Bills GM Buddy Nix this past week said that patience was the approach in this most unusual free agency period. He also talked about keeping an eye on the waiver wire to see what kind of talent shook loose from other rosters. On Sunday the Bills patience paid off as they landed veteran inside linebacker Nick Barnett.
"I said the other day that if a guy became available that we thought would upgrade us and give us some competition at a position of need, we'd try to go get him," said Nix. "That's what happened with Nick. To be honest with you, I'm about eight years too late. I tried to get Nick in '03, but he was taken the pick before us. It took eight years, but we did get him."
Bills head coach Chan Gailey sees a true three down linebacker that can cover as well as anyone at that position.
"He's more of an inside linebacker, good coverage guy," said Gailey. "He has called a defense before. He's played a couple of spots in there, and hasn't just played one. He gives you some versatility and some coverage ability."
Barnett visited with the Bills on Saturday at training camp at St. John Fisher and took a physical Sunday before taking in Buffalo's morning walk through. The two sides agreed to terms in the afternoon with Barnett officially signing after the paperwork arrived from Buffalo just before the team's night practice. He explained why he felt Buffalo was a good fit for him.
"The staff is remarkable," Barnett told Buffalobills.com. "It's like a family here. There are some great coaches with a lot of great history here. Buddy Nix has done a great job of picking up players. They lost a couple of games in overtime (last year) and were very close in a lot of games. All it takes is one play and putting those pieces together. Hopefully I'm one of those pieces."
The 30-year old Barnett is entering his ninth year in the league and has six 100-tackle seasons in his career. His most productive season came in 2007 when he logged 102 solo tackles (131 total), 3.5 sacks and a pair of interceptions earning and was named a first alternate for the NFC Pro Bowl roster. That season his defensive coordinator was Bills outside linebackers coach Bob Sanders.
He talked to both Sanders and his new position coach, Dave Wannstedt during the morning walk through to make sure he could make a smooth transition to Buffalo's defense.
"Being that I'll be spending a lot of time with Wannstedt I was trying to feel him out and see what type of coach he was," Barnett said. "We were kind of bouncing ideas off each other. The similarities in the (Dom) Capers defense and this one are very similar. The terminology is very similar, so there is a lot of that I'll be able to jump right in."
A member of the 2010 Super Bowl champion Green Bay Packers, Barnett's 2010 season was cut short by a wrist injury that required surgery. He appeared in only the Packers first four games, one of which was against the Bills in Week 2 when he posted nine tackles.
Barnett has experience in both the 4-3 and 3-4 defensive systems, which is important knowing Buffalo intends to be a hybrid defense moving back and forth between the two schemes in 2011. He's also considered a valuable coverage linebacker as evidenced by his nine career interceptions.
He's expected to be a prime candidate to start at inside linebacker right away, but cannot begin practicing until the NFLPA ratifies the new Collective Bargaining Agreement. The latest he'll be on the field is Aug. 4th.
"That might be the worst thing about this new CBA," he said. "I've got to sit around and wait. I'm ready to get out there and just get to work. Everything happens for a reason. I'll be able to get in my playbook so when I get out there I won't be making any mistakes and have the terminology down."
Bills add DL, release anotherBuffalo was also awarded DL Lionel Dotson after putting in a waiver claim on the defensive lineman. Dotson (6'4" 290) was waived by the Miami Dolphins July 30th. A seventh-round pick of the Dolphins in 2008, Dotson has also spent time in the Denver Broncos organization on their practice squad.
The Bills also released DL Jordan Topp.