Bills’ Former First-Round Pick Returns to AFC East After Trade to Rival

Shaq Lawson

Getty Shaq Lawson sacks quarterback Brandon Allen in a game against the Denver Broncos.

The Buffalo Bills will be seeing a lot of their former first-round pick this season.

The New York Jets just pulled off a trade for Houston Texans edge rusher Shaq Lawson, who started his career in Buffalo after the Bills took him with the 19th pick of the 2016 NFL Draft. Lawson had an up-and-down tenure with the Bills, starting 17 games through four seasons and racking up 16.5 total sacks with five forced fumbles.  Now, the Bills will have to find a way to stop him and what looks to be an improving defense in New York.

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Jets Snag Lawson

As reported, the Jets acquired Lawson from the Texans in exchange for a 2022 sixth-round pick, which originally belonged to the San Francisco 49ers. Lawson spent the first four seasons of his career with the Bills before joining the Miami Dolphins last season, where he registered 4 sacks and took his only fumble recovery 36 yards for his first — and only — career touchdown.

The Texans signed Lawson in the offseason, but he’s now headed to New York to help make up for the loss of another Lawson. Jets pass rusher Carl Lawson suffered a season-ending Achilles injury last week, creating a need for another veteran pass rusher to help fill the void.

As Bleacher Report’s Jake Rill noted, the Jets are looking to improve their defense after giving up 275.6 passing yards per game last season, and the defensive line will play a major role.

“If it can excel up front, it can take some pressure off its secondary, and that number could improve substantially,” Rill wrote.

“With head coach Robert Saleh and defensive coordinator Jeff Ulbrich now running the show, the Jets may quickly see better results on defense. And how swiftly their players, especially up front, learn the system could impact their level of success this season.”

Bills Make Trade of Their Own

While the AFC East rival was acquiring a former Bills pass rusher, Buffalo was making its own trade involving a defensive lineman. The team shipped defensive end Darryl Johnson to the Carolina Panthers in exchange for a 2022 sixth-round pick. The Bills has taken Johnson in the seventh round of the 2019 NFL Draft and he became a versatile player, appearing in all but one game over his two seasons and playing an important role on the special teams unit.

The Bills had invested a lot in the defensive line this offseason, using their first two draft picks on edge rushers, and general manager Brandon Beane said other teams were taking notice. He said earlier in the week that there had been some interest from other teams inquiring about whether the Bills might trade one of their depth linemen.

“I think there’s going to be a lot of phone calls and we’ll see what makes sense,” Beane said in an interview during Saturday’s preseason game against the Green Bay Packers, via the Buffalo News. “That’s probably the position we have the most calls on, our D line, D end. I expect we’ll get some calls. We just have to decide who we want to keep and who we’d be willing to part with and does the value make sense.”

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