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Bills address free-safety future by signing Aaron Williams for four years

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The Buffalo Bills acted quickly to secure themselves at the safety position today by signing Aaron Williams to a four-year contract.

The move comes just two days after negotiations with free safety Jairus Byrd failed to result in a deal. The Bills opted not to try to retain Byrd's rights and did not put a franchise tag on him.

Williams, a second-round draft choice in 2011, is coming off a good year in 2013. He had produced inconsistent results at cornerback his first two seasons but switched to safety last year and played well. Williams had a career-high 82 tackles and tied with Byrd for the team lead in interceptions with four. Even though he's a three-year veteran, Williams does not turn 24 until next month. He has made 30 starts over three years.

His deal is worth a reported $26 million, or an average of $6.5 million a year, which would make him the ninth highest paid safety in the NFL. Pittsburgh's Troy Polamalu is the highest paid safety, at an average of $9.8 million a year. However, by the time the contract kicks in, in 2015, Williams will be farther down the safety pay list. Byrd could challenge Polamalu's ranking. Byrd is due to hit free agency on Tuesday. Bills President and Chief Executive Officer Russ Brandon said the Williams deal was "completely independent" of the talks with Byrd. But the reality is Byrd has waited five years to hit unrestricted free agency, and he is very likely to sign with another club.

"Aaron Williams is a versatile player who has grown into a key playmaker for our defense in recent years," said Bills general manager Doug Whaley in a statement released by the team. "He had an extremely productive season for our defense in 2013. Aaron is the type of young, core player we targeted early in the process to retain for years to come, and this will be our philosophy moving forward."

Williams' original contract was due to run out after the 2014 season. He played 81 percent of the defensive snaps last season, but he missed the last two games due to injury. He played 91 percent of the defensive snaps over the first 14 games.

  • Shane

    I'm like most Bills fans and wish that we had kept Byrd, but I actually think that this is a pretty smart signing considering what we already have on defense. The team did a good job of posturing like it wanted to resign Byrd, however I have a feeling that this might have been the plan all along. Williams showed that he is more than capable at covering the back end and this deal may end up being a bargain a few years down the road.

    With the way that Jim Schwartz's defense is projecting to stack up there is going to be a greater emphasis on the Front 7 as opposed to Petine's man coverage blitzing scheme. Cornerback and Outside linebacker are more important positions in the type of defense that we are going to run so I don't have a problem with them choosing not to spend $10 million a year on a lower priority position.

    Earl Thomas maybe, but he is on a different level than Byrd and deserves the money.

  • BullGuy

    Overpaid. BTW -- the 2 guys taken immediately after him in that draft were Colin Kaepernick and Russell Wilson. Who would you rather have on your team?

    • Sawyer Van Horn

      Wilson was not drafted until 2012.

      • BullGuy

        Oops, I meant Andy Dalton. Nice catch, Sawyer.

  • Hal Jam

    Smart move for Aaron and the Bills!

  • jim

    Byrd is gone,his agent Parker has never dealt well w/the Bills.Time to move on spend Byrd's money elsewhere.

  • Robert McAvoy

    The Bills, as they have shown in the past, can't keep their good players and in fact, it seems they want their good players to leave. Other clubs who make the play-offs, looks for ways to keep their good young players, while the Bills create "holes" (Lynch, Levitre, Whitner, Poslusny, Peters). Then they try to cover up by signing ordinary talent (Brad Smith, Aaron Williams, Andra Davis,ark Anderson and others in the past). 5-11 this year, once again, once Byrd goes. Next year it will be Spiller, and in 2016, it will be Dareus and they will cut Mario. The Bills act like the Sabres, but they die by a 1000 cuts. Who is our new coach gong to be in 2015?

  • Robert McAvoy

    I looked up an old article and hear is what it said at the end, in 2010:
    "2010 Buffalo Bills Analysis: The Bills are a poorly coached team with
    barely any talent. Fred Jackson, C.J. Spiller and a skilled secondary will save
    the team from going 0-16, but a win will be a rare commodity for Buffalo in
    2010.

    Devoted fans can only hope that the front office doesn't screw up
    the 2011 NFL Draft by passing on yet another franchise quarterback or highly
    regarded left tackle.

    Projection: 2-14 (4th in AFC East) "
    It may be true again and another 4 years wasted.

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Vic Carucci returned to The Buffalo News as a Bills beat reporter in September. Carucci covered the Bills for 17 years before joining NFL.com as a columnist in 1999. Prior to rejoining The News, he spent three years as a senior editor for the Cleveland Browns.

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida.