Leaders of the Buffalo Bills organization were let go today as LB Nick Barnett and Safety George Wilson were handed their walking papers. It shouldn’t surprise anyone that the Bills needed a shakeup on their defense after ranking near the bottom of the league in all defensive categories. There are positives and negaties that go along with these releases, but one thing is for certain, GM Buddy Nix and new Head Coach Doug Marrone aren’t fooling around. No one’s job is safe.
George Wilson and Nick Barnett were the vocal leaders on defense. They were also leaders at their positions as Barnett led the team in tackles with 120 and Wilson was just behind him with 98. Both players were fan favorites and were well liked by both players and coaches. Barnett’s realease causes a position the Bills were ‘thin’ at to become even ‘thinner’ so a LB in free agency and in the draft is all the more likely. Wilson was a defensive co-captain and was an inspiration to players and fans alike. He earned the starting safety role after converting from wide receiver and making a name for himself on special teams. He was also a leader of charitable causes which earned him the Buffalo Bills Walter Payton Man of the Year award in 2009 and 2011.
Fans, coaches and players have to discern whether a player is a ‘good player’ or a ‘good guy.’ A prime example of this is Doug Flutie was a good player where Gibran Hamdan was a good guy. Barnett had trouble covering Tight Ends in the 4-3 scheme. With the Patriots offensive attack, Barnett was continually beat by guys like Rob Gronkowski and Aaron Hernandez who have put up career bests against the Bills. The Tight End role has become increasingly popular in the NFL offensive system and if you can’t stop it, the team will need a player who can.
Wilson on the other hand began to split time with Da’Norris Searcy towards the end of last season. Searcy will be entering his 3rd season and it appears the new coaching staff has belief in the young safety to get the job done. Also, watching film of last season against the Patriots, it was Wilson’s job to cover Gronkowski at Gillette stadium against the Patriots. Even though Gronkowski had only 3 receptions for 31 yards, his touchdown reception was Wilson’s fault because Wilson made the rookie mistake of looking into the backfield.
Letting these players go will open salary space for the Bills to add pieces this offseason. Jairus Byrd will likely be tagged and the Bills could be looking at New York Jets linebackers Bart Scott and Calvin Pace. We’ll see if there are more cost saving maneuvers made by the Bills in the next couple of weeks.
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