The news isn’t terribly surprising, seeing that Florence struggled in 2011 and the team brought in rookies Stephon Gilmore and Ron Brooks. Though he saw a ton of playing time over the past two years, Florence gave up big plays and didn’t play with any desirable level of consistency.
Set to make $4 million this season with the Bills, he will now try to latch on with another club before camp.
But what does this mean for the Bills?
Florence’s departure has immediate effects on several other players, and it signals the start of a youth movement in the Bills’ secondary.
Here are five results from the news and what it means for the Bills.
Many speculated that, because the Bills drafted two cornerbacks in this year’s draft, the former first-rounder Leodis McKelvin was on his way out.
Entering the final year of his contract, McKelvin has struggled the past couple of seasons making plays on the ball.
However, he’s also put himself in good position on those plays, showing the ability to stick with his man in coverage. He just hasn’t perfected when to get his head turned around or when to get his hands up.
McKelvin also contributes on special teams, not only with his dynamic return skills but also in coverage, as he played with a chip on his should last year once Chan Gailey demoted him.
At the Bills’ draft luncheon press conference, GM Buddy Nix indicated he hopes that McKelvin plays lights out in his contract year. It seems the Bills will give him the opportunity to prove he can do that.
Though Buffalo drafted two cornerbacks in the draft, they also signed one undrafted rookie free agent, and that is Cris Hill out of Virginia Tech.
Hill showed 4.5 speed at his team’s pro day, and the Bills seem to like his overall athleticism, according to the team’s official website.
At 5’11” and 178 pounds, Hill is eerily similar to last year’s seventh-round pick Justin Rogers (5’11”, 181 pounds) both in size and style of play.
BuffaloBills.com states that, in his most extensive playing time last year, Hill mostly came in to play the nickel, though he also lined up outside. That’s what Drayton Florence would have been doing in 2012.
The Bills have had large success with undrafted rookies over the past two seasons, so there’s no reason to doubt that they may have a plan for Cris Hill.
Typically, the news of Florence’s release would have relieved veteran Terrence McGee of any worries regarding his own roster spot. But unfortunately, that news was paired with a report that McGee admitted to be “nowhere near” where he needs to be as far as straight-line running, according to Jay Skurski of the Buffalo News.
Having missed 17 games over the past two seasons due to hamstring and knee injuries, McGee is most recently coming off surgery of his patellar tendon.
When healthy, he’s an asset to the secondary. He plays physically, has instinctive ball skills and is terrific in man coverage.
But in addition to health, another concern is McGee’s age, as he’ll be 32 in October. Florence will be 32 in December.
It should be noted that Skurski’s report was published on May 3, one night prior to the news of Florence’s release.
However, it’s also clear that the Bills are pushing a youth movement with their defensive backs, and if McGee isn’t healthy by the start of the season, it could spell trouble for the longtime Bills veteran.
Tenth overall pick Stephon Gilmore and fourth-round pick Ron Brooks are going to have a lot of opportunities next year.
Once his name was called on draft day, Gilmore was immediately a strong consideration for a starting spot. The Bills are very excited about his potential, as he offers ideal speed, length and size at the cornerback position.
Meanwhile, Brooks was an under-the-radar selection out of LSU. Playing behind bigger names for most of his career, he was largely overshadowed by the likes of Patrick Peterson and Morris Claiborne of the LSU secondary.
With Florence’s release comes a huge opportunity for Brooks, as he’ll receive extensive playing time in nickel and dime packages. With Gilmore expected to start outside opposite second-year player Aaron Williams, and Justin Rogers on the rise, the future of Buffalo’s secondary looks to be in great shape.
After being selected in the second round of the 2011 draft, second-year starter Aaron Williams has a bright future with the Bills.
The former Texas Longhorn was having an impressive rookie campaign before missing time with an injury. Only 22 years old, he’s 6’0” and 204 pounds and showed a lot of great potential in his first year in the NFL.
Bills' lead journalist Chris Brown reported on the team’s official website that head coach Chan Gailey is very impressed with Williams, and the team’s goal is to prepare him to get through a full 16-game season.
Williams is already one of the team’s best tackling corners, and he has ideal size outside to line up with bigger, more physical wideouts.
While Drayton Florence didn’t necessarily have an effect on Williams heading into 2012, Florence’s release is assurance that the Bills are extremely confident in the second-year pro. Playing behind an improved pass rush, working through a normal offseason and hopefully staying healthy should all be greatly beneficial to Williams in year two.