Bills just gifted Commanders golden opportunity to bolster DL depth
By Jerry Trotta
When you think of the Washington Commanders‘ greatest strength last season, the offensive and defensive lines immediately come to mind.
While the defensive line didn’t live up to its world-beater reputation, the unit’s luxurious depth helped the defense as a whole navigate crushing injuries.
With Chase Young and Montez Sweat combining to play just 19 games, it was huge Washington had the likes of Matt Ioannidis, Tim Settle, James Smith-Williams, Daniel Wise and Shaka Toney available to rotate in their absences.
After the start of free agency, though, the team’s DL depth, specifically at defensive tackle, has taken a major step backwards with Settle leaving in free agency and Ioannidis getting cut and subsequently signing with Carolina.
While Smith-Williams’ versatility makes him a candidate to fill in along the interior when necessary, it goes without saying the Commanders need to make sure the position is upgraded between now and the start of OTAs.
That’s easier said than done, obviously, but the Bills’ release of Star Lotulelei presents Washington with a get-out-of-jail-free-card in that regard.
The Commanders should look into signing veteran DT Star Lotulelei after losing Tim Settle and Matt Ioannidis.
Our immediate takeaway? Good for Settle. Having inked a two-year contract with Buffalo, Washington’s former fifth-round pick back in 2018 now has a clear pathway to logging a significant workload with his new team.
Our second takeaway? Thanks, Buffalo! After signing Settle away, scooping the experienced Lotulelei off the open market just hours/days after the Bills released him would make for quite the narrative, don’t you think?
At this point in his career, Lotulelei is best served as a part-time defensive tackle, which are incredibly valuable in today’s NFL. For context, Jonathan Allen played just 70% of the snaps last season and Daron Payne played 76 percent.
In other words, there are plenty of snaps to go around and Lotulelei’s 47 percent share over his three seasons in Buffalo makes him an ideal pickup. Not only that, but Lotulelei played under Ron Rivera in Carolina for five seasons.
We’re all aware Ron Rivera enjoys signing former Panthers. There are several former Panthers from his days in Carolina on Washington’s current roster and Andrew Norwell joined that growing list this week after signing a two-year deal.
Given his ties to Rivera, we’re compelled to think Lotulelei will be on the Commanders’ radar, if he isn’t already. The 32-year-old was a staple of the Bills’ interior DL for three seasons (2018, 2019 and 2021), tallying eight tackles for loss, five sacks and 33 pressures.
As a former first-round pick of the Panthers in 2013, Rivera and Co. have likely already mentioned him as a potential depth signing.