This is why the defensive line is better off for the Buffalo Bills this season with their recent moves.
While the Bills had a successful 2019 season reaching the playoffs, the defensive line was an area that needed improving. At times the unit struggled against the run and applying consistent pressure on the quarterback.
This offseason the Bills were forced to decide in retaining two of their own free agents or seek outside reinforcements. Defensive end Shaq Lawson was a player the Bills drafted and developed while Jordan Phillips was acquired via a midseason waiver wire pickup during the 2018 season. While those two had good seasons, the Bills decided more was better.
Lawson was essentially replaced by Mario Addison. Fans have initially been turned off by this signing since Addison comes from the Carolina Panthers. However, that shouldn’t be the case.
While one could make the argument that Lawson is entering his prime, Addison isn’t as the 2020 season will be his 10th year in the league. Despite that, Addison continues to produce at a high level and with no signs of slowing down the Bills seized the opportunity to upgrade the defensive end position, even if the fix is short-term.
Since Lawson entered the league in 2016, below are how the two DEs compare statistically.
*2016 season was cut short due to a shoulder injury
Addison’s numbers are not only better, but consistent. Lawson had his best season in a contract year which is always scary for teams to know if that production will continue once the player is paid.
If there are any fears of Addison slowing down then new Bills DL coach Eric Washington would know best. Washington was in Carolina last season, so he knows that Addison still has plenty left in the tank. It is certainly reasonable to expect another similar season from Addison which would undoubtedly be an upgrade over Lawson.
Having solved the defensive end spot, Brandon Beane turned to the defensive tackle position. Vernon Butler is another former Panther so the Bills will know him well. If Washington vouched that Butler is an upgrade over Corey Luiget, Kyle Peko, and Vincent Taylor then I’ll believe him. Again, Washington worked with Butler last season so the Buffalo Bills will know exactly what they are getting. He should be more than capable of spelling Star Lotulelei while he rest.
Beane wasn’t done there though as he added a third player in DT Quinton Jefferson. Jefferson comes from Seattle where he played a multiple of roles and we know how Sean McDermott loves versatility. At 6’4″ and 291 pounds, he was able to play 3TDT and DE for Seattle. While retaining Phillips might have been appealing you don’t pay your backup 3TDT $10 million a season. Rather you use the cap space elsewhere on the roster and bring in a much more affordable option to backup rising star Ed Oliver. Oliver should receive 60-70% of the snaps next season.
Having Jefferson fill-in while Oliver sits out will pay off especially knowing he can also contribute at DE as well. Additionally, I’d expect on obvious passing downs for Jefferson to play the 1TDT spot as he can provide more of a pass rush over Lotulelei and Butler.
On paper the defensive line for the Buffalo Bills appears to have been improved by these additions. In the end, we know 3 is greater than 2, but Beane has also ensured that more is better too.