The Buffalo Bills are looking to save as much possible early on in the offseason, and they saved $6.4 million by releasing veteran strong safety George Wilson and veteran “Will” linebacker Nick Barnett. The decision to release Wilson was extremely surprising, and the decision to release Barnett isn’t without it’s detractors either.
First up, a look at Barnett. The Bills cut him first, and they saved $3.5 million by dropping the 31-year-old Oregon State alumn. Barnett had a solid season and has always been hard-nosed in run defense, and he even showed some above-average ability in pass coverage. Barnett isn’t somebody you want rushing the passer, but his run defense is incredible and he’ll provide value to some team this offseason as one of the better 4-3 OLBs in the NFL.
However, Barnett was officially released due to a failed physical, and the team seems content to move forward with Bryan Scott, Kelvin Sheppard, and Nigel Bradham. To be honest, I have no clue why Sheppard is getting as much playing time as he is, and I’d much rather have Arthur Moats stealing some reps from Sheppard and Scott.
But anyway, the reason for Barnett being released is interesting, because he played in all 16 games for the Bills this season. Barnett has had health problems in the past, but the only thing that bothered him this season were minor, nagging knee injuries that didn’t cost him any games. Barnett’s going to find a team this offseason rather quickly, because he is a veteran, a leader, scheme-versatile, and plays the run extremely well.
George Wilson’s release made little sense to me, because Wilson is one of the top ten safeties in the NFL today. The Bills new coaching staff must not like him, but it sounds like they are underrating him. I can understand releasing Nick Barnett, especially since his base salary was higher than Wilson’s (he’s also not as good as Wilson).
Wilson still excels in pass coverage even at 32, and he’s also strong in run support. That ability to play well in both regards is key, and Wilson also brings something to the table as a blitzing safety. His release is likely a vote of confidence in young third safety Da’Norris Searcy, who brought an edge to this team in run defense when he was in at strong safety and has adequate coverage skills.
I can see the logic in releasing George Wilson, but I just don’t like the logic. Either way, both he and Barnett should find new teams in the near future. In fact, I would love the New England Patriots to take a close look at signing Wilson to fill their need at strong safety. I still can’t believe the Bills let their captain and NFLPA rep go like that, but their “trash” is going to be a lucky team’s “treasure” for sure.
You can follow Joe Soriano on Twitter @SorianoJoe.