Versatility is the big asset the Buffalo Bills are getting in newly acquired defensive lineman Quinton Jefferson.
The fourth-year free-agent signee played all over the place for the Seattle Seahawks in 2019.
Jefferson played 27% of the time at left end, 42% at right end and 31% at defensive tackle, according to Pro Football Focus breakdowns.
“He had a very, very good year,” Seattle head coach Pete Carroll told reporters after the season. “I think coming in we didn’t know that he would make another jump. But he did make a jump forward understanding the game, being flexible enough to play different spots. Playmaking. Knocking balls down in crucial situations. Making short-yardage tackles and plays, as well as causing some problems in pass rush. We thought he did a really good job last year.”
Jefferson, who will be 27 on March 31, figures to be a rotational piece as a backup at either defensive end spot. At 6-foot-4, 291 pounds, he’s not a speed rusher or an edge bender but he plays with some quickness, power and high effort.
He also could compete for snaps with newly acquired Vernon Butler from Carolina as the 3-technique backup to Ed Oliver. Backing up Star Lotulelei as the 1-technique defensive tackle on running downs is not a good fit for Jefferson, but he could fill in there in a pinch.
Jefferson’s most ideal role arguably would be at one of the two defensive tackle positions in pass-rushing situations.
The Bills obviously want Oliver to be fresh and rushing on key passing situations. Who joins him as the other interior rusher figures to be a rotating cast.
Jefferson is recovering from a broken foot he suffered in Seattle’s playoff loss to Green Bay on Jan. 12. He had surgery in January.
The injury is a Jones fracture, which is to the long bone on the outside of the foot, which connects to the small toe. The recovery time can be two to four months.
Jefferson is not as big as the 6-5, 341-pound Jordan Phillips.
Jefferson is quick off the snap, but he doesn’t look like he has quite as good a get-off as Phillips, whose first step is exceptional and who was good at anticipating the snap for the Bills last season.
Phillips had 9.5 sacks for the Bills last season. Jefferson had 3.5 in Seattle.
But various metrics indicate Jefferson was more consistently effective in generating pressure.
Jefferson played 55% of Seattle’s snaps overall. He had 39 pressures in 377 pass-rush chances, according to Pro Football Focus. Phillips played 52% of the Bills’ snaps and had 25 in 322 pass-rush chances.
As a rusher from a defensive end position, ESPN rated Jefferson fifth in the NFL in its “pass-rush win rate” at 16%. Oliver was seventh at 15%. That statistic measures how often the defensive lineman beats his block within 2.5 seconds. Rams All-Pro Aaron Donald led all NFL DTs at 24%.
Jefferson also could benefit from the talent he will be surrounded with in Buffalo.
Seattle had star defensive end Jadeveon Clowney, who drew a lot of attention from opponent’s blocking schemes. But Seattle ranked tied for second last in the NFL in sacks with 28. Buffalo ranked 12th with 44 sacks.
Jefferson signed a two-year, $13.5 million deal with the Bills.
He might have drawn a bigger contract if he was not recovering from injury.
His play last season indicates he’s starting to blossom after a slow start to his pro career. He played only three games as a rookie in 2016 before suffering a knee injury. He started 2017 on the Rams’ practice squad before being signed by Seattle in October. Then he broke his hand in his first practice.
“He’s really fundamentally sound, and well versed,” Carroll said. “He does so many things right, been in the program a long time, knows what’s expected of him.”
He started 12 of 16 games for Seattle in 2018 and had three sacks. He missed two games last year with a midseason oblique strain.