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Chan on Merriman & Brad

Bills utilityman Brad Smith averaged 3.7 touches a game last season, counting snaps as quarterback, receiver and kickoff returner. His impact was less than imagined when the team signed him as a free agent in July.

Gailey on Smith’s role next season: “I see him as a three-headed monster. Wildcat. Receiver. Special teams. I see him being all three of those and when he walks out there on the field they’re not sure what’s going to happen.”

Meanwhile, Gailey was predictably conservative about predicting a return to Pro Bowl form for veteran edge rusher Shawne Merriman, who is recovering from Achilles tendon surgery.

“I don’t know,” Gailey said. “I mean, the setback was not good. Now how far does he have to go? I don’t even know how far back he is, and I don’t know how far he has to go. I don’t know where those two ends are. He got hurt again. So now we’re back to square one or below square one maybe.”

Gailey said Merriman will get the chance to prove he can come back. “Yeah. The key is for us to get him healthy. Let’s get him healthy and let’s see what he can do.”

If he can come back, Merriman will not play outside linebacker in the 4-3 scheme. “I’d rather him not. I think we’d rather him be a right defensive end rushing the passer all the time.”

Below is the audio of the Gailey interview.

---Mark Gaughan


Chan rocks 'Fitz look'

Bills coach Chan Gailey has added a well-trimmed beard since the end of the season. In terms of size, it's no match for the one quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick has grown the past two regular seasons. In terms of style, it's far superior.

"I joked with him that he can have it during the season and I’ll take it in the offseason," Gailey said of Fitzpatrick. "I’ve never done this. I thought I’d try it and see what it looks like. If I like it, I’ll keep it. And if I don’t, I’ll get rid of it – unless my wife says get rid of it earlier."

---Mark Gaughan


Gailey points to edge rush, OT needs

Bills coach Chan Gailey talked about his team's obvious need to improve the pass rush during an interview with The News at the NFL Scouting Combine today.

Asked to assess the pass rush, Gailey said: "Lacking. There’s no other way to say it. If you take away one game, we had not a very good year of rushing the passer, and that’s probably saying it the nicest way I can say it. We have got to be able to get more pressure on the passer."

Gailey acknowledged providing new defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt with more pass-rush talent - either in free agency or the draft or both - is a priority. The Bills ranked 27th in sacks per pass attempt in 2011. But take away the 10 sacks they had against Washington and they would have ranked last.

"I go back to what Dave said, we’ve got to get better winning one on ones," Gailey said. "That’s going to create better pass rush (rather) than some fancy scheme that comes out of nowhere. There’s only certain ways to rush the passer. If somebody can beat a block, that’s the key."

Pass rusher is one player the Bills could target with the 10th overall pick in the draft. Reading between the lines of Gailey's comments, offensive tackle is another. Gailey acknowledged the Bills are not necessarily set at a lot of positions - outside of maybe running back and center. There is room for more security at left tackle. Chris Hairston, a rookie in 2011, is presently at the top of the depth chart at left tackle. Demetrius Bell is due to be a free agent.

"I think Chris played good not great," Gailey said. "I think that he has the chance to be very good before it’s over with. I don’t know if he’ll get there. But I think he has a chance to. He’s got some work to do. Demetrius – the key for him is to stay healthy. That’s the key for a guy like that. He certainly has the quickness and the speed to play over there, do that job. But I don’t know if we’re good enough to say we can discount very many positions right now. ... I guess I’m saying if there’s a great one sitting there, you really have to discuss that. It’s not like that position is so firm and settled that you wouldn’t have that discussion. If there was a center sitting there you wouldn’t have that discussion."

---Mark Gaughan



'Mouse' McNally hired as Bengals consultant

Jim "Mouse" McNally is back in the NFL as a consultant. The Cincinnati Bengals on Wednesday announced that McNally, who began his 28-year NFL coaching career with Cincinnati, will consult with offensive line coach Paul Alexander.

The team's website said McNally will break down film of the Bengals and their opponents while making periodic visits to Cincinnati during the offseason, OTAs, minicamp and training camp.

McNally is a graduate of the University at Buffalo and Kenmore West. In 2008 he was inducted to the Greater Buffalo Sports Hall of Fame. His last NFL job was as Buffalo Bills' offensive line coach from 2004-2007.

---Greg Connors

Bills restructure McGee's contract

---The Bills and veteran cornerback Terrence McGee reached a compromise on his contract that will allow him to remain with the team for a 10th season.

McGee, who has missed 17 games to injury over the past two seasons, agreed to a restructuring of his contract that will give the Bills some injury protection this year. McGee will have his base salary for 2012 reduced. However, he has the chance to earn back all the base salary he was scheduled to make this year if he hits incentives based on playing time and being on the active roster.

The 31-year-old McGee was due to make $3.6 million in base salary this season.

"I think it's the right deal for both parties, based on where we are right now," said McGee's Buffalo-based agent, Ron Raccuia.

