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|The Bills' defensive front quickly took shape Tuesday Max Unger Jersey , when Star Lotulelei agreed to sign with Buffalo, and Kyle Williams chose to return for a 13th season by saying the he never entertained any thought of retiring. A person familiar with the situation confirmed to The Associated Press that Lotulelei reached an agreement to sign a five-year contract with the Bills. The person spoke on the condition of anonymity because the signing the former Carolina Panthers starter won't become official until the NFL's business year opens on Wednesday.
The agreement was first reported by ESPN.
A few hours later, the Bills announced agreeing to a one-year, $6 million deal to re-sign Williams, who revealed his plan all along was to return.
"As eloquently as I can put it, I haven't exhausted myself in pursuit of what my dream is of playing this game, or playing for this organization and chasing being a champion," Williams said during a conference call. "Buffalo is my home. It's where I want to be. It's where I want to win. And I couldn't be more excited."
The moves bulk up Buffalo's defensive front by filling both tackle starting positions a day before the start of free agency.
Just as important, the Bills retained a steadying presence in their locker after losing veteran center Eric Wood, who was diagnosed with a career-ending neck injury in January.
Williams was an unquestioned leader on a patchwork, rebuilding team that exceeded expectations with a 9-7 record and ended a 17-season playoff drought. The 34-year-old is so highly regarded, coach Sean McDermott would grow emotional in discussing what the player meant to the team.
"It's hard not to gravitate toward a guy like that Kyzir White Jersey , because of who he is as a person more so than anything," McDermott said of Williams in December. "How could you not like the way he plays and appreciate that, right?"
Williams returns to his familiar spot in the middle, which he's held since being selected in the fifth round of the 2006 draft. And he'll be playing alongside the 28-year-old Lotulelei, who takes over after Buffalo traded Marcell Dareus to Jacksonville in October.
"I'm all for bringing on as many good football players as we can," Williams said, referring to Lotulelei.
Listed at 6-foot-3 and 311 pounds, Lotulelei was a five-year starter with Carolina after being selected by the Panthers in the first round of the 2013 draft out of Utah.
The native of Tonga is reunited with McDermott, who was Panthers defensive coordinator before taking over in Buffalo in January 2017. Bills general manager Brandon Beane is also familiar with Lotulelei and played a role in drafting him after previously serving as Panthers assistant GM.
Lotulelei has forced two fumbles and has 11 1/2 sacks in 76 career games, and was voted to the NFL all-rookie team in 2013. His future in Carolina was uncertain after the Panthers signed defensive tackle Kawann Short to a five-year, $80 million contract extension last offseason, and also used a first-round pick for Vernon Butler last year.
Williams is a one-time All-Pro and five-time Pro Bowl selection. He showed no signs of slowing last year Junior Seau Jersey , with 41 tackles and three sacks in starting all 16 games. Overall, his 43 1/2 sacks are the most by a defensive tackle in franchise history.
Williams has no expectation of taking on a diminished role after leading Buffalo's defensive linemen by playing 758 snaps last year.
"I prepare myself to play as many as I possibly can because mentality-wise, I feel like we're a better football team when I'm on the field," he said. "I'm coming back to play. I'm not coming back to say, 'Oh, hey listen, I'll just play 25, 30 snaps a game and let you guys fight over the rest.'"
Buffalo's defensive front seven has numerous needs with starting linebackers Preston Brown and Ramon Humber eligible to become free agents. The Bills finished 26th in yards allowed and gave up 140 or more yards rushing eight times, including a 10-3 loss to Jacksonville in the AFC wild-card playoff game.
Lotulelei's addition is the latest bold move made by Beane in reshaping Buffalo's roster since being hired in May to replace Doug Whaley.
Beane has already completed two trades over the past week in dealing quarterback Tyrod Taylor to Cleveland and sending starting offensive tackle Cordy Glenn to Cincinnati. Buffalo moved up nine spots in the first round by acquiring the Bengals' selection, 12th overall, as part of the Glenn trade.
