Bills released WLB Nick Barnett.
The move clears Barnett’s $3.5 million base salary off the books and frees up just over $3 million in cap room. Barnett turns 32 in May, but graded out as a top-ten 4-3 outside linebacker in Pro Football Focus’ 2012 ratings and should have some gas left in the tank according to Rotoworld. He’s also “scheme versatile,” having played in both 3-4 and 4-3 schemes. Rotoworld suspects that Barnett will find a starting job in 2013.
The Vikings could decide look for a new WLB with Erin Henderson set to hit the free agent market. He is a little older than the “build with youth” mantra that GM Rick Spielman has taken so far but Barnett is productive.
By adding a player like Barnett the Vikings could draft a long-term option in a later round (Sio Moore, Jelani Jenkins or Zaviar Gooden come to mind) and get a potential immediate upgrade over Henderson.
Many will not like the idea of another former Green Bay Packer coming to the Minnesota Vikings but he remains an option.
Bills release SS Wilson
Bills also released SS George Wilson which clears $2.9 million in base salary off the books, bringing Buffalo’s total Monday savings to $6.4 million when combined with WLB Nick Barnett’s release.
Pro Football Focus graded Wilson as the No. 8 safety in the entire league in 2012, but the new Bills coaching staff obviously didn’t regard him as highly. Wilson turns 32 this offseason. He can still cover and fills hard in run support, so he should have a good chance to land on his feet according to Rotoworld.
The Vikings need to find a starter next to Harrison Smith. Jarmarca Sanford is up and down and seems like a better backup than a starter. Mistral Raymond hasn’t seemed like the answer either although he did improve down the stretch. The wildcard is 2012 rookie Robert Blanton who has been given a chance to show is worth on the field yet. He is transitiioning from college corner back to NFL safety. He could be the long-term answer.
If not the draft has some intriguing talent like Fresno’s Philip Thomas or FIU’s Jonathan Cyprien in the day two or three range. They could reach and grab Kenny Vaccaro, Matt Elam or Eric Reid early in the draft but that position doesn’t feel like as big a “need” area as other positions.
Both Wilson and Barnett are “older” players that the Vikings avoided in 2012. It will be interesting to see if Spielman continues to stick to his guns with the youth movement or tasted some success and is willing to take a chance on some veterans.
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