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Bills making a charge after Pickett

The Buffalo Bills entertained another potential cornerstone of their rebuilding defense on Tuesday.

St. Louis Rams free agent defensive tackle Ryan Pickett visited One Bills Drive, and the team hopes he joins recent signee Larry Tripplett to form a dynamic duo at defensive tackle.

Meanwhile, the Bills re-signed their Pro Bowl long-snapper, Mike Schneck, and also entertained a starting guard candidate, restricted free agent Reggie Wells of the Arizona Cardinals.

Pickett was a first-round draft pick in 2001 but he's only 26. He's a 6-foot-2, 315-pounder who played nose tackle in the Rams' four-man defensive front. That's exactly the role in which the Bills would use him. The Bills' new defensive line coach, Bill Kollar, coached Pickett the past five years in St. Louis.

The nose tackle in the Bills' new defense is the run-plugger who plays over the center. The other defensive tackle is a quick penetrator who plays a "3 technique," which means he lines up on the outside shoulder of one of the guards and fills the "B gap," which is the space between the guard and the tackle.

Tripplett, whom the Bills inked to a five-year, $18 million deal on Saturday, played the 3 technique in Indianapolis. Under new defensive coordinator Perry Fewell, Buffalo is adopting the defensive scheme played by Tampa Bay, Indianapolis, St. Louis and Chicago.

Pickett also is being hotly pursued by Green Bay, which he visited on Sunday. St. Louis also would like him back. Pickett had his best season last year for the Rams. He's considered to have good upper body strength and stacks up the run well. He can get some push into the backfield with his bull rushing.

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The signing of Schneck to a four-year deal, meanwhile, is sure to please Bills punter Brian Moorman and kicker Rian Lindell. The Bills signed Schneck the week before the regular season after he was cut by Pittsburgh. Schneck was added to the Pro Bowl roster after the season as a "need" pick by AFC coach Mike Shanahan. The Bills' kicking game produced 132 snap opportunities last season, and each was handled successfully by the Bills' punter and holder.
The fact Wells is a restricted free agent -- he has fewer than four years experience -- means he will be more difficult to acquire.

The Cardinals tendered him an offer last month, meaning they have the right to match any offer the Bills make. Arizona entered free agency with about $28 million in cap space. If Wells accepted an offer from the Bills and Arizona chose not to match it, the Bills would have to give the Cardinals a sixth-round draft choice (that's where Wells was taken by Arizona in 2003).

Wells, 6-4 and 320, is a promising lineman who is only 25. He started all of 2004's games and the first nine games of 2005 at left guard for Arizona, and was considered the Cardinals' best offensive lineman this year until his injury. He broke his ankle in the ninth game.

"I felt I was improving vastly from my second year to my third year and it was a shame I got hurt . . . but that's part of the game," Wells said.

Rod Graves, Arizona's vice president of football operations, said the Cardinals intend to match any offer Wells gets unless "somebody did something totally unexpected. Then we would have to discuss our position," Graves said.

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The Bills are expected to have more free-agent visitors this week. Defensive tackle Jermaine Haley, a former Miami Dolphin who was out of the NFL last season, is expected to visit, along with safety Keyon Nash, who has seen time with Oakland the past four seasons. There were indications out of New York the Bills may invite Jets free-agent left tackle Jason Fabini for a visit.

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Former Bills tackle Mike Williams, cut by Buffalo a week before free agency, signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars. Williams got a two-year deal worth $5 million with a $2 million signing bonus. He had been scheduled to get $7 million this year from the Bills. He was paid $23 million over the past four years in Buffalo.

e-mail: mgaughan@buffnews.com

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