After a 2011 season that was littered with the broken bodies of injured Buffalo Bills, leading to a second half of losses, you had to think they'd cut ties with the more frequent I.R. names. Today, two of the more fragile Bills free agents found new homes and though they were more than valuable while playing in Buffalo, their lack of dependability just couldn't justify re-signing them. So now, it is with a heavy heart that the Queen City bids farewell to Roscoe Parrish and Demetrius Bell, two big names that just couldn't stay healthy.
Parrish was the first to depart Wednesday and was actually the first free agent the Bills have let go so far this off-season. Having signed a one-year deal with San Diego, Parrish is leaving Buffalo as the No. 1 punt returner in franchise history with 1,622 yards on 135 returns, about 12.0 average per return (another Bills record). Though he never did click as the slot receiver Buffalo hoped for, getting only 1,502 yards and 7 TDs in seven seasons, his work on special teams made Parrish vital to the team for those first few years. He managed 3 TDs off punts, as well as several returns over 60 yards, but once the injuries started, Roscoe just never recovered.
Parrish missed three games in 2008, four in 2009, eight in 2010, and played in only two games last season, catching one pass for 16 yards and returning five punts for 46 yards. The most veteran receiver on the team, Parrish should have been the No. 2 option for Fitzpatrick last year, but was injured already going into the pre-season and, after making a token start in the home opener Week 2, called it a season. The former second-round pick from Miami will now join Robert Meachem on a Chargers team looking to rebuild their receiving corps, so good luck to him out there.
Then, right on the heels of that announcement, it was revealed the Buffalo lost their second free agent on the year, as left tackle Bell signed a five-year deal with the Philadelphia Eagles. Oddly enough, Bell is going to Philadelphia to replace the same guy he replaced in 2009 for Buffalo, Jason Peters, who is now having season-ending surgery on a torn Achilles tendon. Bell was a seventh-round pick back in 2008 and got promoted to starter the following year when Peters was traded to the Eagles. However, the injuries started almost immediately.
Bell missed half of his starts in 2009, then followed that with a full 16-game marathon in 2010, before going down again last year for another nine games. Though Bell's talent went well beyond his late drafting, there was just no way to justify re-signing him to a large deal with the uncertainty of his durability (though Buddy Nix does avow they offered him a deal). Demetrius leaves for Philadelphia to start the next chapter of his football career, looking for a fresh start and a season free of injury. He's even fixed his name, which he says has been misspelled since he came to the NFL, which will now be correctly spelled "Demetress" Bell... for real...
With ten receivers on the squad already, Parrish was a loss the Bills could afford, though his contributions to the return game need to be addressed soon (Brad Smith and CJ Spiller are too talented to be doing that full time). With a very rich stock of tackles in the middle parts of the 2012 Draft, Bell also wasn't worth the injury risks anymore and should be easily replaced by a younger, perhaps more talented draftee. Buffalo is smart to let both of these guys go rather than waste their dwindling cap room on another season watching them ride the injury train. By doing so, they are also proving they aren't just throwing money around this off-season, but are actually evaluating the available talent and making real decisions as to the worth of their guys. It's nice to see some smart moves coming from the Bills' Front Office for 2012, maybe they really are building something great here.