Buffalo Bills cut 2 veterans: LB Barnett, S Wilson

Bills new coach Doug Marrone began retooling his underperforming

defense on Monday by releasing two veterans: linebacker Nick

Barnett and strong safety George Wilson.

The two players were among the Bills’ most experienced

defenders, and finished first and second on the team in tackles

last season. And yet, they were also part of a high-priced defense

that finished among the NFL’s worst in yards and points

allowed.

”Moves like the ones we’ve made today are never easy, but we

have to do what’s best for our team and keep moving forward,”

general manager Buddy Nix said in a statement released by the team.

”We’ve got some good young players on our roster, who we feel are

ready to take the next step up. And they will now have the

opportunity to do so.”

The Bills are in transition once again after Marrone was hired

last month to replace Chan Gailey, who was fired after three

consecutive losing seasons. Marrone, the former Syracuse coach, has

brought in an entirely new staff, including luring New York Jets

defensive coordinator Mike Pettine to take over the same role in

Buffalo.

In a separate development, veteran defensive end Chris Kelsay is

ready to return after a partially torn ligament in his neck forced

him to finish last season on injured reserve. Kelsay, who missed

the final five games last season, told The Associated Press on

Monday that he has fully recovered from the injury after being

examined by the Bills’ doctors last month.

Barnett is a 10-year NFL veteran, who never missed a start in

his two seasons in Buffalo after signing with the team in free

agency. He led the Bills last season with 112 tackles while adding

two sacks.

Officially, Barnett was cut because he failed a physical. That

information wasn’t revealed until later in the day when the NFL

released its list of transactions, which included ”Failed

Physical” on the line below Barnett’s name.

Barnett beat the Bills in releasing the news by announcing he

was going to be cut on his Twitter account early Monday

afternoon.

”Thanks to all the great fans and friends I have met in Western

New York. It was truly a pleasure being apart (sic) of that

organization and culture,” Barnett wrote. ”Very unfortunate we

didn’t get the Bills to the playoffs but I know you guys will have

many successful years ahead of you. … Sad to leave but like they

say when one door closes more open up.”

The Bills signed Barnett after losing Paul Posluszny to free

agency shortly after the NFL lockout ended in July 2011. Barnett

spent his first eight seasons with Green Bay. He was entering the

final year of his contract in Buffalo, and due to make a $3.5

million base salary.

The Bills are already thin at linebacker, making the position a

priority in free agency and the draft in the coming months.

Wilson was a respected leader and voted a five-time team captain

during his eight seasons in Buffalo. He was also the team’s NFL

Players Association representative.

Wilson was highly regarded for his work ethic and resilience. He

broke in with the Bills as a receiver in 2005 before being

converted into a safety while spending the 2006 season on the

team’s practice squad. He made an immediate impact at his new spot

in 2007, when Wilson started nine games and had two interceptions,

both of which he returned for touchdowns.

Last season, Wilson finished second on the team with 98 tackles

but no interceptions. Most notably, he had two potential

fourth-quarter interceptions drop from his hands in losses to

Tennessee and St. Louis – both decided in the final minutes.

Wilson was also entering the final year of his contract, and due

to make a $2.9 million base salary.

Second-year player Da’Norris Searcy began challenging Wilson for

the starting job last season.

The Bills have a big question mark at free safety, with starter

Jairus Byrd eligible to become an unrestricted free agent next

month.

Veteran defensive lineman Spencer Johnson, defensive end Kyle

Moore and linebackers Bryan Scott, Kirk Morrison and Shawne

Merriman have also completed the final years of their

contracts.

Buffalo’s defense is prepared to undergo yet another

transformation under Pettine, the unit’s third coordinator in three

years. Pettine is more accustomed to running a 3-4 alignment after

the Bills reverted to a 4-3 system under former coordinator Dave

Wannstedt last year.

The Bills struggled in making the transition last year, and

despite the free-agent addition of defensive end Mario Williams,

who was signed to a six-year, $100 million contract.

Buffalo (6-10) finished 31st in the NFL against the run, and

26th in allowing an average 27 points per game.