The Buffalo Bills started their roster shakeup Monday, cutting two of the few defenders most people would have expected to stick around for 2013.
The Bills cut linebacker Nick Barnett and safety George Wilson, their top two tacklers in 2012.
The 31-year-old Barnett has started every game over two seasons since joining the Bills as a free agent in 2011. He had 112 tackles last season along with two sacks. In 2011, he had 130 tackles, three sacks and three interceptions. Prior to that, he was an eight-year starter with Green Bay.
The 31-year-old Wilson was a defensive captain for five seasons and the player representative for the Buffalo franchise. He had 104 tackles last season and 412 over eight seasons, along with 12 career interceptions. He was drafted in 2005 out of Arkansas and has been an everyday starter the past two seasons.
Management cited depth on the defensive side of the ball as a reason for the cuts. The NFL also listed Barnett as having failed a physical on its transaction sheet.
"Moves like the ones we’ve made today are never easy, but we have to do what’s best for our team and keep moving forward," General Manager Buddy Nix said. "We’ve got some good, young players on our roster who we feel are ready to take the next step and they will now have the opportunity to do so. We thank both Nick and George for everything they’ve given the Bills organization and wish them nothing but the best for the future."
Barnett was gracious on Twitter after receiving the news:
"Thanks to all the great fans and friends I have met in Western New York. It was truly a pleasure being a part of that organization and culture. Very unfortunate we didn't get the Bills to the playoffs, but I know you guys will have many successful years ahead of you. Thanks Bills Mafia for all your support. Sad to leave but like they say, when one door closes more open up. All in God's hands."
Barnett was entering the final year of a three-year deal and was due $3.5 million in 2013. The Bills will take a $500,000 cap hit for him in 2013. Wilson was also entering the final of a contract and was due $2.9 million next season. His cap hit will be $666,667.
Barring free agency and draft acquisitions, third-year pro Da'Norris Searcy (15 games, 39 tackles) figures to fill in for Wilson in 2013. Second-year player Nigel Bradham (47 tackles) stepped up late in his rookie season in 2012 – he made 11 tackles in the season finale alone – and would be the starter in Barnett's spot, at least for now.
The moves prove no one is sacred on a defense that finished 31st against the run and 26th in points allowed last season. New coach Doug Marrone brought in Mike Pettine from the Jets to run the defense, and he's promised an attacking style that won't wait to react to what the offense does.
Other potential openings on the Bills' defense due to free agency are at defensive end (Kyle Moore), defensive line (Spencer Johnson), linebacker (Bryan Scott, Kirk Morrison and Shawne Merriman) and free safety (Jairus Byrd).Tags: Buffalo, Buffalo Bills, Football, NFL