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December 28, 1995: Bryce Paup Named Defensive Player Of The Year

Matt Warren is Associate Director of NFL coverage for SB Nation and previously covered the Bills for Buffalo Rumblings for more than a decade.

Bryce Paup signed with the Buffalo Bills in the spring of 1995. One of the greatest modern era free agent acquisitions the Bills ever made was named the NFL Defensive Player of the Year on this date in 1995.

Buffalo's dynasty of the early 1990s began to fall with the advent of free agency and the salary cap. As great players began to leave the organization, the Bills couldn't add many players because of the superstars already on their payroll. As such, the Bills had to let talented players go.

Frank Reich, Don Beebe, and Pete Metzelaars all left to join the expansion Carolina Panthers and GM Bill Polian prior to the 1995 season. Darryl Talley was the biggest defensive star to leave. Luckily, the Bills replaced Talley well when they signed Paup.

Paup had spent the first five years of his career as a member of the Green Bay Packers, and in 1994 made the Pro Bowl just as he was hitting free agency. In his first two seasons as a full time starter in Green Bay, Paup averaged nine sacks, two interceptions, two forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, and over 70 tackles per season. He would meet or surpass every one of those totals in his first year in red, blue, and white.

Except for his injury-shortened 1991 season, Bruce Smith led the Bills in sacks from his rookie season in 1985 until 1994. With defenses keying on Smith, Paup raked in the benefits, collecting a staggering 17.5 sacks in 1995. (Smith added 10.5.) Paup was a full four sacks better than the second place sack artist of the season.

Paup added two interceptions, three forced fumbles, a fumble recovery, and 89 tackles to his stellar sack numbers.

He made his presence felt in Week 3 against the Indianapolis Colts. Paup tallied three sacks, forced two fumbles, and made 14 tackles on the day to win Defensive Player of the Week honors. In Buffalo's second meeting with Indianapolis, Paup again registered three sacks, this time on three different Colt QBs.

Buffalo rebounded from a 7-9 season in 1994 to make the playoffs and finish 10-6 in 1995. Both Smith and Paup were named to the All-Pro team and joined Steve Tasker in Honolulu for the Pro Bowl.