The Buffalo Bills released defensive end Marcus Stroud on February 16. Two weeks later, he has now signed with the New England Patriots. Stroud isn't the first aging veteran to sign with the Patriots, as he joins a long line of former Bills to find homes in New England under Bill Belichick.
The most notable former Bill to sign with the Patriots in recent years is Antowain Smith. Smith was Buffalo's first-round pick in 1997 as the heir apparent to Hall of Famer Thurman Thomas; he spent four years in Buffalo, but never quite lived up to that billing, starting only 28 games with the Bills. He had a single 1,000-yard season in 1998, when he started 14 games. With the Patriots, Smith started 36 games in three seasons and gained almost the same number of yards in 12 fewer games while earning Super Bowl rings in 2001 and 2003.
Sam Aiken, Buffalo's fourth-round pick in 2003, signed with New England after his rookie contract expired. He played three seasons there, catching 28 passes and the only two touchdowns of his career in nine starts.
Another former Bills draft choice, 2000 fifth-round pick Sammy Morris, has spent four years with the Patriots after spending his first four in Buffalo. (He also spent three year with the Dolphins, just to make matters worse.) The running back has 14 starts and 1,939 yards from scrimmage for New England to go with 12 touchdowns in 47 games - numbers that far eclipse his number with Buffalo.
Previous trips from Buffalo directly to New England that resulted in one season or less of time on the Patriots roster were also made by '70s linebackers Merv Krakau and Edgar Chandler, DB Ray Hill (who won a Super Bowl ring in 2001 despite never playing in a regular season game), offensive lineman Ross Tucker (who played in one game over two seasons there), and cornerback Jason Webster.
Other former Bills who eventually found their way to New England after a stop with another team include wideout Marlin Briscoe, nose tackle Ted Washington (won Super Bowl XXVIII), kicker Shayne Graham, safety Rashad Baker, guard Marques Sullivan, and defensive tackle Marlon Favorite. Former Bills defensive coordinator and head coach Joe Collier (1962-1965, 1966-1968) was the Patriots' defensive coordinator in 1991 and 1992, as well.
The pipeline hasn't been a one-way street, however. Some very notable names in Bills history previously wore the Patriot logo on their helmets. Two distinguished Bills quarterbacks, Doug Flutie and Drew Bledsoe, both called New England home in the early parts of their careers.
Flutie spent three seasons with the Patriots, going 8-5 in his first stint as a Patriot from 1987-1989. In 1998, Flutie won the Comeback Player of the Year Award when he joined the Bills from the CFL, leading Buffalo to a 7-3 record in his ten starts and earning a Pro Bowl berth. He went 10-5 and 4-1 in the next two seasons as Bills starter, accumulating the best winning percentage ever by a Bills QB. He was released in an effort to free up salary cap space in 2000, but the 38-year-old went on to play five more years, including his final season with the Patriots.
For nine years, Bledsoe led the Patriots offense into battle against the Bills. Following the 2001 season, a season where he won the only Super Bowl ring of his career on the bench watching Tom Brady, Bledsoe was traded to Buffalo. He made the Pro Bowl in his first season with the team, having the best statistical season ever by a Bills QB. His 23-25 record didn't do him any favors, though, and he's still seen as a failure by many Bills fans.
Lawyer Milloy played seven seasons in New England before shuffling off to Buffalo late in the summer of 2003. His first game less than a week later was an emotional 31-0 victory over his former team, with Milloy and fellow ex-Pat Bledsoe leading the way. Milloy spent three years with Buffalo, starting 43 games.
The most successful former Patriot to help the Bills was Boston's inaugural head coach, Lou Saban. After leaving the Patriots in 1961, Saban led the Bills to two AFL Championships in the mid-1960s. He returned to the Bills in the 1970s, unleashing O.J. Simpson on the NFL record books, and he has the second-most games and wins of any coach in team history.
Other former Patriots who have joined the Bills for a short period of time were running back Justise Hairston, guard Kendall Simmons, tight ends Jonathan Stupar and Michael Matthews, guard Rob Myers, receiver Chad Jackson, and linebacker Pierre Woods.