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Manny Lawson signing suggests Bills want 3-4 component

By Tim Graham and Mark Gaughan

The Buffalo Bills have announced their first signing of the free-agent period, adding Manny Lawson to their defense.

Lawson and Bills defensive end Mario Williams formed a magnificent pass-rushing tandem at North Carolina State and were first-round draft choices in 2006. The San Francisco 49ers selected Lawson 22nd overall.

Lawson played in the 4-3 the past two seasons with Cincinnati, but his best fit is as a 3-4 strong-side linebacker. He filled that role in San Francisco for three years, from 2007 to 2010.

Lawson is not a coverage guy, which is why he played only a third of the snaps last season for the Bengals. They played a lot of nickel defense, and he came off the field.

His signing is a further indication of the Bills' desire to have a 3-4 as a key element of their defensive scheme. He started 25 games for the Bengals. He didn't get a ton of chances as a pure pass rusher for them. He played under one-year contracts the past two years in Cincinnati.

Lawson, 6-foot-5, has prototypical size for a stand-up outside linebacker -- one reason he was a first-round pick. His signing is a projection in the sense that the Bills are counting on him being more productive in their scheme than he has been in the past.

He had 6.5 sacks for the Niners in 2009. But since then his rush chances diminished, and he produced 2.5, 1.5 and 2.0 sacks. He's still young, due to turn 29 in July.

He has 18 sacks, two interceptions and seven forced fumbles, five recoveries and three blocked kicks in his career.


Manny Lawson | Mario Williams
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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |