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2022 NFL Free Agency: Shaq Lawson’s Buffalo Bills contract details should lower expectations

Another veteran minimum signing

Matt Warren is Associate Director of NFL coverage for SB Nation and previously covered the Bills for Buffalo Rumblings for more than a decade.

If anyone was thinking Shaq Lawson signing a contract with the Buffalo Bills meant he was going to be heavily involved in their pass rush rotation, they are incorrect. Based on the contract language, Lawson is a depth piece and just as likely to be inactive on game days as he is to suit up.

Lawson signed a contract for the veteran minimum. He gets a $152,500 signing bonus as his only guaranteed money. (Even Marquel Lee got $100,000 in guaranteed salary.) Add to that his $1.035 million base salary, and Lawson will make $1,187,500. With the Veteran Salary Benefit he will count just $1,047,500 against the cap.

The NFL’s Veteran Salary Benefit is written into the Collective Bargaining Agreement. Formerly known as the Veteran Minimum Exception, it was re-labeled in the 2021 CBA and allows teams to count veterans at a lower cap number while paying them more money. It can only be used on players with more than four seasons of experience making the veteran minimum base salary and teams can throw in up to $152,500 in additional compensation in the 2022 NFL year. After all that, the player’s cap hit is reduced to that of a player with two accredited seasons plus the additional compensation.

It’s not a huge difference, but when you can save a few hundred thousand dollars, it at least levels the playing field for veterans and gives them a fair shake for those back-end roster spots.

So Lawson comes in as a depth option for the Bills designed to push A.J. Epenesa in his third NFL season. If Epenesa falls flat on his face, they know they have a replacement-level player behind him who is at least good against the run and comes at a cost-effective price.

Signing bonus: $152,500
Base salary: $1.035 million

Cap hit: $1,047,500
Cash hit: $1,187,500