The deals continued strengthening Buffalo's bid for selecting one of several highly regarded quarterback prospects in the first round next month. The Bills have two picks in each of the first three rounds, including the 22nd selection.
Williams backed the moves.
"It goes back to really believing in and trusting what Brandon and Sean are doing Malik McDowell Jersey ," Williams said. "I believe in their vision of what they've trying to build. And so for me, I'm on board with what they're doing."
The Philadelphia Eagles went from playoff spectators to hoisting the Lombardi Trophy, an impressive one-season turnaround that was far from unprecedented in the modern NFL. The Eagles were the seventh team in the past 19 seasons to pull off that trick in a sport that always goes through some significant playoff turnover each season.
There have been at least four new playoff teams each year since the NFL went to the 12-team format in 1990, including eight new postseason participants last season when the Eagles won it all.
With new blood coming into the playoffs each year, there are just as many teams heading another way, doomed by injuries, age, bad luck, poor coaching or other reasons.
Here’s a look at three teams that could go from playoff spectators to participants, and three others that could go the opposite direction:
Houston Texans: Deshaun Watson showed flashes of becoming a star quarterback in six starts as a rookie before getting hurt. With the dynamic Watson on offense and a healthy J.J. Watt and Whitney Mercilus back on defense, the Texans could be in position to get back into the playoffs after a one-year hiatus. The Texans scored at least 33 points in Watson’s final five starts and then went 1-8 after he had a season-ending injury in practice. Keeping Watson healthy will be necessary it the Texans are going to rebound.
Green Bay Packers: Green Bay’s run of eight straight playoff appearances ended last season thanks mostly to a collarbone injury that limited star quarterback Aaron Rodgers to seven games. With Rodgers again healthy, the Packers should be among the contenders in the NFC Josh Hill Jersey , as they usually are. Green Bay was much more active this offseason under new GM Brian Gutekunst, adding prominent free agents like Jimmy Graham and Muhammad Wilkerson. New defensive coordinator Mike Pettine should bring a more aggressive approach that could help support Rodgers and the offense.
San Francisco 49ers: San Francisco won its final five games last year after making the switch to Jimmy Garoppolo at quarterback. With Garoppolo signed long term and poised to take his 7-0 career record into his first full season as an NFL starter and coach Kyle Shanahan having much more talent in Year 2 at the helm, the Niners could have the pieces to get back to the playoffs for the first time since 2013. Free-agent running back Jerick McKinnon should spark the offense, and the defense has some key building blocks in DT DeForest Buckner and LB Reuben Foster. Richard Sherman could provide a defensive boost at cornerback if his Achilles tendon injury is healed.
Buffalo Bills: The Bills ended the longest playoff drought in North America’s four major sports leagues when they made the postseason for the first time since 1999. Repeating that in coach Sean McDermott’s second season will be a more difficult trick, especially with the change made at quarterback this offseason. Tyrod Taylor was traded to Cleveland, leaving either career backup A.J. McCarron or raw rookie Josh Allen as the top two options. Making the playoffs with one of those two at the helm would be a long shot, even in the weaker AFC.
Tennessee Titans: The Titans also ended a playoff drought last season, making the postseason for the first time since 2008 under third-year quarterback Marcus Mariota and coach Mike Mularkey. Even winning a postseason game wasn’t enough for Mularkey to keep his job and Tennessee is now retooling under new coach Mike Vrabel. The Titans are in a tough division with Houston and Indianapolis likely taking big steps forward if Watson and Andrew Luck are healthy, and Jacksonville having one of the league’s most talented rosters. That makes a return to the postseason a difficult proposition in Tennessee.
Atlanta Falcons: The Falcons took a step back last year after their Super Bowl collapse the previous season but still made the playoffs as a wild-card team. The offense regressed a bit after losing Shanahan as coordinator. There still is plenty of talent in Atlanta led by quarterback Matt Ryan and receiver Julio Jones, but the NFC is stacked, leaving little margin for error.
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