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Whitner heads west, will join 49ers

Former Buffalo Bills safety Donte Whitner showed the ability to change direction Thursday when he signed a three-year free-agent contract with the San Francisco 49ers.

The deal came shortly after Whitner apparently had agreed to terms with the Cincinnati Bengals on a two-year contract. Whitner even declared he was headed for Cincinnati on his Twitter account, but the 49ers came in with a better offer.

Whitner will make almost $4 million a year, according to ESPN.

The end to Whitner's five-year tenure in Buffalo had been expected since late last season when he was not signed to a contract extension. He fully cleared out his locker at One Bills Drive at the end of the 2010 campaign. The Bills signed safety George Wilson to a two-year extension in March, further signaling their desire to move on at the position.

With Whitner gone, the Bills have only two or three "home-grown" first-round picks in their starting lineup. Marcell Dareus, the Bills' first pick in April, and Eric Wood, a first-rounder in 2009, are starters. Leodis McKelvin, a 2008 first-rounder, is in a three-way battle for two starting cornerback spots.

Whitner gave the Bills solid play in his five seasons in Buffalo. The problem for the Bills was former General Manager Marv Levy was thinking more than "solid" when he drafted Whitner eighth overall in 2006. Whitner made 66 starts and 467 tackles in five seasons. He led the Bills by playing 97 percent of the defensive snaps last season. He proved versatile in coverage and in run support. He did not make a lot of big-impact plays. In five years he had five interceptions, five forced fumbles, and 1.5 sacks.

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The Bills announced that former St. Joe's and UB cornerback Domonic Cook was waived due to the knee injury he suffered in Monday's practice. Cook was a candidate to make the team's practice squad.

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The Bills signed a free agent wide receiver Buster Davis, a former first-round draft pick of the San Diego Chargers. Davis, 6-foot-1 and 210 pounds, was drafted 30th overall in 2007 out of LSU.

email: mgaughan@buffnews.com