Assessing the Bills’ release of CB Florence

FLORENCE

The overhaul of the Buffalo Bills defence continues.

Eight days after drafting cornerback Stephon Gilmore No. 10 overall, the Bills on Friday released starting cornerback Drayton Florence (above, Reuters photo)

Florence was set to earn $4 million in 2012 and $5 million in 2013, on the last two years of a three-year deal. The salary-cap hits, though, would have been $4.92 million this season and $5.92 million in ’13, incorporating pro-rated bonuses.

Did the Bills dump Florence to free up cap space for any particular reason? To sign a free-agent quarterback they might have just worked out, perhaps — Vince Young? Hmmmm. We’ll see.

More likely, it was merely to let go a player who wasn’t measuring up on the field. According to Mike Clay of Pro Football Focus, NFL passers had a 103.3 quarterback rating against Florence last year — not good.

But backup Aaron Williams, who probably will fill Florence’s starting spot, was statistically worse; QBs were 120.0 against him, per PFF.

Florence will best be remembered for his critical pick-six of the Patriots’ Tom Brady in Week 3 last year, which led to arguably the most celebrated Bills victory since the ’90s.

Gilmore, from the University of South Carolina, was the second-best cornerback in the draft, according to most talent evaluators. The Bills drafted a second cornerback in the fourth round (124th overall), Ron Brooks from LSU.

“We have good young talent at cornerback that has tremendous upside,” Bills GM Buddy Nix said in a statement. “They need as many reps at practice to continue to develop that talent.”

Florence should have seen it coming. Not that he was making a ton of money by cornerback standards in the NFL — he wasn’t. But both Nix and head coach Chan Gailey told anyone who would listen since the winter that the club had to upgrade its talent at a few key positions, cornerback being one of them.

Gailey told me this at the scouting combine in Indy: “Corners and pass rushers — that’s where it is. That’s where it is. That’s our game. Corners and pass rushers.”

With the free-agent acquisitions of DE pass-rushing specialists Mario Williams and Mark Anderson, and the drafting of Gilmore and the perhaps under-rated Brooks (who played opposite top-ranked cornerback Morris Claiborne, whom Dallas drafted No. 6 overall), the Bills addressed those two vital areas.

To his credit, Florence appears to be holding no grudges. Minutes after the news was released, he tweeted: “Business is Business no feelings move on and continue to grind Thanks for all the support #billsmafia the Grind Continues.”

Don’t be surprised if the Detroit Lions give him a look. That club desperately needs to upgrade its secondary, too.

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