Another free agent is leaving the Carolina Panthers.
Defensive tackle Star Lotulelei is expected to sign a five-year deal with the Buffalo Bills once free agency officially starts on Wednesday, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter.
Buffalo, who made the playoffs in 2017, targeted immediate help on their defensive line as their biggest priority this off-season, and they sure addressed it in a big way. After trading defensive tackle Marcell Dareus to the Jacksonville Jaguars in Week 8, ESPN notes that the Bills had the worst rushing defense in the NFL. They also only had three players under contract at defensive tackle prior to the signing of Lotulelei, with Adolphus Washington being the best of the three.
Lotulelei was the 14th overall pick in the 2013 NFL Draft, and he and fellow defensive tackle Kawann Short helped to form one of the best duos in the NFL over the last five years. Short has often received more public recognition for his play than Lotulelei, as Short as named to the Pro Bowl in 2015. Lotulelei has yet to been named to a Pro Bowl in his career, but that could certainly change with the Bills.
Bills head coach Sean McDermott and Lotulelei are also very familiar with each other, as Lotulelei played under McDermott in Carolina from 2013-2016 when McDermott was the team’s defensive coordinator. It’s likely McDermott recommended signing Lotulelei to Bills brass, as Lotulelei is regarded as an excellent run-stuffer.
Carolina has long been bracing for the departure of Lotulelei, as well. Defensive tackle Vernon Butler was the team’s first-round pick in 2016, as the organization knew that it would be tough for them to keep Short and Lotulelei together much longer at that time.
Defensive tackle Kyle Williams, who is an unrestricted free agent that spent the last 12 seasons with the Bills, is said to be considering retirement. Even if he doesn’t retire, it’s no guarantee that the Bills will elect to bring the 34-year-old back into the mix, which is why signing Lotulelei was such a huge move to hammer out as soon as possible.
The 28-year-old Lotulelei had 25 total tackles, 4 stuffs, and 1.5 sacks last season to bring his career totals to 140 tackles, 20 stuffs, and 11.5 sacks. He was ranked as the 16th best free agent available on our official free agents ranking list.
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