The Bills announced that they have tendered four of their eight restricted free agents prior to Thursday’s midnight deadline. Linebacker Keith Ellison, tight end Derek Schouman, safety George Wilson and cornerback Ashton Youboty were all extended qualifying offers. The level of those tenders was not released per team policy.
The tenders allow Buffalo to retain the rights of all four players. If another team were to sign any one of them to an offer sheet, the Bills would have one week to match the offer or receive compensation in the form of a draft pick from that other NFL club.
This is the second straight year that Ellison has been tendered. He signed a one-year tender last offseason as a restricted free agent. Under the new uncapped year rules, Ellison was again a restricted free agent in 2010 as he has just four accrued seasons in the league. Players now need six years to be an unrestricted free agent.
Ellison was the team’s leading tackler for most of the first half of last season before a quad injury landed him on injured reserve Nov. 20.
Schouman’s season was cut short in Week 2, when during the most productive game of his young career, he suffered a torn meniscus in his knee. He has been rehabbing that injury all offseason here in Buffalo.
Wilson is coming off a career year in which he finished second on the team in tackles and second in interceptions with a career-high four in 2009.
The former practice squad player seized the starting strong safety job when Donte Whitner and Bryan Scott were both sidelined with injuries and did not give it back. Wilson also finished third on the team in special teams tackles.
Ashton Youboty’s original rookie contract expired this offseason, so the team tendered him as well. Youboty appeared in 11 games making one start at cornerback.
Those restricted free agents that were not tendered qualifying contract offers by the Bills include QB Gibran Hamdan, G Richie Incognito, TE Joe Klopfenstein and OT Jonathan Scott.
Those four players now become unrestricted free agents and are free to sign with any NFL club.