Bills beef up D-line on day two of free agency

Sports
BUTLER JEFFERSON

After taking one big swing on improving the offense Monday, Brandon Beane got to work building in the trenches Tuesday.

It actually started in the wee hours with a reported three year, $30 million dollar contract for defensive end Mario Addison. The former Panther (this will be a theme) has at least nine sacks in each of his last three seasons and 29.5 total.

Addison was primarily a backup under Sean McDermott, but still posted at least six sacks in 2014, 2015 and 2016. He will turn 33 right before the season starts, but was still one of the top pass rusher available in free agency this year.

The work continued after the sun went down Tuesday, with a pair of depth additions.

Quinton Jefferson was signed from Seattle on a reported two year, $13.5 million dollar contract. Jefferson was a solid, but unspectacular starter for the Seahawks the last two seasons. He was consistent, too. Jefferson had three sacks and 25 tackles in 2018 followed by 3.5 sacks and 26 tackles in 2019.

McDermott likely loves him for his versatility. Jefferson can play both defensive end and tackle. He was widely viewed as one of the top bargain defensive linemen available in free agency.

Soon after the Jefferson deal was reported, news about Buffalo signing Vernon Butler hit social media. Brandon Beane went the Carolina Panther route again here, landing Butler on a reported two year, $16 million dollar contract.

Butler busted out in 2019 with a six sack, 32 tackle performance that included three forced fumbles (two of those forced fumbles came on back to back plays against Jameis Winston and Tampa Bay). Butler’s three seasons in Carolina before 2019 accounted for only two sacks and 45 tackles combined.

His 2019 season finished on an ignominious (ten point word!) note. Butler was ejected in the Panthers’ second to last game against the Colts.

He did not appreciate Mark Glowinski finishing a block on an innocuous third quarter running play. After going to the ground, Butler got up and threw a punch.

Butler hit tight end Jack Doyle. He admitted Doyle was not the intended victim of the punch after the game.

Regardless the Colts player on the other end, Butler was headed for the exits. He followed by flashing the middle finger at the Colts crowd on the way out.

All the defensive line work was likely precipitated by the departure of Jordan Phillips. One day after Shaq Lawson went to Miami, Phillips reportedly agreed to a three year, $30 million dollar deal with the Cardinals.

All of the contract signed the last two days will be made official on Wednesday. The new league year begins at 4pm and that’s when teams can announce all of the reported contracts inked since Monday.

Thad’s Three Things

He’s a Poacher

In soccer, when a player scores a goal by being in the right place for a rebound or a deflection, it’s called “poaching” the goal. Some players actually seem to become pretty adept at it.

The last two seasons, Mario Addison has been a sack “poacher”. The majority of his sacks have been quarterback scrambles, coverage sacks or finishing off a QB already tied up or contacted by someone else. So, don’t expect a dominating pass rusher. This isn’t Reggie White in his prime.

That said, Addison is going to work out great in Buffalo. With a quality edge rusher on the other side in Jerry Hughes and an up and coming push the pocket D-tackle in Ed Oliver, there should be a bevy of clean up sacks available to Addison. That doesn’t even account for the super Bills secondary which should also allow Addison ample time to find his way home.

His production totals are fairly similar to Hughes the last two years, albeit with a few more sacks. They even generally play the same spot: right defensive end. However, Addison has moved around a bit the last two seasons. He’ll stand up at a tackle spot and come off the left edge as well. My guess is Hughes stays primarily at the right side and Addison starts on the left.

Addison does seem to have a knack for recognizing where a QB may be headed. He’s even able to handle some spy responsibilities on a rushing signal caller. He’s a poacher, but he’s a good one and poaching season will be busy come September.

The Utility Infielder

Jefferson isn’t knocking any socks off, but he’s been a dependable depth player for the Seahawks. That’s likely all McDermott will ask of him as well.

You hear a lot about backup offensive linemen with versatility–guards who can play center, tackles who can play both sides. This is a defensive lineman who can do the same. He’s insurance for a run of injuries at either spot and, considering how much McDermott likes to rotate defensive linemen, Jefferson is going to get plenty of snaps.

The possibilities are endless with this swiss army knife of a D-linemen. He’ll turn 27 in a couple weeks, so there’s potentially even some upside here. I really like this signing.

The Next Phillips?

Vernon Butler was a 2016 1st round pick that busted. Until last year. The question now is whether he’s a contract year, one year wonder or has he finally figured it out?

He’s got some heart and emotion. How could he not throwing punches in a lost game at the end of a lost season? The Bills believe they have the talent and coaching to unleash his potential and the culture to focus his energy.

It’s a risk for sure. The good news is the Bills defensive line does not hinge on Butler’s season and his contract likely does not require him to be on the team beyond 2020. I’m skeptical about this move, but McDermott and Beane have been right on defense much more often than not.

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