Print and Go Back ESPN.com: AFC East [Print without images]

Saturday, January 1, 2011
Bills extend Shawne Merriman gamble

By Tim Graham

Buffalo Bills safety Donte Whitner played a joke on fans this week. He tweeted he had signed a new contract. After a while, he added he'd saved a lot of money by switching to GEICO.

Merriman
On Saturday morning, continually injured inside linebacker Shawne Merriman dropped a big hint he was about to re-sign with the Bills.

But this was no gag.

The Bills have given Merriman a two-year contract extension with some eye-popping numbers.

ESPN's Chris Mortensen reported Merriman will make $2.5 million guaranteed next year, but added the contract likely would be worth about $8.75 million a year if he remains healthy. The deal contains several incentives tied in with playing time.

"We know the situation," Nix told Mortensen. "We researched it. We did all our homework with Shawne.

"Everything you do is a little bit of a gamble. There's reward and upside to it, and I think both sides are happy with the way the contract is structured."

Merriman's extension would have been met with notably more fanfare two months ago, but his profile has nosedived even more since the Bills picked him up off waivers from the San Diego Chargers on Nov. 3.

Sources close to Merriman said he was unhappy to be headed to Buffalo. Merriman took several days to report to the Bills. He fired his agent, something he has done repeatedly throughout his career. About 15 minutes into Merriman's first Bills practice, he injured himself yet again and was done for the season.

Merriman's latest injury plus the uncertainties involved with the NFL's labor situation doomed his future prospects. His chances of re-signing with the Bills also were impacted by his agent switch.

The Bills, winless when they acquired him and desperate for pass-rush help, apparently maintained their interest in him while other teams became more wary than before.

"I know he's a leader," Nix said in comments released by the team. "He's been a Pro Bowler. He's only 26 years old, and if he's healthy he'll make plays for us and help us win games."

Merriman recorded 39.5 sacks in his first three season. He has played 14 games the past three seasons, collecting just four sacks. He will turn 27 in May.