We haven’t even made it to training camp yet, and reports are already starting to surface about former high-draft picks and quality veteran players that could be shown the door if they don’t show up in a big way this offseason. Multiple well-known sources reported that former Clemson first-round pick Shaq Lawson may be on the roster bubble for the Buffalo Bills.
Lawson, a former 19th overall pick in the 2016 NFL Draft has appeared in 21 games in his two-years in the NFL, and has raked up 6.0 sacks in those 21 games. Lawson started off his professional career playing outside-linebacker in 2016 (2.0 sacks), but then was moved to defensive end in 2017 and was able to have a little more success (4.0 sacks). The former-19th overall pick has yet to live up to the expectations that many set on him after being drafted by the Bills in the first round in 2016, and the team is questioning keeping Lawson in their long-term plans. After reading the news about Lawson yesterday, I reached out to a friend of mine who covers the Buffalo Bills for The Athletic - Buffalo. This was his response:
There is some truth to it. This regime has gotten rid of just about everyone drafted by the last GM. Lawson has been lackluster as a pass rusher, phenomenal run defender. Bills sign and paid Trent Murphy starter money. Backup DE played just as well as Shaq. So the rumors may be true.
The third-year pass rusher has dealt with his fair share of injuries over his short NFL career. Since entering the league in 2016, Lawson has been placed on injured reserve or physically unable to perform list three times. Due to Lawson’s inability to make a huge difference as a pass rusher, the Bills went out and paid former Redskins pass rusher Trent Murphy big money in free agency.
Even with all the unknown surrounding Lawson’s ability to perform at a high-level and stay healthy, there is plenty to like. Jerry and Stephen Jones have shown in the past they don’t mind taking a risk on guys they had rated high in previous drafts. In years past, the Cowboys have given guys like Rolando McClain and Jonathan Cooper a chance, and this year traded for guys like Tavon Austin and Jihad Ward, and signed Kony Ealy, all who were once very high prospects on the Cowboys draft board.
If you’re interested in seeing where the Cowboys had Shaq Lawson ranked on their big board in the 2016 NFL Draft, take a look at the leaked big board that we posted after the draft in 2016. As you can see, the Cowboys were very high on the former Clemson defensive end and had him ranked as the 11th best player in the entire draft. As it stands now, the Cowboys have quality depth options at defensive end with guys like Kony Ealy, Taco Charlton, Dorance Armstrong, Charles Tapper, and hopefully Randy Gregory which is something we haven’t been able to say for some time. Even with all the options currently on the Cowboys roster, expect the Jones’ to at least be a little interested in Shaq Lawson if he is released or becomes available via trade for a low compensation.
Shaq Lawson may not be the dominant pass rusher that some thought he would be coming out of Clemson, but in some cases a fresh start in a new environment can often kickstart players careers in the right direction. Worst case scenario, the Cowboys could add a 6-foot-3, 267-lb defensive end who can be an above average run defender, and provide some quality pass rush from both the weak and strong side. The Cowboys options are either 1) wait and see if Lawson is released and sign him or 2) entice the Bills front office with a low draft pick and take on his cap hit for the next two seasons.
Should the Cowboys make a play for Lawson?