and read the full article) then vote in our poll below at the bottom.
Harrison Phillips has progressed quite a bit in his tenure with the Buffalo Bills. Phillips’s ability to flow side-to-side is a major asset. While I was left wanting a little bit on the “shoving other large men out of the way” department, he is able to soak up double teams despite lacking that consistent push. Phillips has come a long way with his hand technique as well.
All told, Phillips seems to have finished the season strong and is likely in line for a decent payday. If it’s general manager Brandon Beane spending some Pegula-bucks I wouldn’t be upset by any means.
Overall I think the year off did Lotulelei some good. He seemed to have been revitalized. The Bills added some new wrinkles, asking to attack more and becoming even more versatile on the defensive line. The Bills have also been working hard to develop Ed Oliver and Harrison Phillips for the interior. Depending on the numbers (players and money), things could be a bit hazy on who sticks around. That said, if Lotulelei is back in the fold next season that shouldn’t be a disappointment when it comes to his work on the field.
Three years, $18 million contract
$6.6 million guaranteed
A contract where Phillips averages about $5.5 to $6 million per season makes a ton of sense. His injury history and short track record of playing healthy would lead me to the smaller side of the range, at least in terms of guaranteed money and money in the first year or two.
When the Bills wanted a building-block player in 2021, they signed four-year deals. Matt Milano and Dion Dawkins fit this description, even with Milano’s injury history. For players they merely liked, it was a three-year deal with all the guaranteed money in the first season, like Jon Feliciano and Daryl Williams. I’m guessing the Bills want to do a three-year deal with Phillips, but if I’m Harrison, I might prefer to stick to two years and hope I can stay healthy and become the no-doubt starter. Buffalo doesn’t really do two-year contracts, though.
Lotulelei’s dead-cap figure is $7.7 million. That’s high, but his cap hit in 2022 is more than $9.2 million. The Bills would save $1.5 million in 2022 cap space and more than $3.5 million in cash from salary plus bonuses in 2022 alone. Buffalo would pay him $5.6 million plus bonuses in 2023, and that cash back in the pockets of the owners is a real thing. It’s impossible to ignore either number.
Veteran 1-tech Star Lotulelei is under contract for 2022, and he could be the starter. But best-case scenario, he plays 60% of the defensive snaps and they need another player to play 20 to 30%. Buffalo doesn’t have another defensive tackle on their roster capable of doing that. Eli Ankou is a free agent.
Even if they re-sign Phillips, they are going to need bodies. Without him, they will need multiple.
There’s no question of his gap-clogging prowess, but it’s hard to see Williams leaving Baltimore when he played his whole career there, and they’re still a highly competitive team.
Reed, a former second-round pick of the Seattle Seahawks, just finished a one-year, $5.5 million contract with the Kansas City Chiefs. He’s mostly a nose tackle, but at 6’3” and 313 lbs, he could play across from a guard too.
Inactive his rookie year and a rotational backup in his second and third seasons, Joseph-Day was playing the most of his career (nearly 70% of snaps) in 2021 before a torn pectoral muscle all but certainly ended his season (he still has a chance to play in the Super Bowl). Until the injury, it was the best year of his career, with 38 total tackles and three sacks in less than half a season.
A former third-round pick out of Florida State, Nnadi will be 26 years old and entering his fifth pro season. He’s been a situational defender for the Chiefs, playing an average of 45% of snaps on defense in the last three seasons. He just finished up his rookie contract, and given his recent history, is probably signing a one-year, low-cost contract with another team (unless he really wants to try for another Super Bowl ring as a backup with the Chiefs).
Has Joseph’s play declined because he’s now in the twilight of his career, a 13-year veteran? Or were the Chargers just a poor fit? At any rate, he’ll likely garner a decent price in free agency, given his prior experience, but maybe not a contract that measures up to the one he just finished.
Hankins, a nine-year veteran, is a 6’3”, 340-lb nose tackle coming off a one-year, $3.5 million contract with the Las Vegas Raiders. He’s now played for the Raiders for four consecutive seasons, all on short-term deals.
It was a career year for Johnson, who started every game and saw his snap share skyrocket to 57%. With 3.5 sacks, six TFLs, and seven QB hits, he had as many splash plays in 2021 as he had in his first five seasons combined. He also had a career-high 72 total tackles.
After his three-year, $21 million contract with the Titans had played out, Jones signed a smaller one-year, $4.05 million contract with the Carolina Panthers for 2021. The 6’4” 320-lb Jones continued starting every game, playing 59% of snaps.
Jordan Davis (Georgia)
Phidarian Mathis (Alabama)
Davis is just an absolutely massive specimen at 6’6” and 340 lbs. He’s surprisingly light on his feet and athletic for such a big player. Although he’s probably the best run-defender in the draft, you have to question how high he will go (late first round?) based on a lack of history as a pass rusher. Like a lot of Alabama prospects, Mathis may already have reached his potential, but on tape he is a technically sound, smart lineman who can step right in and start games.
John Ridgeway (Arkansas)
Derrick Tangelo (Penn State)
Noah Elliss (Idaho)
It shouldn’t be misconstrued that Harrison Phillips cannot have effective moments of two-gap defensive tackle play. It’s just not something that I would consider to be an elite trait of his and I think for this defense to take a step forward in 2022, it might be the elite trait the Bills need on the defensive line.
Remember, those are all excerpts. You should read all of the articles in their entirety, as well. Now on to the voting.
What do you want to do at 1-tech defensive tackle this offseason?
This poll is closed
Keep Star, re-sign Harrison
Keep Star, sign another free agent to replace Harrison
Keep Star, draft a replacement for Harrison
Cut Star, re-sign Harrison, sign a free agent to replace Star
Cut Star, re-sign Harrison, draft a replacement for Star
Cut Star and let Harrison leave, add a pair of veterans
Cut Star and let Harrison leave, add a pair of NFL Draft picks
Cut Star and let Harrison leave, add a vet in free agency and draft a replacement
- All-22 Review of Star Lotulelei’s 2021 season
- All-22 Review of Harrison Phillips’s 2021 season
- Salary cap ramifications of cutting Star Lotulelei
- Contract projection for Harrison Phillips
- In-house replacement options for free agent Harrison Phillips
- Veteran free agents who could help at 1-tech
- 2022 NFL Draft options at 1-tech
- Opinion: I like Harrison Phillips, but let’s upgrade the position
- Poll: Vote on your favorite 1-tech option for the 2022 offseason