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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."

 

 

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

SS Howell among Bills free-agent rookies

Stanford strong safety Delano Howell was among the more highly regarded undrafted rookies who have agreed to terms with the Buffalo Bills.

The Bills announced a list of 10 rookie free-agent acquisitions. They include Richmond quarterback Aaron Corp, who played the past two years at the Virginia school after transferring from the University of Southern California.

Howell was a first-team All-Pac 12 Conference pick at strong safety in 2011 despite missing three games with a hand injury. He made seven interceptions and was a three-year starter for the Cardinal, starting 33 games overall. Howell, 5-foot-11 and 210 pounds, ran a 4.65-second time in the 40-yard dash at the NFL Scouting Combine, but improved the time to about 4.55 seconds at Stanford's pro day in March. He won the team’s the Jack Huston Award, given to the player who best exemplifies aggressiveness, exceptional performance and unheralded efforts. ESPN analyst Mel Kiper had Howell rated 11th among all safeties in the draft. "He plays faster than he times, and he has very good instincts," Kiper said.

Corp, 6-4 and 213, was beaten out at Southern Cal by Matt Barkley and then transferred to the Football Championship Series level. He started all 11 games last fall, completing 63.7 percent of his passes. He passed for 244 yards a game and had 17 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. Richmond won its first three games, then finished the season with eight straight losses. Corp set an FCS single game completion percentage record by hitting 31 of 34 passes (91.2 percent) in a 31-28 loss to Towson.

Here's a roundup of the others who agreed to terms. (They are expected to sign contracts before the Bills' rookie minicamp on May 11):

P Shawn Powell, Florida State. 6-3 1-2, 245. A three-year starter and Florida State’s all-time punting leader. He led the NCAA with a 47.0-yard gross average in 2011. Of his 57 punts last season, 24 went for 50 or more yards. He had 23 punts inside the 20 and 14 inside the 10.

RB Chris Douglas, Missouri State. 5-9, 207. Ran 4.47. Rushed for 1,051 yards as a junior and 559 yards as a senior for a 2-9 team. He averaged 6.9 yards a carry his junior year.

C-G David Snow, Texas. 6-3, 294. Appeared in 52 games and made 32 starts in his Longhorns career. He started all 13 games at left guard as a senior and 12 games at center as a junior. He graduated with a degree in corporate communications. He was a second-team Associated Press All-Big 12 pick.

G Paul Madsen, Colorado State. 6-4, 312. Started 30 games in his career. Second-team All-Mountain West Conference as a senior. He’s 26. He delayed the start of his college career because he went on a two-year Morman mission. One of his older brothers, Mark Madsen, played nine years in the NBA, with the Lakers and Timberwolves.

S Nick Sukay, Penn State. 6-1, 209. He played in the first nine games of the season before suffering a torn pectoral muscle against Illinois. He missed the last four. He had started 19 straight games up until his injury and had three interceptions before the injury. He still made second-team All Big 10 in 2011.

CB Chris Hill, Virginia Tech. 5-11, 177. Played in 52 games over four years and started seven, five his senior year. He was a standout special-teamer for the Hokies.

LB Garrick Williams, Texas A&M, 6-2, 234. Started 33 games in his career. Started out as an outside linebacker but shifted inside as a junior with the team’s shift to a 3-4 scheme. Probably projects as an inside linebacker in a 4-3 defense.

SS Ian Wild, Mercyhurst. 6-0, 220. He’s a linebacker from Division III Mercyhurst who projects as a strong safety in training camp.

---Mark Gaughan

 

Post-draft Chat with Mark Gaughan

Johnson to have minor surgery

Bills receiver Stevie Johnson will wake up Monday in Philadelphia, where he's scheduled to have surgery on his groin.

Johnson tweeted that news himself tonight. His agent, C.J. Laboy, said in a text message to The News that it's "not a serious surgery" and has a "very brief" recovery time.

Johnson was nagged nearly all of last season by the injury, but battled through it to become the team's first-ever receiver to post back-to-back 1,000-yard seasons. He did not miss a game.

Johnson finished with 76 catches for 1,004 yards and has 17 touchdown catches over the past two years.

The Bills rewarded him this offseason with a five-year, $36.25 million contract extension.

---Jay Skurski

http://twitter.com/jayskurski

Bradham, Road to Draft

Here's a revisit of our Road to the Draft item on Bradham from a month ago.

