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Video: Jackson, Fitzpatrick discuss RB's contract extension

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Bills sign RB Jackson

Buffalo Bills running back Fred Jackson has struck a two-year contract extension that keeps him tied to the team through 2014.

The deal was announced today at One Bills Drive. Jackson was entering the final year of a contract he signed in May 2009.

Jackson, 31, rushed for 934 yards in just 10 games last season before being lost for the season with a fractured fibula. At the time of his injury, his 1,376 yards from scrimmage ranked second in the NFL. Jackson accounted for 40 percent of the Bills’ offense the first 10 games.

"I'm excited because I feel like something special is about to go down and I want to be a part of it," Jackson said. "I've always said I wanted to be here, now I have the opportunity to be here."

"He is a huge piece of the puzzle for us," said Bills General Manager Buddy Nix. "We always said we want to try to keep our good players, and we've done it again today, with what we think is one of the best backs in the league."

Jackson's average salary more than doubles during the two-year extension, rising to about $4.5 million a year. It could go up to about $11 million for the two new years if he hits all incentives. Jackson has produced three straight outstanding seasons for the Bills. In 2010 he rushed for 927 yards and caught 215 yards in passes. In 2009, he rushed for 1,062 yards and caught 371 yards in passes.

Last season, Jackson led all NFL running backs in yards per carry, at 5.49 yards an attempt. That was the best total by a Bills running back since O.J. Simpson averaged 5.52 a carry in 1975.

Jackson was playing under a four-year deal that averaged $1.87 million a year. Jackson was an exclusive-rights free agent at the time he signed that deal, which meant he had little leverage in negotiations. The deal also was stuck with the NFL staring at the prospect of a lockout in 2011 that could have wiped out a full season. Had that happened, Jackson still might not have been an unrestricted free agent coming out of the lockout. He felt pressured by the circumstances to strike a deal, and he never was fully satisfied with it. Jackson wound up signing with a new agent, Buffalo-based Ron Raccuia, and he negotiated the new contract.

---Mark Gaughan

 

Stevie on MTV2 at 11 am. today

< a href="http://www.mtv.com/shows/sucker_free/series.jhtml" style="color:#439CD8;" target="_blank">Sucker Free - MTV2

 

MTV2 shot a segment billed as a day in the life of Bills receiver Stevie Johnson that is airing at 11 a.m. today on MTV2. It's part of the show Sucker Free Countdown that goes from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. Above is a brief clip that's part of the segment.

---Mark Gaughan

How CB battle shapes up

Here's how the Buffalo Bills' cornerback lineup shapes up in the wake of the release of veteran Drayton Florence (see previous blog item):

First-round draft pick Stephon Gilmore and eight-year veteran Terrence McGee are the favorites to start. Second-year man Aaron Williams will push McGee for a starting job. In the nickel defense, Gilmore and Williams are the favorites to be the outside coverage men, with McGee bumping inside on the slot.

However, there's plenty of competition, and the Bills could create more playing opportunity for cornerbacks by using a dime (six defensive back) scheme, something they used almost never the past couple seasons. Second-year man Justin Rogers saw extended action the last six games of last season and probably would open training camp as the second slot man in a dime defense. Fourth-round draft pick Ron Brooks covered outside receivers and worked in the slot for Louisiana State. The Bills tend to throw rookies into action on the outside before working them on the slot, but we'll see how fast Brooks picks things up. Leodis McKelvin, entering the last year of his contract, has been used almost exclusively outside. He will aim to have a good training camp and preseason to try to force his way into action. McKelvin also led the Bills on punt returns, averaging 19.5 yards on eight returns. That included an 80-yard TD return against Denver.

Many teams keep six cornerbacks on the 53-man roster. That would be a top six for the Bills. The Bills have two other young corners. Prince Miller is a second-year man from Georgia. In 2010, he spent a month on the Ravens' roster and a month on the Lions' roster. He was on the Bills' practice squad last season. Cris Hill is an undrafted rookie from Virginia Tech.

---Mark Gaughan

 

Bills release cornerback Florence

FLORENCE

It was apparent the selection of two cornerbacks in the first four rounds of the NFL Draft last weekend was going to be bad news for somebody on the Bills' roster of defensive backs.