McGee played well when he was on the field in 2011, but he only played in six games, all starts. He missed four games with a hamstring injury and then missed the final six games with a torn patella tendon in his knee. He's scheduled to be ready to fully participate in football work by May.

"Terrence was fine with the situation and understands the team's position," Raccuia said. "The deal gives the Bills some protection because of the injuries Terrence has suffered the last two seasons, but still allows him to reach the money in the original deal if he's healthy and playing."

McGee originally signed a 5-year, $27-million deal in 2009. It runs through the 2013 season.

---Rodney McKissic


Stage set for Combine

---Mike Mayock has his pre-Combine rankings as does SI's Tony Pauline with his top 50 rankings while Heisman Trophy winner Robert Griffin III, pictured above, hopes to wow teams during his interview process. Also, there's quarterbacks other than Griffin and Andrew Luck who will try and make a name for themselves.

Before players at the Combine talk to teams, they are subjected to various medical tests and those with injury histories are heavily scrutinized.

Wednesday begins the evaluation at the Combine and in addition to being measured, weighed, timed in running drills and evaluated in strength and jumping exercises, the players will go through interviews with teams. Kickers, special-teams players, offensive linemen and tight ends arrive to Indianapolis and begin the evaluation process Wednesday, with quarterbacks, receivers and receivers set to report Thursday, defensive linemen and linebackers showing up Friday, and defensive backs on Saturday.

--Rodney McKissic


Update: Routt signs with Chiefs

Update: According to multiple reports, Stanford Routt has agreed to terms on a three-year, $20 million deal with the Kansas City Chiefs.


Stanford Routt, who visited the Bills last week, is expected to make a decision as early as today according to several reports.

The Kansas City Chiefs are in the hunt and are believed to be the front-runner. Routt has visited the Bills along with the Chiefs and Bengals. The Titans are believed to still be involved.

Routt's release from Oakland came a day before his $5 million base salary for 2012 would have been fully guaranteed.

--Rodney McKissic



Bills not expected to tag Stevie

NFL teams can begin using franchise tags on their prospective free agents today but don’t expect the Buffalo Bills to use that option on wide receiver Stevie Johnson.

A league source told The Buffalo News that Johnson isn’t expecting to receive the franchise tag from the Bills, and despite swapping contract proposals recently the two sides are far apart on negotiations. The franchise tag option hasn’t been discussed during negotiations with Johnson, the source told The News.

Johnson’s agent, C.J. LaBoy, was unavailable for comment.

The Associated Press first reported the development citing a person familiar with discussions. Johnson’s representatives countered a Bills offer last week and the two sides agreed to meet at this week’s NFL Combine in Indianapolis.  

The Bills haven’t applied the franchise tag since 2006, when they designated cornerback Nate Clements, the team’s first-round pick and 21st pick overall in 2001. Clements signed the $7.2 million offer, under the condition the team would allow him to become a free agent the following season. Clements exercised that option and became, at the time, the highest-paid defensive player in NFL history after signing an eight-year, $80 million  deal, with $22 million guaranteed, with the San Francisco 49ers.

--Rodney McKissic


Williams rehab right on schedule

---Bills defensive coordinator and assistant head coach Dave Wannstedt said Thursday that defensive tackle Kyle Williams is on schedule to return from a bone spurs injury to his left foot. Williams, who said he should be ready by training camp, missed most of last season due to the injury.

"Kyle was in town last week and he came back just for his checkups and everything is right on schedule,'' said Wannstedt, who spoke to the media on Thursday at One Bills Drive. "There has not been a setback in any form or fashion. When he’s going to be cleared to do something and how much, I don’t know, but we’re looking forward to him having a great year, we really are.''

Wannstedt also gave an update on cornerback Terrence McGee (knee), who the coach said might take a little bit longer to return than Williams, but a source told The News that McGee expects to receive medical clearance by May.

"No negative reports, when (McGee) will be cleared," Wannstedt said. "I think Kyle will probably be a little bit ahead of him because of the timing and the type of injury but really with the good news was the injuries that we had were relatively early in the year for the most part and it gave us some extra time from a recovery standpoint in the offseason so that we have not had any negative reports, by that I mean if the guy is behind schedule or had setbacks that might prevent him from being ready."

---Rodney McKissic


Source: Bills, Johnson exchange proposals

---The Buffalo Bills and representatives for Stevie Johnson have exchanged proposals and are expected to meet at next week’s NFL Combine, a league source told The Buffalo News.

The Bills submitted a proposal over a week ago and Johnson’s agent, C.J. LaBoy, countered the team’s offer on Monday, according to the source. There have been no further talks although the two sides are scheduled to meet next week in Indianapolis.

The 25-year-old Johnson started all 16 games in 2011 and finished with 76 receptions for 1,004 yards and seven touchdowns.

---Rodney McKissic


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