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Buffalo Bills continue to lose top talent via free agency

Bye Bye Byrdie
Bye Bye Byrdie
Photo by Justin K. Aller/Getty Images

Another one bites the dust, or did the Buffalo Bills get the Byrd?

Bills fans should be used to it by now. Draft a talented young player, bring them along, then lose them when it’s time to sign. After all, 18 inches of snow in March isn’t something many players are excited about.

Andy Levitre last off-season, Jairus Byrd this season, the Buffalo Bills continue to lose top talent via free agency.

It’s not the first time the Bills have watched a talented defensive back walk out the door.

Here’s a look at three other past defectors.

Antoine Winfield

The Bills selected Antoine Winfield in the first round of the 1999 NFL Draft with the 23rd selection.

Despite his size, he was regarded as one of the most physical corners in the league. Known for his bone-jarring hits he was ranked by Peter King of Sports Illustrated as the 31st best player in the NFL in 2008.

“He’s one of the best cornerbacks I’ve ever seen so I would watch him and wanted to be like him,” said Terrence McGee, who was a rookie during Winfield’s last season in Buffalo. “If you watched him the way he tackled, even the way he did drills. He would do the drills perfect and it would make you sick because you would have to follow him in front of the coach. The way he broke on the ball, he just did everything you would want a corner to do. He was cat quick and just a real good corner.”

Winfield played five seasons with the Bills and then left as a free agent to sign with the Vikings. He would play nine seasons and was selected to the Pro Bowl three-times.

Nate Clements

Drafted by the Buffalo Bills with the 21st pick of the first round of the 2001 NFL Draft. Nate Clements was a second corner drafted by the Bills from Ohio State.

Clements had six interceptions in 2002, including three against the rival Dolphins in one game.

He would tie his career high of six interceptions again in 2004 and was named to the Pro Bowl.

Clements was a physical corner who utilized his speed and size and had a knack to create a big play.

He finished his career with the Bills by starting 91 of 96 games, recording 432 tackles, 13 forced fumbles and 23 interceptions.

On March 2, 2007 he became the highest paid defensive player in NFL history after signing an eight-year, $80 million with $22 million guaranteed deal with the San Francisco 49ers.

Jairus Byrd

Drafted in the second round of the 2009 NFL Draft, Jairus Byrd was a steal. The son of former San Diego Charger Gill Byrd made a quick impact in the NFL.

He was named NFL Defensive Rookie of the Month for October in his rookie season and set the team record with interceptions in five consecutive games.

Byrd finished his rookie season tied for the league lead with nine interceptions, five more than any other rookie. He was snubbed for defensive rookie of the year, but was named to the Pro Bowl. He was the first Bills rookie to be selected to a Pro Bowl since Greg Bell in 1984.

The hard-hitting safety continued his success with the Bills and was a three-time Pro Bowl selection, three-time All Pro, and led the AFC in interceptions twice.

On March 11, 2014, Byrd agreed to a six-year, $56 million contract including $28 million guaranteed with the New Orleans Saints. The contract made him the highest paid safety in the National Football League.

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