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Bills release Villarrial, Bowen; re-sign Greer

ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (March 1, 2007) -- The Buffalo Bills released two veterans, including guard Chris Villarrial, and re-signed reserve cornerback Jabari Greer to a two-year contract.

The Bills also released veteran safety Matt Bowen, who failed to make an impact a year after the team signed him as a free agent and had one year left on his contract. Bowen appeared in only five games last season, hampered mostly by a broken bone in his lower right leg, which he hurt in training camp.

Villarrial's release did not come as a surprise. The 11-year veteran, a respected team leader who spent the past three seasons in Buffalo, had been hobbled by numerous injuries. He missed the final seven games of last year after surgery to repair an overextended tendon in his right ankle.

Villarrial also proved expensive, scheduled to make a base salary of $1.45 million in the final year of his contract next season.

"I didn't see it coming," Villarrial told The Associated Press, adding he believed the team was scared off by his injuries and his age -- he turns 34 in June. "I was really trying to rehab it and get back, because Buffalo is a special place to me, and I didn't want to end it like that."

Villarrial, however, said he accepted the team's decision, and wished the Bills well. He called his biggest regret not being able to help the team earn its first playoff berth since 1999.

"Unfortunately, we just didn't get the job done enough. It's just hard to go out that way," said Villarrial, who said he cherished his time in Buffalo. Besides owning a cabin outside of the city, he has also become a big fan of the NHL's Buffalo Sabres.

"I'm not going to lie, I had the time of my life in Buffalo," he said, adding he's awaiting offers from other teams to determine whether he'll play next season.

The Bills did bolster their depth at cornerback, signing Greer to a contract that will pay him more than $1 million this season, including guaranteed bonus money. The Bills could have retained Greer's rights by offering him a one-year tender.

The signing came as the Bills stand to lose two cornerbacks, including starter Nate Clements, when the NFL's free agency period opens Friday.

Greer was the last of four restricted free agents the Bills signed this offseason.

Signed by Buffalo in 2004 as an undrafted free agent out of Tennessee, Greer was primarily used on special teams in 16 games last season. In 44 career games, including three starts, he has been credited with 50 tackles and two sacks.

Greer is expected to compete for a backup cornerback spot this season.

Besides Clements, Buffalo could also lose reserve cornerback Kiwaukee Thomas, who will become an unrestricted free agent Friday.

In another move, the Bills signed quarterback Kevin Eakin, and assigned him to play in NFL Europe. Eakin, who spent part of last season with Hamilton of the Canadian Football League, played college at Fordham and set Rams' school career records with 6,112 yards passing and 45 touchdowns.

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