Lights out for Merriman after DE cut by Bills

It’s lights out for Shawne Merriman in Buffalo after the Bills

cut the one-time star pass rusher Monday.

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 (No. 19 in the AP Pro32) to save a

portion of the $4 million salary Merriman was scheduled to make in

the final year of his contract.

Merriman’s release was regarded as a mild surprise for a former

three-time Pro Bowl selection, who described himself as being in

his best shape in years after having season-ending surgery in

November to repair a partially torn right Achilles tendon. It’s an

injury that had nagged him for much of the previous two

seasons.

The Bills had kept their faith in Merriman, believing the

28-year-old had an opportunity to play a key backup role on a

defensive line that was revamped in free agency this offseason with

an eye on pressuring quarterbacks.

Buffalo signed Williams to a six-year, $100 million contract,

and then landed pass-rushing defensive end Mark Anderson.

Merriman had spent much of training camp backing up both

Williams and Anderson.

Merriman posted a note on his Twitter account shortly after

being released, thanking the team, coaches, his teammates and fans

for his time in Buffalo.

Though Merriman missed a few practices nursing a twisted ankle

and sore hamstring, the Bills gave no indication his job was in

jeopardy.

Merriman was credited with three tackles in two preseason games.

He had one tackle and played with the backups well into the second

half of Buffalo’s 36-14 loss at Minnesota on Friday.

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.

He also questioned whether Merriman was better suited to play

the linebacker spot in a 3-4 defense, as opposed to trying to fit

in as a defensive end after the Bills made the switch to a 4-3 this

offseason.

The seventh-year player was entering his third season in

Buffalo. The Bills claimed him off waivers after he was cut by San

Diego in November 2010.

He finished the 2010 season on injured reserve after aggravating

the injury to his Achilles tendon a half hour into his first

practice with Buffalo. Merriman had two sacks in five starts with

the Bills last season before landing on IR to have surgery on his

Achilles and also repair a nagging shoulder injury.

Merriman, on numerous occasions this offseason, suggested he

felt rejuvenated.

”I feel young,” Merriman said in May. ”Anybody that will get

a chance to watch me this year will see I’m moving around as I did

when I came into the league.”

The NFL’s 2005 defensive rookie of the year, Merriman was at his

peak upon breaking into the NFL after being drafted 12th overall by

San Diego.

He earned the nickname ”Lights Out,” after generating 39 1/2

sacks through his first three seasons before injuries slowed his

production. Merriman combined for just six sacks in his past four

seasons, a stretch in which he appeared in only 23 games.

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.”

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