Move east won't cure woes for Merriman, Bills

Posted Nov. 03, 2010 @ 4:03 p.m.
Posted By PFW staff

Updated 5:40 p.m. ET, Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2010

The Bills announced Wednesday that they have claimed OLB Shawne Merriman off waivers. The team also said that it has placed OT Cornell Green, who missed the past two games with a knee injury after starting the first five at right tackle, on injured reserve.

Merriman was waived by the Chargers on Tuesday after five-plus seasons in San Diego. He had been placed on injured reserve on Oct. 13 with a "minor injury" designation for a calf injury, which meant the team had to release him when healthy.

During his time with the Chargers, Merriman recorded 43½ sacks in 60 career games and made the Pro Bowl in each of his first three seasons.

PFW has confirmed that the only teams besides the Bills to put in a waiver claim for Merriman were the Dolphins and Buccaneers.

The PFW Spin

Merriman landing in Buffalo should not come as a surprise to anyone. Besides the fact that the 0-7 Bills were No. 1 in the waiver order and get first crack at all released players, they also have a serious need for a pass rusher and have higher ups in the organization who have a history with the former first-round pick.

In their first year under head coach Chan Gailey and defensive coordinator George Edwards, the Bills have been inept at rushing the passer. They have just 11 sacks, and the nonexistence of DE-turned-OLB Aaron Maybin has been well documented. Desperate for help in this area, the Bills probably figured they couldn't pass on an opportunity to get Merriman, a proven sack specialist who once had 17 in a season (2006) despite playing in only 12 games.

"As we have said many times before, we are constantly evaluating our roster and will do things that we feel can improve our team," Bills GM Buddy Nix said. "We think Shawne can help our defense and so we have claimed him off waivers. He has been an impact player in a 3-4 defense and we feel this is a good opportunity to make our team better."

The fact that Nix, who worked in the Chargers' front office for a number of years, had a hand in originally drafting Merriman in '05 also surely played a role. Nix obviously liked the 6-4, 265-pound Merriman quite a bit coming out of college, and he was still with San Diego during the linebacker's heyday. The GM likely thinks that the career of Merriman, who's only 26 years old, can be revived in a new situation.

Whether that's true, however, is a major question mark. After undergoing reconstructive knee surgery early in the 2008 season, Merriman has been extremely ineffective. He returned in '09 to notch just four sacks in 14 games, and he was constantly dealing with nagging injuries. Such was the case early on this season, as he was largely invisible in the three contests in which he played, registering six tackles and zero sacks. All this, along with his inability to get along with Chargers GM A.J. Smith, is why he was cut by San Diego. How well he can play at this point is anybody's guess.

Where Merriman will fit in the Bills' defense also remains to be seen. After starting the season in a 3-4 scheme, Gailey and Co. quickly realized they did not have the personnel for the system and recently switched back to the 4-3. Merriman, however, has only played 3-4 OLB at the pro level, so transitioning to a completely new defense could prove difficult. He could be used as strictly a pass-rushing outside 'backer.

Then, of course, there's the question of whether he'll even show up in Buffalo. Merriman may be turned off by the prospects of playing for a winless team and decide not to report to the Bills at all. That might not be in his best interest long term, though, as he is set to become an unrestricted free agent after the season and will be in search of a long-term deal. The best way for him to get one would be to play well down the stretch and show that he still can be a disruptive player. That might not even be enough, but at least it will help his chances.

This move smacks of desperation by the Bills, but as the NFL's last winless team in ’10, the club doesn't have much to lose by adding a former superstar who's still young. If it doesn't work out, Merriman will be gone after the season and the Bills can start fresh in 2011. And if things do pan out, Buffalo always has the option to re-sign him. Either way, it won't be enough to suddenly make the team a serious contender this season.