After a poor season defending against the run, the Buffalo Bills were looking to improve the interior defensive line this offseason. It was assumed that the Bills would be getting Star Lotulelei back on their defensive line in 2021 after opting out of the 2020 season. According to Matthew Fairburn of The Athletic, Star Lotulelei is planning to return to play for the Buffalo Bills in 2021.
What scared most Bills fans was the idea that Lotulelei would decide to retire after opting out of last season. As Loutlelei is still under contract for the Buffalo Bills, if he decided to retire the Bills would then have a dead cap hit of almost $12M in 2021. With the reduced salary cap in 2021, the Bills cannot afford to be paying players that aren’t even playing for the team especially during a Super Bowl window.
Now that Lotulelei is set to rejoin the team in 2021 there are a few things that Bills fans can look forward to. First is the immediate impact the Bills will get from having a true 1-tech defensive tackle. Lotulelei should instantly improve the Buffalo Bills ability to stop the run, but that doesn’t mean the issues stopping the run completely disappear. Secondly, getting Lotulelei back in the 1-tech position allows Ed Oliver to go back to his true positional fit at 3-tech defensive tackle. This should enable and optimize Oliver’s ability to penetrate the opposing offensive line for tackles for loss and quarterback pressures.
As I alluded to before, this doesn’t completely solve the Buffalo Bills issues against the run, but it certainly helps. Outside of signing a veteran to a minimum deal in free agency, I would expect the Bills to add to the interior defensive line at some point in the draft. By confirming the return of Lotulelei in 2021, this area is less of a priority in the draft and it allows the Bills to focus on other needs early while keeping the interior defensive line needs in mind for the mid-to-late rounds.