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Barnett signs with Bills

---The Bills have signed free agent linebacker Nick Barnett a source told The Buffalo News. ESPN.com reports that the former Green Bay Packer reached an agreement for three years worth a total of $12 million with $6 million guaranteed.

Barnett fills a need at inside linebacker after free agent Paul Posluzny signed with Jacksonville. Barnett is expected to start alongside rookie Kelvin Sheppard at inside linebacker.

---Rodney McKissic

(www.twitter.com/rodneyjmckissic)

Barnett pays Bills a visit

---Kelvin Sheppard needs a sidekick at inside linebacker. Could Nick Barnett be the one?

Barnett visited the Bills’ training camp at St. John Fisher on Sunday during the team’s morning walk through and spent the majority of his time chatting with assistant coach Dave Wannstedt.

The Detroit Lions – as well as Cleveland – expressed interest in signing Barnett, who was reportedly scheduled to visit Detroit today but the Lions instead signed Tennessee free agent linebacker Stephen Tulloch. Barnett was released by Green Bay last week.

After losing free agent linebacker Paul Posluszny to Jacksonville last week, Barnett would fill an obvious need. One player who would like to see the Bills add Barnett is Sheppard, the rookie from LSU, who came to terms on his deal Saturday evening.

“It was pretty cool watching him and watching the way he produced for the Packers,’’ Sheppard said today. “For him to come up to me and say, ‘What’s up Shep?’ that’s exciting. If he is an addition to our team, that would be great. How could you not like a guy like that on your team?’’

---Rodney McKissic

(www.twitter.com/rodneyjmckissic)

Video: Bills open training camp

The News’ Mark Gaughan and Rodney McKissic review the Bills’ opening session of training camp from St. John Fisher College:

Sheppard agrees; Gailey quotes

Bills third-round draft pick Kelvin Sheppard agreed to terms on a new contract, he announced on his twitter account. Sheppard will be the last Bills draft pick to sign. The question is not if, but when, he will be ready to step into the starting lineup for the Buffalo defense.

Coach Chan Gailey on Saturday's practice: "There were some things I thought were better. I thought our run fit defensively was ahead of the first practice last year even without OTAs and minicamp. Guys understood where to go. I thought our timing in the passing game, especially on the deep balls, was not where it needed to be. We've got a long way to go there. Other than that it was probably a typical ragged first practice."

Gailey on the team's conditioning: "I think overall, we're OK. We're not great. We're trying to be smart about how we practice. Early in camp the most anybody goes in a row is three plays. As we go on it'll be four plays, and as we go on it'll be five plays. So we're trying to be smart about how we practice these guys to slowly work them into playing shape."

Bills receiver Marcus Easley came up with a slight limp late in practice but Gailey said it was minor. "He tweaked a little bit there at the end but I think he'll be fine. (Trainer) Bud (Carpenter) thought it was nothing more than the normal coming off an injury getting back to full speed."

---Mark Gaughan

Dareus starting at left DE

Buffalo Bills first-round draft pick Marcell Dareus started at left defensive end on the team's three-man defensive line to open training camp today. That's right where one would expect him. His 319-pound body is on the strong side of the offense's running formation.

Here's how the starting Bills defense lined up: Line -- LDE: Dareus. NT: Kyle Williams. RDE: Dwan Edwards. Linebackers -- Strong-side OLB: Chris Kelsay. ILB: Andra Davis. ILB: Reggie Torbor. Weak-side OLB: Shawne Merriman. Cornerbacks: Terrence McGee and Leodis McKelvin. Free safety: Jairus Byrd. Strong safety: George Wilson. Cornerback Drayton Florence had to watch from the sideline because he's not allowed to practice until Aug. 4.

Here was the second-team defense: DL: Alex Carrington, Torell Troup, Spencer Johnson. LBs: Antonio Coleman, Arthur Moats, Chris White, Aaron Maybin. CBs: Aaron Williams, Justin Rogers. Safeties: Jon Corto, Bryan Scott. Rookie third-round draft pick Kelvin Sheppard will likely step in for White when he arrives at camp.

The starting offensive linemen were, left to right: Demetrius Bell, Andy Levitre, Eric Wood, Kraig Urbik and Erik Pears. The second-string offensive linemen were, left to right: Ed Wang, Mike Rinehart, Geoff Hangartner, Mansfield Wrotto and Chris Hairston. The third-team offensive linemen were, left to right: Wang, Colin Brown, Michael Switzer, Isaiah Thompson and Jason Watkins.