That player is Drayton Florence, who was released today, the team announced. The Bills took South Carolina's Stephon Gilmore with the 10th overall pick in the draft, then selected Louisiana State's Ron Brooks in the fourth round.

"I want to thank Drayton for all he’s done for our team during his three years in Buffalo," said Bills General Manager Buddy Nix in a statement. "But we have some good, young talent at the cornerback position that has tremendous upside. They need to take as many of the reps at practice as they can to continue to develop that talent. Our defense has gone through a number of changes since the end of last season and we feel that it’s necessary to give these young corners the opportunity to be in the lineup."

Florence played about 97 percent of the defensive snaps last season. He started all 16 games each of the last two seasons. He had three interceptions each of the last two years. One of them was one of the highlight plays of the year last season, a pickoff of Tom Brady that he returned 27 yards for a touchdown to give Buffalo a 31-24 lead over New England. Buffalo won the game, 34-31.

However, Florence also was part of a secondary that ranked 19th in passing yards allowed and 25th in passing yards-per-attempt allowed. Florence will turn 32 in December. He was Buffalo's second lowest-rated cornerback in terms of pass coverage by Profootballfocus.com. Florence struggled in particular in the games at the Giants and at Dallas. He had three pass interference penalties and gave up a 60-yard completion against the Giants. The Bills' cornerbacks also were hindered by one of the worst pass rushes in the league. Florence has started 96 of 136 games in his career. He held a leadership role among Bills defensive backs in terms of his work habits and professionalism. He also brought a feisty attitude on the field to the secondary.

Florence had two years left on a contract that he re-negotiated in July. His release saves the Bills $4 million in base salary he was due to make.

Florence had this reaction on Twitter: "Business is Business no feelings move on and continue to grind Thanks for all the support"

--Mark Gaughan

(Photo: Drayton Florence celebrates his fourth-quarter interception, returned for a touchdown, that gave the Bills a 31-24 lead en route to a win over New England last season. John Hickey / Buffalo News)

Nix, Wannstedt on Junior Seau

Bills General Manager Buddy Nix and defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt released statements on today's death of NFL great Junior Seau. Nix's first two seasons in San Diego (2001 and 2002) were Seau's last two seasons with the Chargers. Wannstedt was head coach for Miami for the first two of Seau's three seasons with the Dolphins, 2003 and 2004.

Said Nix: "I am deeply saddened to hear the news of the passing of Junior Seau. This is such a tragedy and his passing will be felt by many. Junior was a great player in this league for so many years and he embodied that competitive spirit that all the great linebackers possess. My deepest sympathies and heartfelt condolences go out to his children and his entire family, his friends, the Spanos family and the Chargers organization.”

Said Wannstedt: “Hearing this news about Junior ... it’s just so tragic … it’s hard to believe. I still to this day remember the day that Junior joined our family at the Dolphins. He brought a sense of renewed energy and a spirit to the field, off the field, in the weight room, just everywhere that Junior went and everyone that Junior was associated with. He instilled a belief that we hadn’t reached our potential and that we could be better, and he would find a way to help make that happen. I just feel terrible but I know how much he loved his kids. I remember him coming to me and the first thing we talked about was what the offseason schedule would be and what was going to be our bye week schedule. Everything he was doing was centered around getting back to San Diego from Miami to be able to spend quality time with his kids. I don’t think there’s a better way a man could be remembered than in those terms."

 

 

Junior Seau in the pages of The News

Former linebacker for the Patriots, Dolphins and Chargers Junior Seau, who is dead at age 43 after apparently committing suicide today, was mentioned in a May 2011 piece written by News Sports Columnist Bucky Gleason about concussions taking a toll on athletes, causing confusion, pain and fear. An excerpt from the article:

"Experts said all irrational behavior cannot be blamed on CTE [Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy], but it also cannot be ruled out when it comes to athletes or others who have suffered multiple concussions. [Clinical professor of neurosurgery at Boston University School of Medicine Dr. Robert] Cantu wondered if former NFL linebacker Junior Seau, who last year drove his vehicle off a cliff after a domestic dispute, could be suffering from the disease. Nobody knows for sure. Doctors cannot diagnose CTE in living people, leaving many unanswered questions until their deaths."

