The Carolina-Buffalo connection continued in free agency with the Bills bringing in Mario Addison from the Panthers to replace the vacant defensive end spot. The Bills ended up not retaining Shaq Lawson, who heads to the divisional rival Miami Dolphins. Addison was signed by Brandon Beane on a three year deal worth $30.45 million dollars, $15 million guaranteed. At 32 years old, that looks like a questionable move, but is it?
While we do not see any player above the age of thirty make the big bucks, outside of quarterback, the addition of Addison on this contract is an upgrade from Lawson. If there is one thing to take away from Lawson’s tenure in Buffalo, he is inconsistent. He is a decent player, but he never panned out to be a top pass rusher for the Bills since he was drafted. His best season came in 2019, his contract year, after being denied a fifth-year option in the 2019 offseason. Even then, it did not seem like he was coming to the Bills on the contract he though he deserved.
Now, why is Addison an upgrade over Lawson? It comes down to three different factors; system fit, contract, and production.
Addison joined the Panthers in 2013, two years after Sean McDermott was named the defensive coordinator in Carolina. From 2013 to 2016, Addison finally found his rhythm in a scheme that was ran by McDermott. He racked up 24.5 sacks, 22 tackles for a loss and 55 hits on the quarterback. Needless to say, Addison excelled under McDermott and and even continued after McDermott took over in Buffalo.
Lawson was drafted under Rex Ryan in 2016 and never really took the full reigns on becoming a dominant player for the Bills. He went into a 3-4 scheme his rookie season, then had to transition into a 4-3 under McDermott. Lawson came up short under McDermott, hence why the Bills did not offer him a contract that met Lawsons’ offer. Addison is the better fit for the scheme up in Buffalo.
Like stated before, Addison is in Western New York for the next three years on a $30.45 million dollar contract. He has $15 million guaranteed as well. While he will take up some of cap salary, Addison’s contract is not as bad as it looks. After the 2020 season, Addison’s contract can start to become a lit bit healthier for the Bills. The first year looks rough, but if Addison produces then it should not be a problem.
Lawson signed a three year deal with the Dolphins at $30 million dollars over the length of the contract. The biggest difference in these two contracts is the guaranteed money. Lawson will be getting $6 million dollars more in guaranteed money. The Dolphins are giving $21 million dollars of guaranteed money to a player that is not a full-on consistent pass rusher. If you spend the money, make sure you know exactly what you are getting.
There is no close comparison between Addison and Lawson with producing results. Focusing on the time of 2016, when Lawson was drafted, Addison has shown to be more dominant against the pass. In the last four years, Addison has managed to produce nine or more sacks each season while playing on just over 65 percent of defensive plays. He has racked up 55 tackles for a loss since 2016 and 38 tackles for a loss. Dominating in the trenches and getting to the quarterback is something that the Bills have had trouble to do over the last few seasons. Addison is the immediate fix to that problem.
Since entering the league, Lawson has recorded 16.5 sacks in four seasons. His best season was last year with 6.5 sacks and 13 tackles for a loss of yards. He played under McDermott for three seasons and did not take the next step forward. While he improved in 2019, it was not enough to keep him around for a long-term deal at a price he wanted.
An Immediate Bandage For Buffalo
Addison quickly fixes the Bills pass rushing problems and he will look to get back into the familiarity under McDermott and continue to play lights out football. While Addison’s time is ticking away on his career at 32 years old, he shows no signs of slowing down. He is a good fit and he produces. You cannot ask for anything else out of a player.
-Brandon Ray is a Managing Editor for Full Press Coverage and covers the Buffalo Bills. Brandon can be followed on Twitter at @brandon_ray79. Make sure to follow @FPC_Bills for Bills coverage and analysis.