The Buffalo Bills are bringing the band back together. First they signed Jordan Phillips to a one-year contract, and now they’ve agreed to terms with former first-round pick Shaq Lawson, as well. NFL Network’s Tom Pelissero reported the signing, while Lawson himself tweeted “Back at home” on Thursday afternoon. Kevin Massare had reported mutual interest earlier in the offseason.
In 2019, rookie Ed Oliver played alongside Lawson and Phillips, and the three players combined for 21 sacks. Lawson was never a high-caliber sack artist for the Bills, but had 16.5 sacks in four seasons while being a very good run defender. He signed a big-money deal with the Miami Dolphins in 2020, played a career-high 63% of snaps on defense, but was subsequently traded to the Houston Texans, then the New York Jets, where he played the 2021 season. Playing on the 4-13 team, Lawson’s year was forgettable. He was released at the end of the regular season, and immediately showed interest in returning to Buffalo, trying to engineer a reunion during the playoffs. That didn’t happen, but the team and player are back together for the 2022 season.
In three days, the Bills have completely overhauled their defensive line. If anything, they have too many pieces once again:
At edge rusher, Von Miller and Gregory Rousseau are locks. A.J. Epenesa and Boogie Basham are young, inexpensive backups, and Shaq Lawson could be anywhere from the first man off the bench to a training camp cut depending on his contract and performance. The team could also choose to trade Epenesa or Basham in order to accommodate their rotation.
At defensive tackle, Ed Oliver is the leader of the pack, and Star Lotulelei is still on the roster, but the team added DaQuan Jones, Tim Settle, and Jordan Phillips. Again, five men might be too many for the roster, and we could see Phillips as a training camp cut or healthy scratch, depending on his salary, or the Bills might choose to release Lotulelei and make room for the new players on the roster.
Setting aside the dry paper analysis, the side benefit of Lawson (and Phillips) joining the team is the heart and soul they bring to the roster. They jazzed up the locker room and helped the team gel as they turned around from a 6-10 season into a 10-6 season. That’ll be critical to creating the right atmosphere to set up a Super Bowl win in 2022.