BUFFALO, N.Y. -- After signing three defensive tackles in free agency, the Bills announced Friday the release of veteran defensive tackle Star Lotulelei.
Lotulelei, 32, signed a five-year, $50 million contract with the Bills in 2018. That contract was restructured in 2020 to save Buffalo salary-cap room. Ultimately, the writing was on the wall for the end of Lotulelei's time with the Bills.
The Bills elected not to designate as a post-June 1 release, a league source told ESPN, which would have resulted in less dead cap but would have delayed the savings. The move saves $1.5 million in cap space and results in $7.7 million in dead cap this year. Buffalo will not have dead cap left over from the release next year.
Lotulelei played three seasons in Buffalo, electing to opt out of the 2020 season because of concerns surrounding COVID-19. Prior to that, the 2013 first-round pick was with the Carolina Panthers from 2013 to 2017, working with now-Bills coach Sean McDermott.
He started 40 games for the Bills, finishing with 5 sacks, 53 tackles and 8 tackles for loss. During his time in Buffalo, he had a run stop win rate of 27.2%.
Lotulelei missed time during the 2021 season after testing positive for COVID-19 and for personal reasons. General manager Brandon Beane noted a decline in Lotulelei's performance after dealing with the effects of COVID-19 despite being one of the Bills' "disruptive lineman" in the early portion of the season.
"But when he got COVID, when he came back, it really affected him," Beane said. "Without getting too deep into the woods, I don't think he returned to form. And I think he'd be the first to tell you that at what he was playing at earlier in the year. He got better and I thought it improved the two playoff games, but I still don't think it was as consistent as he was the first part of the season."
Buffalo signed defensive tackles Tim Settle, Jordan Phillips and DaQuan Jones in free agency. A significant portion of the Bills' additions have been to add talent to the defensive line.