With Charles, Bills’ savings are Lions’ gain

Josh Katzenstein
The Detroit News

Boca Raton, Fla. — The Lions’ signing of defensive tackle Stefan Charles was strikingly similar to last year’s deal with Tyrunn Walker, and Charles' former boss said Sunday the Lions are getting a player with significant upside.

Like Walker with the Saints, Charles was a restricted free agent with the Bills, and after Buffalo chose not to tender him, the Lions signed him to a one-year deal.

But, as was the case with Walker, there must have been some reason the Bills didn’t offer him what would have been a reasonable deal as a restricted free agent.

“Can’t pay everybody,” Bills general manager Doug Whaley said Sunday at the Boca Raton Resort and Club, the location of the NFL’s annual meetings this week.

Still, Whaley offered praise for Charles, who spent the past three years in Buffalo after starting his career on Tennessee’s practice squad. Charles went undrafted in 2013 out of the University of Regina in Saskatchewan.

“He’s got tremendous upside, but he’s a hard worker, very diligent about his craft,” Whaley said. “And he’s big and massive, and if you’re looking for a guy that can play against the run and has got potential as a pass rusher, that’s him.”

Saints coach Sean Payton offered similar praise of Walker last year, and New Orleans decided it couldn’t re-sign him due to salary cap problems. Walker, 26, joined the Lions after a season in which he had 19 tackles and 2.5 sacks in 16 games, including one start. Charles, 27, had 13 tackles and one sack in 13 games last year, including one start, though he was more productive in 2014 with 23 tackles and three sacks in 16 games with one start.

The Bills have just $7.6 million left in space, according to Spotrac.com, so they’re tight for money, too. The lowest restricted tender for Charles would’ve cost just $1.67 million for 2016. The Lions signed Charles to a one-year deal worth up to $1.75 million, similar to the $1.6 million deal Walker got last year.

But, Buffalo has already invested significantly in their defensive line with Marcell Dareus, Jerry Hughes and Kyle Williams. Defensive tackle Corbin Bryant will be an unrestricted free agent next year, too.

“We’re a victim of our success,” Whaley said, praising his pro personnel staff. “We’ve found some low budget guys that have blossomed.”

In Detroit, Charles will likely compete for a spot in a rotation that will include Haloti Ngata, Walker and Caraun Reid.