Good morning Rumblers,
Today, I'll be doing part 2 of a three part series of "The One That Got Away". I want to discuss defensive players of the past 10 years, that left the organization and had success with other teams. This list will be a little more extensive than yesterday's list of 4 guys, with several honorable mentions.
After the jump, I'll list several players that fit the Bill. Feel free to leave your comments and list any other players that I left off.
(In no particular order)
CB-Jabari Greer-(2004-2008)-Undrafted out of the University of Tennessee in 2004; Jabari was a fan favorite of the Bills. He played mostly nickle back and dime back in our defensive scheme, as well contributed on special teams. Not blessed with elite athleticism, Jabari had great cover skills and was quick enough to line up with speedy slot receivers. In his last year with the Bills, he was having a career year but injuries set in and he missed a total of 6 games. He had 38 tackles, 1 forced fumble, 2 interceptions and 2 TDs. Of course, he gained a lot of interest in free agency and signed a lucrative 4year contract with the New Orleans Saints. Since joining the Saints, he remained a solid contributor and helped the team win it's first Super Bowl. All around good guy. He reminds me of Justin Rogers.
FS-Jim Leonard-(2005-2007)- After walking-on at the University of Wisconsin; Leonard went undrafted and signed a free agent contract with the Bills in 2005; Leonard was the only undrafted player to make the 53 man roster. Leonard was a back up safety for the Bills and was a big special teams contributor. After playing in 10 games in his first season, Leonard got waived and was re-signed (Brian almost forgot the hyphen :)) in 2006 when Troy Vincent got injured. In 2007, he filled in for then safety Ko Simpson and started the season opener recording 13 tackles against the Broncos. In 2008, he landed with the Ravens and he started 13 games replacing injured safety Dawan Landry. He flourished under the Rex Ryan led Ravens defense, recording a career high 69 tackles, 1 sack, 1 intercepetion that he returned for a touchdown. He reunited with Rex Ryan with the Jets in 2009, and he balled out. In his first season with the Jets he played in all 16 games had 76 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 1 interceptions, and 1 touchdown. He was all over the field for that defense. After 2 injury filled seasons with the Jets in 2010 and 2011; Leonard is now a free agent.
CB Antoine Winfield-(1999-2003)-Selected 23rd in the 1st round of the 1999 draft out of Ohio State; Winfield quickly became a fan favorite of the Bills. Not blessed with great size and ball skills, but he was a ferocious tackler and a great run defender. He had elite cover skills, but never put up the big interception numbers (6 in 5yrs with the Bills). In his 5th and final season with the Bills; Winfield racked up 107 tackles, 1 sack, and 2 forced fumbles. Unable to give him the money that he wanted (5yrs 36 mil, 16 mil guaranteed); the Bills parted ways with their star corner and Winfield found greener pastures in Minnesota. While in Minnesota; Winfield took his game to another level. In the 8 years that he's been with Vikings, where he played at least 14 games, he's averaged 93 tackles and 3 interceptions. Oh by the way, he made 3 consecutive Pro Bowls from 2008-2010, and was named all pro in 2008.
MLB London Fletcher-(2002-2006)-The former Rams rookie of the year in 1998 and Super Bowl winner; signed as unrestricted free agent in 2002. In his 5 season with the Bills he played in every game and averaged 145 tackles and 3 sacks. He immediately became the team leader on defense, with his intensity and passion for the game. He was a Pro Bowl alternate 8 times why he was with the Bills. In his last season he had 146 tackles, 2 sacks, 1 forced fumble, and a career high 4 interceptions with 1 TD. Not wanting to spend the money on an "old" LB, we let Fletcher go and he signed with the Redskins in 2007. Was he old? Nope. He just went ahead and made 3 Pro Bowls from 2009-2011, combined tackles leader in 2011, and won the Bart Starr Man of the Year award. Oh I forgot, last season he had a a career high 166 tackles.
OLB Takeo Spikes- (2003-2006)-The former first round pick of the Bengals in 1998; signed with the Bills in 2003 as a free agent. In his first two season with the Bills; he played in all 16 games averaging 111 tackles, 2.5 sacks, 2 forced fumbles, and 3.5 interceptions. This led him to 2 Pro Bowls and 2 All Pro selections. Spikes was beloved by Bills fans, because he played with such passion and heart. Unfortunately, he got bitten by the injury bug and never quite returned to form. In 2006, Spikes demanded a trade to a contender, because he wasn't interested in taking part of the Bills youth movement. He was traded to the Eagles along with Kelly Holcomb, for Darwin Walker (never played for the Bills) and a 2008 draft pick. He only played for one season with the Eagles before getting hurt in week 14. Since leaving the Bills, Spikes has played with three teams (Eagles, 49ers, and Charges); averaging 95 tackles. In his 15th year in the league, Spikes is still going strong.
CB Nate Clements- (2001-2006)- Clements was drafted by the Bills with the 21st pick in the first round of the 2001 draft out of Ohio State. Clements and Winfield was arguably the best CB duo in the league, as Clements displayed elite cover and ball skills. In his rookie season, Clements had 63 tackles, 1 sack, 3 forced fumbles, 3 interceptions, and a TD. He had a career high 6 interceptions in 2004, earning his first trip to the Pro Bowl. He also had a career high 99 tackles in 2005. In my opinon, Clements was one of the greatest CB in Bills history. There wasn't anything that he couldn't do well. So in the last year of his deal, the Bills refused to resign him because the 49ers was willing to make Nate the highest paid defensive player in league history, signing a fat 8 year $80 million dollar deal with $22 million guaranteed. While in San Francisco he never made all pro status, but did manage some decent seasons, where his best came in his first season. He had 92 tackles, 1 sack, 3 forced fumbles, and 4 interceptions. Unfortunately for Nate, it seemed like he can never live up to that contract.
Poz, Whitner, and Maybin were left off the list, because it has only been one season since they've been gone. They haven't had much time to garner much success.
Okay Bills fans, who is "the one that got away"? Which former Bills defensive player you hated to see go? Try to consider what we got in return for that player, our ability to replace them at the time we let them go, and the amount we had invested in them.