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BILLS MAKE BIG ADDITION WITH ANDERSON
VETERAN GUARD CHECKS IN AT 6-5, 345

Bennie Anderson has a soft-spoken personality, but his appearance speaks volumes for what he brings to the Buffalo Bills.

The hulking 6-foot-5, 345-pound free agent became newest addition to the Bills' offensive line Thursday after signing a three-year, $5.1 million contract.

Anderson, 28, started 46 games in four years with the Baltimore Ravens, including 12 at right guard last season.

Carolina and Tampa Bay were among the teams interested in Anderson, but he said Buffalo was his first and only choice after visiting the team on March 18.

"To come to a franchise with so much tradition and a great fan base, what more could you ask for?" said Anderson, whose contract includes a $1.5 million signing bonus. "It's a great opportunity for me to blossom along with the team. I'm looking forward to coming in and helping in any way I can."

Anderson played right guard in Baltimore, but he's expected to start at left guard, where Ross Tucker and Lawrence Smith shared time last season.

Anderson is a physical, road-grading run blocker who can overwhelm defenders at the point of attack. Pulling, trapping and playing with an athletic style are not considered to be his strong suits. He's a good, but not great, pass protector.

Anderson said he's only scratched the surface of his potential, and is looking forward to working with Bills offensive line coach Jim McNally.

"He was a big factor in me coming here," Anderson said. "He's one of the best in the business and I feel I can continue to blossom under him."

Anderson's strength as a run blocker will come in handy. The Bills have a rising star in running back Willis McGahee, who is coming off a 1,000-yard season.

Anderson is used to opening holes for good backs. In Baltimore, he was part of a line that helped Jamal Lewis run for 2,066 yards, the second-highest season total in NFL history, in 2003.

Anderson believes McGahee can have similar success this fall.

"He and Jamal have the same features," Anderson said. "They're big, powerful guys with speed and can move the pile. Any time you're blocking for a guy like that it makes your job easier."

The Bills have spent this offseason trying to bolster their offensive line after losing starting left tackle Jonas Jennings to free agency and declining to re-sign No. 3 tackle Marcus Price and backup guard Mike Pucillo. Mike Gandy was acquired in early March.

The Bills plan to take a look at starting center Trey Teague at left tackle in the spring minicamps. If the move becomes permanent, the Bills could field one of the toughest and nastiest interior lines in the NFL with Anderson and Chris Villarrial at guard and Tucker manning the center spot. All three are rugged performers who play with a mean streak.

"I don't know what my role is going to be," Anderson said. "I'll be glad to contribute in whatever capacity they want. Wherever they think is the best fit for me, I'll do that to the best of my ability."

Undrafted out of Tennessee State, Anderson played for the Chicago Enforcers of the short-lived XFL before joining the Ravens in 2001.

The Ravens decided not to pursue Anderson when he became an unrestricted free agent, opting to sign the more athletic Keydrick Vincent of Pittsburgh instead.

But Anderson is ready to move forward with the Bills.

"The organization is very classy from (President and General Manager) Tom Donahoe on down," Anderson said. "The people are very genuine. I'm familiar with Mike Mularkey from his time in Pittsburgh. He wants to put up points, so I'm looking forward to being a part of this offense."

In other Bills news, Bobby April was named the NFL's special teams coach of the year in voting by the league's special teams coaches. In his first season, April led the Bills to one of the best special teams seasons in NFL history.

April will be honored at a breakfast award ceremony on Tuesday in Reno, Nev.
e-mail: awilson@buffnews.com

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