Buffalo's front office was determined to get every one of their nine draft choices signed and to camp by report day Friday. The Bills are very close to doing so after top pick Marcell Dareus signed along with fourth-round pick Da'Norris Searcy and fifth-round pick Johnny White.
The league's new rookie wage scale under the new Collective Bargaining Agreement has proven to be helpful for most NFL clubs in terms of getting their top draft choices under contract. Dareus and the Bills also got an assist from the draft choices taken just before and right after Buffalo took the Alabama defensive lineman with the third overall pick. The fourth-overall pick in the 2011 draft, A.J. Green signed with Cincinnati earlier this week and second-overall pick Von Miller agreed to terms with Denver Thursday. That provided Buffalo and Dareus with the contract parameters to close a deal.
"It's crazy," Dareus told Buffalobills.com. "You can't explain it. It's a dream come true. You go from one step to the next and to finally get to the point where you sign your name on the dotted line, I couldn't even wait for the ink to dry."
The 6'3 ½" 319-pound defensive lineman is expected to make an immediate impact on Buffalo's defensive front with many projecting him to be the starting left defensive end as a rookie.
"He really adds a lot to our defense and also to the defensive line," said Bills defensive line coach Giff Smith. "What you've got is a guy that's very well developed run and pass. He can obviously play in base defense and in nickel situations with the pass rush. He's got the whole gamut. He can do it all so we're going to put him out there."
Teamed with Pro Bowl DT Kyle Williams and reliable veteran end Dwan Edwards, Buffalo's front three is an impressive group with solid players behind them that will be challenging for starting roles in Alex Carrington, Spencer Johnson and Torell Troup, who were all important rotational players in 2010.
North Carolina duo signedTeammates in college, Searcy and White will be the same in the professional ranks now that both have signed their rookie contracts with Buffalo. White signed Friday morning, with Searcy putting pen to paper early in the afternoon.
"I'm eager to get started and the contract is signed and sealed and I'm officially a Bill now," said Searcy.
The strong safety made a point of working out with veteran safety George Wilson when the players held their own workouts in Atlanta in the offseason and feels he won't be coming in cold with respect to Buffalo's defensive system.
"It's a blessing that I can come in and learn from vets," he said. "He took me under his wing since I came in for the team workouts. We'll continue to work together and build team chemistry."
Searcy is likely to see time on special teams as a rookie, but there are some in the Bills organization that feel he could challenge for a starting role at strong safety.
"I see a young man that's physical," said Bills secondary coach George Catavolos. "He's 220 pounds, a good tackler, plays well in the box. He has the capabilities of playing deep zone. He's got good hands. He can make plays catching the ball for interceptions and turnovers. I'm going to be real interested in watching his progression and how he fits into our defensive scheme."
White, who is known as a hard, downhill runner that consistently gets yards after initial contact, was used in a variety of roles for the Tar Heels from special teams, to wide receiver to running back. He didn't man the full time tailback job until this past season.
"I thought he had a very natural feel as a runner," said Bills offensive coordinator/running backs coach Curtis Modkins. "He did things instinctively. When you're a runner there are some things that you can't teach and Johnny did those things. When I found out that he hadn't played running back his entire college career I was even more impressed with him."
White is expected to factor heavily on coverage teams for Bills special teams coordinator Bruce DeHaven.
"From what I saw him do on special teams we're going to find some things for him to do where I don't know if you want him back there as a returner," said DeHaven. "He could be pretty valuable for us."
With these three most recent signings, Buffalo has just second-round pick Aaron Williams and third-round pick Kelvin Sheppard left to sign. The Bills first practice at St. John Fisher is Saturday afternoon at 3:30 pm.