Linebacker Shawne Merriman told FOXSports.com on Monday that he has been released from the Buffalo Bills.
"I didn’t fit the 4-3 (defensive) system. I’m more of a 3-4 guy," he said.
The seven-year veteran played the first six years of his career with the San Diego Chargers, making the Pro Bowl three times. He continues to deal with the effects of an Achilles injury he suffered while playing for the Chargers.
General manager Buddy Nix said the decision was based in part on the potential the Bills saw in two younger players who had been competing with Merriman for the fourth defensive end spot.
”We think we’ve been patient, but it comes to a point where we felt like we needed to move on and look down the road,” Nix said shortly before the Bills returned to practice from a two-day break. ”We need to look past this week. We need to look further down the road.”
Though Nix wouldn’t say which two players were competing for the roster spot left open by Merriman’s release, the Bills’ latest depth chart had Robert Eddins move up into the backup position behind Mario Williams. Kyle Moore, a third-year player signed off Detroit’s practice squad last November, has also looked impressive through the first month of training camp.
Nix said Merriman’s health wasn’t an issue and added he made the move now to provide the player a better chance to sign with another team.
The move does allow the Bills to save a portion of the $4 million salary Merriman was scheduled to make in the final year of his contract.
Coach Chan Gailey called Merriman expendable because the Bills have three veteran defensive ends, including Chris Kelsay, allowing the team the opportunity to develop a younger player.
”He was doing a good job, but it wasn’t where we thought he needed to be as far as the other guys that were playing the position,” Gailey said.
Merriman considered this year as the best chance to revive his career after season-ending surgery in November to repair a partially torn right Achilles tendon.
At his peak, Merriman was regarded as one of the league’s top pass-rushers, and earned the nickname ”Lights Out.”
Gailey credited Merriman for his perseverance in the face of injuries.
”He did a great job of fighting back from where he was,” Gailey said. ”I’ve got to give him a lot of credit because it would’ve been easy to bail.”