Share this article

print logo

Florence becomes expendable; Draft sealed fate of veteran cornerback

Drayton Florence became a victim Friday of the Buffalo Bills' movement to get more talented and younger at the cornerback position.

Florence was released by the Bills, a week after the team selected two cornerbacks in the first four rounds of the NFL Draft. The Bills took South Carolina's Stephon Gilmore with the 10th overall pick in the draft and Louisiana State's Ron Brooks in the fourth round.

The move paves the way for Gilmore to win a starting job and for the Bills to get faster across the board at the position.

"I want to thank Drayton for all he's done for our team during his three years in Buffalo," Bills General Manager Buddy Nix said 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."

Gilmore becomes a favorite to start opposite veteran Terrence McGee. Second-year man Aaron Williams presumably will push McGee for a starting job and figures to take the field in outside coverage in passing situations, 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 backs) scheme, something they used almost never the past couple of 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. Brooks, who ran a 40-yard dash time of 4.35 seconds before the draft, covered outside receivers and worked in the slot for Louisiana State. 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.

The Bills are likely to keep six cornerbacks on the 53-man roster. The other corners on the roster are Prince Miller, a second-year man from Georgia, and Chris Hill, an undrafted rookie from Virginia. Miller was on the Bills' practice squad last season. In 2010, he spent a month on the Ravens' roster and a month on the Lions' roster.

Florence had two years left on a contract that he signed last 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."

Nevertheless, the draft showed the Bills were unsatisfied with the corner position.

Florence was part of a secondary that ranked 19th in passing yards allowed and 25th in passing yards-per-attempt allowed. The Bills had one of the worst pass rushes in the NFL. Florence, 31, was Buffalo's second lowest-rated cornerback in terms of pass coverage by Profootballfocus.com. He 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.

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 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.

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.

email: mgaughan@buffnews.com