Jordan Phillips could have chased a longer contract somewhere else.
The Buffalo Bills’ defensive tackle simply never felt that need.
“Buffalo kind of resurrected my career and I feel like they should reap the benefits from it,” Phillips said Tuesday, speaking on a conference call shortly after his one-year contract extension with the Bills was announced. “I really was just trying to come to a deal with Buffalo. That was my choice. That was where I wanted to be. It didn't really matter, I guess, what the numbers were. I just kind of needed something to get me to stay, and we reached that, and I'm happy to be here.”
In a word, re-signing Phillips gives the Bills options. The 6-foot-6, 341-pounder is big enough to play nose tackle, but that spot is occupied by Star Lotulelei. Phillips instead worked primarily as Kyle Williams’ backup in 2018. Now that he’s under contract, the team can have a Phillips competition between Harrison and Jordan to fill Williams' spot -- or the Bills could add to the position, either through free agency or with an early draft pick. Phillips signing a one-year contract gives the team flexibility to add another defensive tackle in the way they see fit.
At worst, the Bills have a solid rotational defensive lineman. At best, Phillips makes good on his promise that the Bills will “reap the benefits” of his return.
That return will cost the Bills $4.5 million, according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, although the exact structure is not yet known. Regardless, it’s a deal that Phillips potentially could have received elsewhere – if he felt like testing the open market.
“I really like Buffalo. Buffalo feels like home. The money can be made up another time. If you fit somewhere, you need to stay,” he said. “I could have hit free agency and tested everything, but I felt like this is the best opportunity for me. I like the guys here. I like everything about Buffalo, and hopefully after this year we can make it long term.”
Phillips appeared in 12 games for the Bills in 2018 after being claimed off waivers from the Miami Dolphins, making 19 tackles and three passes defensed.
“I mean, it was a fresh start. It was nice,” he said. “I jelled well with everybody when I came in. I felt like a lot of negative things that were talked about me came to light that weren't true. So I just appreciate the opportunity that they gave me.”
One of those “negative things” was the questioning of his work ethic. Phillips, a former second-round draft pick of the Dolphins, couldn’t hide his emotions when facing his former team. That proved costly in the Bills’ loss to Miami when he was flagged for a personal foul, but otherwise he provided an undeniable jolt to the Buffalo defense.
“The crowd was crazy,” Phillips said of Bills fans. “They got into it, so I got into it. That’s what really drove me to want to stay.”
The Bills also don’t need to be worried about any motivational concerns, given that Phillips signed a one-year deal. At a time when the importance of recruiting free agents is at a premium, Phillips sounded Tuesday like he’s ready for a job at the Buffalo Niagara Partnership.
“If you want a college environment and you want to have fun and have a rowdy crowd with a lot of people that love you, Buffalo's the place to be,” the 26-year-old said.
Bills General Manager Brandon Beane said last week at the NFL Scouting Combine that he wanted to bring Phillips back, and the two sides were able to accomplish that goal just about a week ahead of the start of free agency.
Re-signing Phillips means three-fourths of the Bills’ defensive tackles from 2018 will return to the team, Harrison Phillips and Lotulelei being the others.
“Harrison, he's a great player. He's young. He's raw. He has a lot of ability that people haven't seen yet, and we're going to get that out of him,” Jordan Phillips said. “Star, also he's a great player. He kills the run. He's athletic. He doesn't get enough credit for what he does. He's a centerpiece to our defense. He's a great guy as well, great leader, he's going to do a lot for us.
“I felt like we played really well together. There's just a little learning curve, especially with me, with those two just because I haven't played with them much. This offseason, OTAs and training camp, just getting a feel for how we can all mesh and play together, that's going to help out a lot with everything.”
Of course, the one defensive tackle who won’t be back is the retired Williams, a future Wall of Famer. That’s a big loss, but Phillips is confident he can step into the void.
“Like I said at the end of the season when Kyle retired, the Bills are looking for a new starting three technique and I felt like I was the best person to do that job, so now I just need to go out and earn that position and see where it goes from there,” Phillips said. “I already know what the coaches expect here, what the players expect, and now I get a chance to learn the defense even better and really go showcase my talents.”