General Manager Doug Whaley appeared on the John Murphy Show on Thursday February 25, 2016 and said that the Bills will be keeping an eye on the second tier of free agents. The Bills will apparently wait for the “dust to settle” and try to pick up a piece or two to add to the roster. A player that may be in that group of players is defensive tackle Paul Soliai.
The massive defensive tackle is currently on the Falcons roster but all signs point to him being released on or around March 9th. According to Alex Marvez, Atlanta approached the 32 year old about restructuring his deal and according to his agent the two sides couldn’t agree on a fair number. The Falcons will be taking a considerable hit if they choose to release the veteran, to the tune of $4.2 million. But with Soliai’s age and his role diminishing on the defense, the Falcons are poised to move on.
Here is a look at his current contract courtesy of OvertheCap.com:
Paul Soliai is a rare specimen, he is 6’4″, 344 pounds and he looks every bit as big as he sounds. Although he was drafted in the 4th round of the of the 2007 draft he hasn’t quite blossomed into an every down defensive lineman. He has been used as a specialty defender. According to Pro Football Focus (PFF), he has only played in 41.5% of the snaps in his career. Can you guess in what type of situations? Yes, mainly against the run. PFF has him playing in a 57/44 run to pass ratio.
Under first year Head Coach Dan Quinn, Soliai played in the least amount of snaps (361) in his career since 2009. Soliai was considered by many not fit the nose tackle position in the Falcons 4-3 under defense. I don’t find that to be the case at all. I believe that General Manager Dimitroff does not want to pay a role player that amount of money. Some have even speculated that the possible restructure has draft implications, signaling that Atlanta may be looking to upgrade the position early in the 2016 draft.
For the Falcons in 2015, Soliai only managed to produce 20 solo tackles, 18 stops and 12 QB pressures. PFF graded him as the 57th best interior defender with a grade of 74.5. Soliai was rated a 71 against the run and a 75 against the pass. His run stop percentage was average at 8.5%, so was his pass rush productivity at 6.3%. So you can see why the Falcons may move on without him. They have other players on their roster that could produce those statistics at a lower price rate. After watching several games from 2015, I can see why Quinn and Dimitroff want to restructure his deal.
While he still is a decent run stuffer, his skills in that department are diminishing.
One of his strengths early in his career were his hands. He had the ability to stack a defender, move laterally and make the tackle. Check out the following play, at the snap he bench presses the center, moves laterally, continues hand fighting and keeps his outside shoulder free to make the tackle.
Here’s a play from 2015, he diagnosis the play well, but he lets the blocker cut him. Something he was very good at preventing just a couple years ago. It leads to a big cutback lane for the running back.
In the same game, he flashes his quick first step but fails to use his hands and power to shed the block. His hands and eyes are not even up when he fired off the ball.
Not quite this level anymore…
That first step isn’t totally gone, but it just doesn’t show up consistently. He beats the center but doesn’t have the explosion he once did.
But the biggest difference I see on film, he lacks the same power that made him a force early in his career. When you watch him before and after a play, you can tell he is laboring. His body language in 2015, was not good. He honestly looked old. Facing double teams and cut blocks his whole career has definitely taken a toll on his body. There’s a possibility that it was due to a nagging calf injury late in the year, but most of the film I watched was from mid season. If he is unable to overpower lineman on every one on one snap, I think it is useless for the Bills to bring him in as a true NT.
This is what he used to bring to the table. The power to work through the double.
But he doesn’t have that kind of strength anymore.
On this play he is slow to read the double team, so his ability to anchor down with his near knee goes to the wayside. He gets blown off the line of scrimmage.
Soliai just doesn’t have the lower body power that he used to. He recognizes the double, attempts to get his knee down to anchor, but he just doesn’t have it.
Once the news came out that Paul Soliai was going to be released, a lot of Bills fans figured he would be a good person to target. Bringing in a pure nose tackle would give the Bills flexibility with Dareus. If the Bills could figure out a way to move Dareus around, that would create mismatches in the Bills favor. There’s no doubt that Dareus can play NT when the Bills need him to, but it is almost a waste of his talent.
Paul Soliai probably won’t an expensive player to bring in, but based on his deteriorating skills and age, I would pass. I would rather have the Bills re-sign Stefan Charles, rotate in TJ Barnes at the nose tackle position and maybe even bring in Kenrick Ellis if he becomes available. There are younger and better options for the Bills.