Buffalo had a solid group of free safeties during their playoff drought, but one player is probably remembered particularly fondly. Here were the center fielders who stood out from the group!
Vincent had spent the first twelve years of his career as a cornerback, but after the Bills signed him in 2004, he began to transition to free safety. In his first season as a full-time free safety in 2005, Vincent had four interceptions and forced a fumble. In the 2006 season, Vincent was wounded during the season opener and placed on injured reserve. The team eventually agreed to a release settlement, and he finished his final season in Washington as a backup. In all, Vincent started 24 games for the Bills, with five total interceptions.
In 2009 the Bills drafted a cornerback from the Oregon Ducks in the second round of the draft. Bills fans were tired of seeing the team spending picks on defensive backs after players like Ko Simpson and Ashton Youboty had failed to pan out, but Byrd turned those opinions around in a hurry. After injuries to Donte Whitner and Bryan Scott opened a starting role, Byrd stepped in. By his second game he’d recorded his first career interception, and two weeks after that his total was up to five. Byrd finished with nine interceptions, which led the NFL that year and was the fourth-most for a rookie since the 1970 merger.
Over five seasons in Buffalo, Byrd started 66 of 73 games, and he made the Pro Bowl in 2009, 2012, and 2013. Byrd’s rookie season was no fluke; with 22 interceptions, 33 passes defended, 11 forced fumbles, and three sacks, he was an outstanding playmaker in the secondary. He ranks tenth in interceptions, seventh in passes defended, and sixth in fumbles forced. The Bills franchise tagged Byrd after the 2012 season, and in 2013 he struggled with plantar fasciitis. The next year he signed a massive free agent deal with the New Orleans Saints.
Graham had just won a Super Bowl ring as a reserve cornerback with the Baltimore Ravens when he signed a four year, $16 million deal with the Buffalo Bills. The team used him as both a cornerback and as a safety in a rotation with Aaron Williams and Da’Norris Searcy, but in 2015 and 2016 he was a full-time safety for the team. Graham started 41 of 48 games for Buffalo, with five interceptions and 28 passes defended during that span. He also had a 122-tackle season in 2015. The Bills released Graham for cap savings in 2017, and he signed onto the Philadelphia Eagles, winning his second career Super Bowl.
So, who was the best free safety during the drought? After this vote, we’ll begin identifying the runners-up from the defensive polls, and start voting on flex players and specialists for this squad.
Who was the best free safety of the Buffalo Bills playoff drought?
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