Lawson's future with Bills remains cloudy

March, 4, 2014
3/04/14
5:00
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Many were holding their breath for the Buffalo Bills to make a major transaction Monday, but this wasn't it.

Lawson
The Bills waived first-year linebacker Willie Jefferson, who signed a future contract on Jan. 16.

Jefferson, 23, appears to be the victim of a scheme change in Buffalo. The Baltimore Sun's Aaron Wilson, who first reported the news, added that Jefferson didn't fit into new defensive coordinator Jim Schwartz's system.

That's not unexpected as Jefferson, at 6-foot-5, 241 pounds, played defensive end in college. When the Bills signed him, their official website noted that Jefferson and Bills linebacker Manny Lawson (6-5, 240) have a similar body type and style of play.

For Lawson, this isn't a good sign. Like Williams, he played defensive end in college and was drafted as an outside linebacker for a 3-4 defense. The Bills had elements of that scheme last season under Mike Pettine, but expect more of a true 4-3 system under Schwartz.

Such a system requires shorter, more nimble outside linebackers with coverage ability. Lawson isn't that. It also requires defensive ends with strong pass-rush ability. At this point in his career, that's not Lawson, either.

What, then, should the Bills do with one of their most respected players in their locker room? Last month, ESPN NFL Insider Matt Williamson opined that Lawson could be released.

Lawson signed a four-year deal last offseason that included a $3 million signing bonus and roster bonuses of $500,000 in 2014 and 2015, along with a $250,000 roster bonus in the final year. One NFL head coach told me recently that he felt the Bills overpaid for Lawson, who turns 30 in July.

Regardless, it's not a deal that would constrain the Bills with their salary cap if they wanted to release Lawson. He's known as a savvy veteran but one whose best fit could be elsewhere.

Mike Rodak

ESPN Buffalo Bills reporter

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