Okay, Shawne, maybe Buffalo should keep you.
Yesterday, Bills oft-injured linebacker (and future 4-3 defensive end) Shawne Merriman showed he may have some worth to the success of Buffalo, whether or not he plays another down on the field. Though he's spent two years with the Bills, Merriman has played in exactly five games in the red and blue, all of them in 2011. He's well down the rehab road now, almost ready to start back on the field again, but it's his Twitter account that has Buffalo fans tweeting about him right now.
Monday, about 24 hours before free agency in the NFL begins, Merriman sent a message out to his former teammate and upcoming free agent superstar, Vincent Jackson:
"Yo hit me @VincentJackson hit me its not about signing with @buffalobills I swear ***fingers crossed behind the back***"
Thank you, Shawne. Maybe there is still a place on the Bills for you.
If Buffalo somehow manages to lure Jackson away from re-signing with the Chargers (who are projected to pay him $12 million if they retain his services), they'll be bolstering a passing attack that is slowly congealing into something special. Signing receiver Johnson (76 rec, 1,004 yds, 7 TDs in 2011) and tight end Chandler (38 for 389 yds, 6 TDs, yet he missed 3 of the last 4 games in 2011), as well as the further evolution of David Nelson and Donald Jones (combined for 84 rec, 889 yds, and 6 TDs) have given Ryan Fitzpatrick a group of young guys who have the potential and time together to create something. However, there's a lot of youth on that list, with 26-year-old WR Ruvell Martin topping out both the age and experience in that corps (six seasons), but he's far from an "elite" NFL receiver.
The addition of Jackson and his career 272 catches for 4,754 yds and 37 TDs would certify the reality of their air attack in the NFL, perhaps even pushing Johnson into the role of Robin for a season or two. They'd have to pay double digit millions to get him, but with an offense that was already able to grab a No. 1 ranking in 2011 (they averaged 30.1 points the first seven games) and a passing game that looked dominant (half the year), maybe this is the piece that pushes Fitz and the boys to that upper echelon.
Ryan Fitzpatrick in entering his third year starting in a Buffalo uniform with the confidence of both a six-year extension and the long-term return of his favorite target, Stevie. The Bearded One was a tale of two quarterbacks in 2011, gaining the city's love through seven, earning their distrust the rest of the way, and he would love another speedy, but more sure-handed (sorry Steve) receiver with a big-time NFL resume. Not only does Jackson look more like an NFL receiver at 6'6" (Johnson's only 6'2"), but he's got postseason experience, three 1,000 yds seasons, two Pro Bowls, and work playing under two different Hall of Fame-caliber quarterbacks (Drew Brees in 2005, Philip Rivers the rest of the way). Bringing Jackson adds some class, a healthy dose of fear, and an air of dominance to Buffalo, something they haven't swaggered with since the early 90's.
Also remember the Buddy Nix connection to Jackson, Bills fans. Before becoming a General Manager in the Queen City, Nix was the regional scout here, but when GM John Butler left for San Diego in 2000, Buddy followed. Sadly, when Butler passed in 2003, the unfortunate circumstances got Nix the GM position and, two years later, he took Vincent Jackson with the 29th pick of the 2005 Draft. It was Nix who met and evaluated Jackson, Nix who helped elevate the roster quality and offensive effectiveness of the Chargers, and Nix who put Jackson in a situation where he could find success. With San Diego on the slide, maybe Buddy can bring him into a Bills situation that is facing a similar upswing, once again on the ground floor.
Shawne Merriman got the ball rolling here, Bills fans, and Nix brings some more history (and some legitimacy), so maybe there's a chance Jackson could relocate to Western New York. Buffalo has the cap room to get him ($30 million... ish), the potential to offer him some solid, winning years, and a fresh start away from a quickly sinking Chargers franchise. Granted, it might mean keeping Merriman on the payroll another season or two, but if he's helping bring names like this in, he's worth it (even if it's just another five games over the next couple years).
This isn't the first time Merriman's pleasure in being in Buffalo has had him trying to attract free agents, as he was heavily involved in recruiting fellow linebackers Nick Barnett and Kirk Morrison (both of whom have found success here, with Morrison just re-signing).He speaks highly of the city, calls the team a collection of "stars and diamonds", and is telling others that Buffalo is showing a true "dedication of the players and coaches to move this team forward" (and NIx is, rightly so, encouraging this talk from Shawne). Also of note, Merriman and Jackson started their careers together (Shawne was the first round pick in 2005) and were winners when on the same squad, so maybe Buffalo can see about trying to start that fire again in 2012 over in the AFC East.
Free agency starts at 4:00 pm ET, March 13.