The Buffalo Bills filled a considerable hole at strong safety Thursday by coming to contract terms with Washington Redskins free agent Matt Bowen on a two-year contract. Bowen's deal is worth $2 million, according to NFL sources.
Bowen met with Bills head coach Dick Jauron and General Manager Marv Levy on Thursday morning. Bowen had visits to other teams lined up, but those were canceled once he arrived in Buffalo.
"He's a Bills kind of player. He's as blue collar as they come," said Jack Bechta, Bowen's San Diego, Calif.-based agent. "He's a Chicago guy, and Levy and Jauron are Chicago guys. It just felt right."
The Bills needed help at strong safety after releasing Lawyer Milloy last week. Coy Wire was the only strong safety on the roster before the Bills signed Bowen, 29, who is expected to enter minicamp as the starter.
A sixth-round draft pick by the St. Louis Rams out of Iowa in 2000, the 6-
foot-1, 203-pound Bowen is a hard-hitting safety well suited for the Cover-Two scheme that will be a part of the Bills' new defense. He is known as a smart player who plays well in zone coverage and is a physical tackler in run support.
"The system in Buffalo just really appeals to his style of play," Bechta said. "He's a cerebral, tough, blue-collar Midwest kid. It just seems like a good fit."
Bowen has played in 72 games with 30 career starts at safety and on special teams. He joined Green Bay after being released by the Rams in November, 2001 and earned six starts with the Packers the following year.
Bowen spent the last three seasons in Washington. His best year was 2003 when he started 16 games and recorded 94 tackles (73 solo), three interceptions, two sacks, two forced fumbles and two fumble recoveries.
He was having another strong season in 2004, but played in just five games due to a torn anterior cruciate knee ligament. Bowen was unable to reclaim the starting job from Ryan Clark last season, but played a key role as a reserve.
In addition to Bowen, the Bills also entertained New York Jets offensive tackle Jason Fabini and Detroit Lions defensive end Jared DeVries on Thursday.
Fabini, 31, finished last season on injured reserve with a torn pectoral muscle and missed seven games in 1999 with a torn ACL. But the 6-7, 304-pound veteran has started 114 games over his eight-year career with the Jets, who drafted him in the third round in 1998.
Fabini started 16 games at right tackle as a rookie and eight more his second year before moving to left tackle. He also started at right tackle last season before sustaining his knee injury against Carolina in Week Nine. Fabini is a powerful drive blocker who uses his long reach well and plays with a mean streak.
It is believed that Fabini will decide between the Bills, New England and Tampa Bay. He visited the Patriots and Buccaneers prior to coming to Buffalo.
DeVries, 29, has been a backup and special teams player for most of his seven years in Detroit. The former third-round draft pick would be a solid guy in the defensive line rotation if the Bills don't re-sign Ryan Denney.
DeVries has good size (6-4, 275), plays the run well and can generate some pressure on the quarterback (he had three sacks in 2004 and 2005).