Nigel Bradham, OLB, Florida State
6-foot-2, 241 pounds
Draft projection: Third round

Lowdown: Bradham was a three-year starter and led the Seminoles in tackles all three years. He was a team captain. He has long arms and shows the toughness to be a capable strong-side linebacker in the 4-3 defense. He did well at the Senior Bowl and at the NFL Scouting Combine, posting good marks in the 40-yard dash (4.64 seconds) and the vertical jump (37 inches). He played mostly weak-side backer for the Seminoles but saw time inside, too. How fluid he is in space and how well he’d hold up in coverage in the NFL is a bit of a question. But he’s durable and fearless, and he can shed blocks and make tackles. The Florida State defense was ranked fourth in the country, second against the run.

Gilmore happy to be in football town

Buffalo Bills first-round draft choice Stephon Gilmore was introduced today in Orchard Park and projected an all-business attitude toward his new career as a professional football player.

"I like being physical," said Gilmore, the 6-foot, 190-pound cornerback from South Carolina. "I think that’s the strongest part of my game. I like the physical part, the hard-nosed part of playing football. I just love playing the game. I’ve been playing it since I was 7 years old and I enjoy playing it."

Gilmore said that attitude is pervasive in his hometown of Rock Hill, S.C.

"In South Carolina, you’re either a Clemson fan or a South Carolina fan," Gilmore said. "So we breathe football down there. Hard-nosed football. That’s all we know. So luckily I got drafted to a football town. I’m happy to be here."

Gilmore, the 10th overall pick on Thursday, worked hard in the classroom as well as on the field. He made the Southeastern Conference academic honor roll numerous times. He graduated high school a half a year early and was able to start classes at South Carolina in January of 2009. He carried a 3.22 grade-point average at South Carolina as a sport and entertainment management major, and he's just two semesters away from graduating, even though he has left college a year and a half early.

The Bills had Gilmore into town for a visit before the draft. He was one of their 30 allowed prospect visits in the month leading up to the selection process. He said he figured Buffalo was a possible destiantion.

"I wasn’t surprised," said Gilmore. "I knew they were in the hunt of picking me, and I’m happy they chose me and I’m happy to be part of this organization, and I’m just ready to play some football now."

The Bills have had two other draft picks from Rock Hill, S.C. Cornerback Jeff Burris, the No. 1 pick in 1994, was from the city. So was safety Ko Simpson, a fourth-round pick in 2006. Rock Hill also produced NFL great defensive back Donnie Shell, who starred for the Pittsburgh Steelers in the 1970s. Shell went to South Carolina State, and he's in the College Football Hall of Fame. Rock Hill is a city of 66,000, fourth largest in the state, and it's located near the northern border, close to North Carolina.

---Mark Gaughan

Gilmore pick boosts Bills pass defense

NFL Draft Football_Conn-2

The Buffalo Bills bolstered their pass defense Thursday night by taking South Carolina cornerback Stephon Gilmore with the 10th overall pick in the NFL Draft.

Gilmore is a big corner with speed. He’s 6-foot and 190 pounds, and he ran a 4.40-second time in the 40-yard dash.

Gilmore is considered a “clean" pick. He has an extensive track record of production on the field, with 40 college starts. He has been an honor-roll student at South Carolina.

Bills starters Terrence McGee and Drayton Florence are getting older. For the long term, the Bills could put Gilmore next to Aaron Williams, last year’s 34th overall pick, and they would have two physical corners to match up with the new wave of big wideouts in the NFL.

The Bills liked Southern California left tackle Matt Kalil but trading up for him didn’t turn out to be an option. Minnesota, holding the fourth pick, opted to not trade down and picked Kalil.

The Bills ranked 26th in the NFL on defense last year. They took a big step toward improving that figure by signing pass rushers Mario Williams and Mark Anderson in free agency.

Gilmore gets high marks for his work ethic and intangibles, as well as his consistency on the field.

“I think he’s a physical player," Bills national scout Darrell Moody said. “He’s got excellent size, and he has a good body of work. He’s been a three-year starter. I think he has played well against the run and played well against the pass, bump and Cover 2 and off-man and off-zone. I think he’s a complete player."

--Mark Gaughan

(Photo: NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell and Bills first-round pick Stephon Gilmore pose for photos in Radio City Music Hall.)

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