By Jay Skurski
The Buffalo News has learned the Buffalo Bills have released safety George Wilson.
The move comes after a season in which the seven-year veteran started all 16 games and served as a defensive captain and NFL Players Association team representative.
Wilson, 31, made 104 tackles and defended five passes, but failed to record any "big plays," registering zero sacks, interceptions or forced fumbles. In two close losses -- to Tennessee in Week Seven and St. Louis in Week 14 -- Wilson dropped would-be interceptions late in the fourth quarter that would have sealed two Buffalo victories.
"It ended up ricocheting off the palm of my hand and bouncing away from me. Those are the plays you end up replaying in your head over and over again and wishing the ball would have bounced your way," he said after the loss to the Rams.
Wilson was entering the final year of his contract. His release saves the Bills $2.925 million on the 2013 salary cap.
Wilson began his NFL career as a wide receiver, but could never get a foothold at the position as he bounced between the practice squad and active roster from 2004-06, appearing in just three games and failing to make even a single reception.
His career took off when he switched to safety prior to the 2007 season. He’s made 55 career starts since that time, registering 410 tackles, 3.5 sacks, 12 interceptions and three forced fumbles. Wilson's best season came in 2011, when he made 106 tackles, six passes defensed, four interceptions and two forced fumbles in 13 games. He missed three games that season because of a neck injury.
Nicknamed "The Senator" among media members because of his oratory skills, Wilson was one of the Bills' strongest voices of leadership in the locker room. This past season was the fifth consecutive one he was voted as a team captain, the first four of which came on special team.
Wilson has also been heavily involved in the Western New York community during his time with the Bills, twice being named the team’s Walter Payton Man of the Year (in 2009 and 2011). He’s served as a spokesman for the American Red Cross, promoting the team's annual blood drive at Ralph Wilson Stadium and worked closely with the NFL’s Play 60 challenge to encourage at least 60 minutes of physical fitness a day among children.
He's also started his own SAFETY Foundation, which has hosted Thanksgiving turkey drives in the Buffalo area and a youth retreat and football camp in Wilson's hometown of Paducah, Ky.
The Bills' other starting safety, Pro Bowler Jairus Byrd, is scheduled to become an unrestricted free agent, but the team can keep Byrd by using its franchise tag, which would guarantee him a one-year salary of about $6.8 million.
Wilson began splitting time last season with Da'Norris Searcy, who will be entering his third year in 2013. If the Bills decide Searcy's not right for the job, however, they could pursue safety LaRon Landry, who spent last season with the New York Jets under defensive coordinator Mike Pettine, who now holds the same position with the Bills.
Landry had a solid bounce-back season with New York, making his first Pro Bowl after two injury-shortened seasons with the Washington Redskins in 2010-11. He recorded 100 tackles, two interceptions and four forced fumbles with the Jets.
taggedDa'Norris Searcy | George Wilson | LaRon Landry