Seau was also prominently featured in a piece written in January 2008 by News Sports Reporter Mark Gaughan shortly after the AFC Championship Game that year. Seau, then 39, played a key role in the Patriots' victory over the Chargers that improved the Pats to 18-0 before a loss to the Giants in the Super Bowl. An excerpt from that story:

"Seau was voted to the NFL's all-decade team for the 1990s. His streak of 12 straight Pro Bowls from 1991 to 2002 is tied for the third longest all time. He has played in 257 regular-season games, second most ever by a linebacker."

Gaughan also wrote about Seau prior to the linebacker's first game in Western New York in October 2000. Seau was then 31 and already a nine-time Pro Bowler. The Chargers would fall to 0-7 that day after losing to the Bills in overtime, after Doug Flutie replaced an injured Rob Johnson. An excerpt from that story, leading up to the game:

"This will be Seau's first game in Buffalo in his 11-year career. He has made the Pro Bowl nine straight years. He was on the NFL's all-decade team for the '90s. He is a sure-fire Hall of Famer and ranks up there with Dick Butkus, Ray Nitschke and Lawrence Taylor among the great linebackers to play the game."

Nix on Gilmore, Kuechly

Lots of Buffalo fans were pulling for the team to draft linebacker Luke Kuechly of Boston College with the 10th overall pick in the NFL Draft. They never got the chance, because Carolina took him one spot ahaed of Buffalo, at No. 9. Bills General Manager Buddy Nix said in an interview on 97 Rock this morning the team would have taken cornerback Stephon Gilmore ahead of Kuechly anyway.

Said Nix: "Corners are hard to find. You can find linebackers. Kuechly is a great player. He’ll be an excellent player in this league for a long time. Everybody would like to have Kuechly on their team. But (linebackers) Nigel (Bradham) and Tank Carder, those two guys we got in middle rounds we think will be really good players. There’s very few unique cornerbacks that have got size and speed and got a body of work. We thought he was one of the top two corners in the draft."

Nix also said the Bills had about four wide receivers with speed targeted around the time they took North Carolina State's T.J. Graham in the third round and three of them had been taken. The Bills traded up two spots and drafted Graham at No. 69. "They were all rated about the same for us," Nix said. The Giants to LSU's Rueben Randle at No. 63. Houston drafted Ohio State's DeVier Posey at No. 68.

---Mark Gaughan

Vince Young to work out for Bills

The Buffalo Bills plan to bring veteran free-agent quarterback Vince Young to One Bills Drive Wednesday for a workout, The News has learned through a league source.

The move comes on the heels of last weekend’s NFL Draft, during which the Bills bolstered their depth at just about every position on the team that needed it. Quarterback was not one of those spots, although Bills General Manager Buddy Nix said he would have liked to have taken a QB if the right opportunity arose. The Bills reached a deal with undrafted rookie free agent quarterback Aaron Corp of Richmond on Sunday. He's a developmental player.

Now the Bills are looking to create some significant competition for the backup quarterback job behind starter Ryan Fitzpatrick.

Young, who turns 29 in May, spent last season as a backup to Michael Vick in Philadelphia. He played in seven games and started three. The Eagles opted not to bring him back after his one-year contract ran out. Philadelphia signed ex-Bill Trent Edwards in February.

Young’s experience and great mobility could be attractive to Bills coach Chan Gailey. The Bills’ incumbent backup is Tyler Thigpen, who hardly played last year. He saw only mop-up duty in a loss at San Diego, completing 2 of 6 passes.

Fitzpatrick is entrenched as the Bills' starter. If Young signed with Buffalo, he would become the favorite to beat out Thigpen for the No. 2 spot, based on his talent and experience.

Young is 31-19 as an NFL starter. He played his first five seasons in Tennessee after being drafted third overall in the 2006 draft. Young led the University of Texas to the national championship in 2005. He lost his job in Tennessee to Kerry Collins during the 2010 season. Young wound up going 4-4 as a Titans starter that year. He was 1-2 for the Eagles last season.

Young has a career completion percentage of 57.9, and his career passer rating is 74.4. He has thrown 46 touchdown passes and 51 interceptions. He also has rushed for 1,459 yards in his career with 12 rushing touchdowns.

---Mark Gaughan

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