OLB Lawson signs with Buffalo

The Bills waded into the free agent pool on Wednesday as they hosted their first free agent visitor and signed him a short time later. Buffalo signed Cincinnati free agent outside linebacker Manny Lawson, who signed on the dotted line at One Bills Drive Wednesday morning after arriving in Buffalo Tuesday night.

"The last 24 hours have been a blast. Just talking to the guys and getting a feel for the organization," Lawson told Buffalobills.com. "I'm happy to be here and I expect a lot of things. I think we're going to have a lot of fun. I think we're going to put a show on for the fans out here in Buffalo. I'm just ready to kick the season off."

The addition of Lawson addresses a major positional need for Buffalo this offseason. The Bills needed reinforcements at both inside and outside linebacker and the signing of Lawson effectively addresses the perimeter linebacker spot.

Bills GM Buddy Nix has harped on the importance of adding outside linebackers that can run with receiving targets in coverage and Lawson is more than capable of running with tight ends and linebackers. Lawson at 6'5 1/2" and 240 pounds ran a 4.43 at the NFL Combine had a 39 1/2-inch vertical leap and 10'4" broad jump.

Lawson (6'5" 238) played the past two seasons with Cincinnati primarily as a strong side linebacker in the Bengals 4-3 defensive front. A former first-round pick of the San Francisco 49ers in 2006, Lawson appeared to have better success in the Niners 3-4 defensive scheme.

Knowing the Bills hired defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, whose defense has a good deal of 3-4 principles made Buffalo an attractive fit.

"At the end of the last season I told my agent that I really want to get back into the 3-4," said Lawson. "I really feel it maximizes my potential and really feel that it suits me better and suits the type of player I am. It just so happens that this organization is moving along those lines. We don't know what we're going to do yet here exactly, but I think I'm going to fit in perfectly."

Lawson's most productive season came in 2009 when he had 68 tackles with 6.5 sacks and three forced fumbles, but he's had four 50-plus tackle seasons in his seven years in the NFL. Lawson has 18 career sacks and 19 career pass breakups and two interceptions.

He's considered best suited for the strong side, is a solid run defender, an excellent tackler and can bring pressure off the edge. Lawson is also the former college teammate of Bills DE Mario Williams.

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