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State Of The Buffalo Bills Roster: Safety

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Buffalo Rumblings is in the process of breaking down the Buffalo Bills' roster position by position. Installments you may have missed: WR, TE, OT, G/C, DE, DT, LB, CB.

In 2011, the Buffalo Bills' safety duo of Jairus Byrd and George Wilson combined for 204 tackles, a sack, seven interceptions, five forced fumbles and a touchdown. (And when Wilson was hurt, then-rookie Da'Norris Searcy contributed with 34 tackles and an interception of his own.)

Yet somehow, despite solid production on an otherwise bad defense, much of the discussion in the build-up to the 2012 NFL Draft was on Alabama safety Mark Barron, a player that the Bills were reportedly very high on and considering with the No. 10 overall pick. As fate would have it, Barron was off the board when Buffalo chose, and the team appears to be rock solid at safety - at least for this season, anyway.

Age: 25 (26 in October 2012)
Contract: UFA in 2013. Will make $565,000 in the final year of his rookie deal this season.

The one-time Pro Bowl rookie has evolved from a flashy play-maker into a well-rounded safety in his three pro seasons. He's made fewer plays in coverage over the last two years, but has made up for it by developing into one of the team's surest and most explosive open-field tacklers. His range is somewhat limited and he's not the biggest guy in the world, but make no mistake about it: Byrd's a high-end starting NFL safety, and those are not easy to come by. The Bills would do well to lock him up beyond this season as soon as they can, as Byrd is entering the final year of his rookie contract.

Age: 31
Contract: UFA in 2014. Will make $3.73 million in base salary over the final two years of his current deal.

A less celebrated rags-to-riches story in the vein of Fred Jackson, Wilson has transformed from undrafted college wide receiver to starting NFL strong safety. Now in his second season as a full-time starter, Wilson has established roles as one of the team's most vocal leaders, and one of its more instinctive play-makers; that knack for the big play has helped cover up some holes to his game. Though far from perfect, Wilson is a dependable starter, solid against the run and the pass, an extremely hard worker, and a vital member of Buffalo's still-young football team.

Age: 23 (24 in November 2012)
Contract: UFA in 2015. Entering the second of a four-year rookie contract signed in July 2011.

Last year's fourth-round pick saw limited duty defensively, where he made a game-saving interception in a Week 2 win over Oakland and defended the run well in Wilson's absence as the starting strong safety for a time mid-season. A big, athletic defensive back, Searcy profiles as the down-the-line replacement for Wilson as the in-the-box safety. For now, he'll continue honing his craft and be a core member of the team's special teams coverage units.

Age: 24
Contract: Undisclosed. Signed off of the team's practice squad in November 2011.

A college quarterback at Georgia Tech, Nesbitt ran the Wildcat for one pre-season game before switching full-time to safety, where he spent most of his rookie season on the practice squad. For now, he'll battle Nick Saenz to be the team's second-team free safety, but clearly, no roster spot is guaranteed for the 6'1", 213-pound sophomore.

Age: 22
Contract: Undisclosed. Signed as an undrafted free agent in April 2012.

An undrafted free agent out of Stanford, Howell has good size (5'11", 210 pounds) and is an intriguing straight-line athlete, but his struggles with change-of-direction skills likely limit his potential impact to that of an in-the-box safety. That's where he'll play in Buffalo, pushing for time behind Searcy and a role on special teams.

Age: 23
Contract: Undisclosed. Signed as an undrafted free agent in April 2012.

Sukay, like Howell, profiles as an in-the-box safety prospect (he's 6'1", 219 pounds) with suspect change-of-direction ability but enough athletic upside to warrant a long look. A pectoral injury put a damper on Sukay's pre-draft stock, but he's a big, strong kid that finished his final college season with 59 tackles and three picks.

Age: 22
Contract: Undisclosed. Signed after a tryout during the team's rookie mini-camp in May 2012.

The team's most recent addition to the roster is a third undrafted free agent safety - this time out of Houston. Saenz, unlike the two names ahead of him on the list, is a free safety prospect with good athletic numbers (6'0", 195 pounds, 4.44-second 40-yard dash, 33-inch vertical jump). He registered 114 tackles as a sophomore, and had a 59-tackle, three-pick senior season with the Cougars.

POSITIONAL OUTLOOK: Byrd and Wilson are locked in as the starters, and Searcy is one of the team's top young reserves and the primary backup to both positions (though we imagine Wilson would play free safety and Searcy strong if Byrd were to miss time). From there, it's anyone's guess, as four current and former undrafted free agents will be duking it out for a roster spot that may not even exist. With the strong safety position appearing set for the foreseeable future, more long-term stability is required at the free spot, where Byrd is an impending free agent.