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Buffalo Bills sign free-agent linebacker Manny Lawson

If we are to believe Manny Lawson, the newest member of the Bills claimed Wednesday that he had no idea Buffalo hasn’t been to the playoffs for 13 years.

If we are to believe Manny Lawson, the newest member of the Bills claimed Wednesday that he had no idea Buffalo hasn’t been to the playoffs for 13 years.

“That’s a very interesting point that you just pointed out,” Lawson said to a reporter during his introductory news conference at One Bills Drive. “That’s new knowledge to me. I guess it’s good to know.”

Perhaps it’s a good thing the Bills made sure Lawson signed their reported four-year, $12 million contract before they allowed him to have any contact with the media. Then again, maybe that fact wouldn’t have swayed Lawson’s opinion of the Bills because throughout the period of pre-free agency buzz, Lawson wasn’t exactly considered an A-lister, and he was probably thrilled to receive the deal the Bills offered up.

“This team really wanted me here, and that was just enough for me to come here,” he said. “I was really one of the choices they wanted to go to, that spoke volumes of what I meant to them. If somebody comes at you and tells you, ‘You know what, we want you. This is here. We need you here.’ Just to hear those words, indescribable.”

One thing the 28-year-old did make clear once he learned of Buffalo’s interminable playoff drought is that he wants to be part of the solution for fixing that vexing problem.

“I look at myself as I am coming here to change things,” said the seven-year veteran who played five years in San Francisco and two more in Cincinnati before joining the Bills. “Hopefully we can continue the success that is happening right now.”

What success that is, no one is quite certain. The Bills have finished last in the AFC East five years running, they are on their seventh head coach since 2000, and are clearly in yet another rebuilding mode.

However, signing Lawson at least gets the Bills headed in the right direction after they lost two offensive linemen in the first two days of free agency, Andy Levitre to Tennessee and Chad Rinehart to Tennessee, and decided to waive Ryan Fitzpatrick who — though it’s not saying much — was the best quarterback on their roster.

Lawson played collegiately at North Carolina State and was part of a memorable Wolfpack defensive line that saw three members selected in the first round of the 2006 NFL Draft. Mario Williams was picked No. 1 overall by Houston, Lawson went No. 22 to San Francisco, and the Bills selected John McCargo No. 26. McCargo is long gone, but now Williams and Lawson have been reunited in Buffalo.

“It’s great to have somebody that you actually knew before the NFL came into the picture,” said Lawson. “We had fun together in college. We competed in college. We jaw back and forth.”

During his time with the Bengals, the 6-foot-5, 240-pounder was an outside linebacker in a 4-3, but with the 49ers Lawson was primarily a strong-side linebacker in a 3-4 system, and that’s what he will likely be asked to do for the Bills. The 3-4 appears to be what new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine will use as the base formation, even though it is expected that the Bills will be a hybrid defense with some 4-3 mixed in.

“I see myself fitting in where I always see myself fitting in — making plays,” said Lawson, who has started 82 of the 96 games he has played in the NFL, and according to NFL.com stats has 331 total tackles, 18 sacks, 2 interceptions and 7 forced fumbles. “I look at myself as also being a hybrid. I am a defensive end in a linebacker’s body or mentality as you want to put it. I can drop into coverage, I can rush the passer and I think I fit well in this scheme.”



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Neil S. Schwartz

Email: neilsschwartz@gmail.com

Jonathan Feinsod

Email: jonathan@sffootball.net

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