Bills decline fifth-year option on DE Shaq Lawson

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Shaq Lawson will enter a prove-it campaign in 2019.

The Buffalo Bills will decline the fifth-year option on the former No. 19 overall selection, NFL Network's Mike Garafolo reported Wednesday.

Lawson now heads into the final year of his rookie contract set to earn $1.85 million in base salary. The fifth-year option would have reportedly come in around $10 million, guaranteed for injury only.

Still just 24 years old, Lawson has underwhelmed since being selected in the first round in 2016. He began his career on the physically unable to perform list after undergoing shoulder surgery in May of 2016, missing the first six games of his rookie season, curtailing his development from the get-go.

In three years, he's compiled just 10 sacks and 76 tackles in 35 appearances, with 17 starts.

A stronger run defender than pass rusher, questions linger about Lawson's fit in coach Sean McDermott's defense. Given the fifth-year cost, his injury history, production and fit, it's not a shock that the Bills declined the option. Despite early career struggles, Lawson is still a young athlete who could find growth in the right system.

Lawson was a first-round draft pick of former Bills general manager Doug Whaley. Current GM Brandon Beane has jettisoned nearly every Whaley draft selection since taking over in May of 2017. Lawson could be the latest to move on.

On Monday, Beane told WGR-550 Radio the decision on Lawson's option would come down to more than just contract figures.

"That's what you do, you talk about, what is the number for the option number? What is the franchise [tag] number roughly look like it's going to be next year based off what's been signed this year? And then, what else is going to be a free agent out there?" Beane said, via Bills Wire. "We maybe even take a look ... we won't have a great look, but we'll take a quick a look on what's coming out in the draft potentially next year."

Added Beane: "Now is a good time to do that now that the draft is over and [Buffalo head coach] Sean (McDermott) and I will sit down, we'll talk through it, and we'll make the best decision for us and we'll take it from there."

The Bills ultimately decided to pass on Lawson's fifth-year option. Now it's on the young pass rusher to prove he's still growing and can contribute. Otherwise, Buffalo will move on for good. It's possible that if Lawson is buried on the depth chart during training camp, Buffalo could look to trade him before the season even begins, as Beane has done with other former Whaley picks.

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