The Buffalo Bills began pursuing inside linebacker Nick Barnett on the free agent market only after losing Paul Posluszny to a six-year, $42 million contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars. In replacing Posluszny with Barnett, the Bills got slightly older, more experienced, significantly cheaper (Barnett signed for three years and $12 million), and most importantly, significantly better.
It's only been two games, but Barnett has proven early to be the team's most valuable defender. We've got him down for missing just nine of 120 snaps this season, and those came when starters were pulled in Week 1. As the team's only true every-down defender in the front seven, Barnett has been a constant on-field presence, and leads the team with 18 tackles.
Barnett was everywhere against Oakland, recording 14 tackles and a key forced fumble that swung momentum fully in Buffalo's momentum during a furious second-half rally. He has been very physical at the point of attack in the running game, displays impeccable sideline-to-sideline range and instincts, and is a factor in the passing game.
Again, it's early, but Buffalo really struck gold when they lucked into a Barnett signing. Health is still a concern, and Barnett could still do more - namely, get better in coverage and show more flashes as a blitzer. For now, however, he's been an outstanding veteran presence and playmaker for a defense that really needed both, particularly at inside linebacker.