---Mark Gaughan

Notes on Gailey-Nix Friday

Here were the main developments Friday on reporting day at Buffalo Bills training camp in lovely Pittsford (besides the signing of draft choices):

x-Chan Gailey said Eric Wood will practice at center along with Geoff Hangartner. Wood is the most talented lineman on the team. The Bills think center is his best spot. And they like the talent of Kraig Urbik and Mike Rinehart at right guard. They think those two are big and nasty - with talent (both are third-round picks). So unless Urbik and Rinehart both disappoint, count on Wood being the starting center.

x-Gailey compares new free-agent signee Brad Smith with Kordell Stewart. This is an intriguing comparison. Gailey brought out the best in Stewart's multi-dimensional talent when he created the "Slash" role for him with the Pittsburgh Steelers. We'll see if it works as well with Smith in Buffalo. It says here chances are good it will.

x-Gailey says Smith and C.J. Spiller both will serve as kickoff returners. Smith's presence does not mean Spiller won't return kickoffs. And Gailey said some others will get shots on KOR too.

x-Gailey says it's important to have three starting caliber cornerbacks, and the retention of Drayton Florence gives the Bills that. Said Gailey: "With the addition of him I think that gives us three quality corners we can go out and play on a week in and week out basis. Then if Aaron (Williams) comes in and does what we think he can do, it gives us more depth and I think we’ve got a chance to be very, very solid at that position."

x-In one breath, GM Buddy Nix sounded like he's not too eager to go looking for an inside linebacker to replace Paul Posluszny. Besides veterans Andra Davis and Reggie Torbor, Nix said, "We have the two drafted guys and we're working (Arthur) Moats in there right now. ... I wouldn't want somebody to take snaps away from them (the young guys). I think they can progress along with our team. We’re pretty young anyway and kinda move forward with those guys. We know they’ve got the ability it’s a matter of getting them up to speed." Pressed on it, Nix wouldn't rule out bringing in another veteran. There are a number of free-agent options, including ex-Charger Kevin Burnett, who was visiting Miami Friday night.

x-Cornerback Reggie Corner and tackle Cordaro Howard will open on the physically unable to perform list. They aren't quite ready to practice yet.

---Mark Gaughan

 

Williams signs; Crowder cut

The Bills have signed second-round draft pick Aaron Williams of the University of Texas. Williams was the 34th overall pick in the draft and will be ready for Saturday's opening practice of training camp.

Meanwhile, the Miami Dolphins have cut inside linebacker Channing Crowder. He loves Bills defensive coordinator George Edwards. He was starting inside next to Dolphins star Karlos Dansby. But Crowder was scheduled to make $5 million a year this season. Crowder is 27.

This prompted ex-Bills linebacker Kawika Mitchell to tweet: "Buffalo. You have a new LB heading your way. That's my guess."

It's not a bad guess. The question on Crowder will be his health. He's a talented athlete and he's a high-character player. But how much wear and tear he has on his knees would be an evaluation for a team's medical staff to make. He has missed 14 games the past four years.

---Mark Gaughan

Food for Pats Haters

Jason Whitlock of FoxSports.com is one of my favorite sports columnists. Today he criticizes the New England Patriots' signings of Albert Haynesworth and Chad Ochocinco as arrogance on the part of Patriots coach Bill Belichick. Haynesworth, he says, doesn't love the game. Ditto, he says for the attention-whore Ochocinco. We agree with those two points. ... However, Whitlock hasn't sat through the last 15 Patriots wins over the Bills. Therefore, he's less leery of criticizing Belichick than just about any Bills fan.

Here's a link to the column: http://msn.foxsports.com/nfl/story/Whitlock-New-England-Patriots-Bill-Belichick-cant-salvage-Albert-Haynesworth-Chad-Ochocinco-072911

---Mark Gaughan

Tickets going on sale for 'Skins in TO

The Bills have announced tickets will be going on sale for their game against the Washington Redskins in Toronto on Oct. 30. It's a 4:05 p.m. game.

People who already have tickets to the eight-game Toronto series can buy starting 10 a.m. Wednesday via Ticketmaster. Fans who are "Bills Toronto Series Insiders" can buy starting 10 a.m. Thursday via Ticketmaster. Fans can become an insider by registering at www.billsintoronto.com. Tickets go on sale to the general public at 10 a.m. Aug. 25 via the Bills in Toronto website, Ticketmaster and at the Rogers Centre box office. The Bills are 0-3 in the regular season at the Rogers Centre. This could be their best chance to get a win there, since the Redskins are in rebuilding mode.

---Mark Gaughan

 

Bills' first-rounder Dareus gets $20.4 million deal

The Buffalo Bills today reached a contract agreement with first round draft choice Marcell Dareus. Dareus, a defensive end from the University of Alabama, was the third overall pick in the NFL draft. His contract is worth $20.4 million for four years, according to a league source. It is fully guaranteed, as are the contracts of most of the first-round draft choices this year.

The Bills will have an option to retain him for a fifth year, according to league rules.

Dareus, a 6-3, 323-pounder, will step in immediately as a starter on the Bills' three-man defensive line. The Bills are counting on his presence to help improve the 32nd-ranked run defense in the NFL.

Dareus was the defensive Most Valuable Player in Alabama's victory over Texas in the January 2010 national championship game.

The Bills have also signed Da'Norris Searcy, a defensive back taken in the fourth round, and Johnny White, a running back taken in the fifth round.

The Bills have signed seven of their nine draft picks.

 

---Mark Gaughan

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