Dec 24, 2011; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills guard Andy Levitre (67) against the Denver Broncos in the 3rd quarter at Ralph Wilson Stadium. The Bills defeated the Broncos 40-14. Mandatory Credit: Luc Leclerc-US PRESSWIRE
When the Bills released Shawne Merriman this morning it came as a surprise to many, but didn’t really shock a lot of people.
It was a strict business decision that seems more about saving the money for other things than about how he’s played. Coach Chan Gailey has constantly said that he was impressed with what Merriman had been doing in practices this year, often saying that this is the best he’s seen Merriman since the team brought him aboard in 2010.
The depth of the team’s defensive line just made Merriman expendable , and the team couldn’t justify paying a $4.5-million base salary to a back up defensive end with the injury history that Merriman has. That’s money that could be used else where, and on more vital players like upcoming free agents safety Jairus Byrd and guard Andy Levitre.
Byrd has grown into one of, if not, the best defensive back on the Buffalo Bills roster. Since intercepting nine passes and recording 45 tackles during his rookie season in 2009, Byrd has turned into one of the most complete safeties in the NFL.
His INT numbers may have decreased, but he’s become a safety who always seems to be around the football, and making plays. In his sophomore season he say his tackles increase to 89, but only managed one INT. Last season he picked off three passes, but defended eight which was up from the two in 2010. He also improved his tackle count once again by registering 98 on the season.
On the other side of the ball, Levitre has been an anchor on the offensive line since coming into the NFL in 2009. Having not missed a start during his brief NFL career, Levitre has provided stability to the offensive line which is something the Bills have desperately needed over the years. With Eric Wood and Craig Urbik by his side, the interior of the Bills line is as
Aug. 9, 2012; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills defensive back Jairus Byrd (31) makes a tackle on Washington Redskins wide receiver Niles Paul (84) during the first half at Ralph Wilson Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Timothy T. Ludwig-US PRESSWIRE
good as it’s been in years which can only bode well for quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick and running backs Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller.
With the money that the team saves by cutting Merriman, they can easily put it towards keeping Byrd and Levitre in Bills blue for years to come. While it’s understandable that both players will demand more than $4.5-million per season, the Bills now have a little extra cash to make sure they can keep both players who the team has long-term plans for.
Buffalo has done a good job of keeping their guys in the fold while bringing in new talent. It should be expected that they will do all they can to make sure they keep two of their top young players in town.
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