BUFFALO, N.Y. -- High-priced left guard Derrick Dockery and veteran tight end Robert Royal were released by the Buffalo Bills on Thursday as the team cleared salary-cap space to prepare for free agency.
The moves came one day before the start of NFL free agency and are an indication that the Bills plan to be active in revamping their roster after three consecutive 7-9 finishes. Releasing Dockery and Royal frees up a total of about $8 million in salary-cap space for the Bills, who have missed the playoffs for nine consecutive years, the worst streak in franchise history.
"These business decisions are never easy, especially when you are talking about two great individuals in both Derrick and Robert," Bills chief operating officer Russ Brandon said in a statement. "We wish them the best of luck in the future."
The Bills retained two players who would have become free agents -- fullback Corey McIntyre, who agreed to a two-year contract, and offensive lineman Kirk Chambers, who agreed to a multiyear deal. The Bills also retained the rights to safety George Wilson by tendering him a contract offer.
The team's top priorities in free agency are addressing its offensive line to replace Dockery and finding a starting center. Duke Preston, who took over the starting center job last season, and backup Melvin Fowler are both eligible to become free agents.
Another need is a backup quarterback to replace J.P. Losman, who wasn't re-signed after completing the final year of his contract.
Dockery's agent, Todd France, said he was informed by the Bills that they wanted to go in a different direction. He added that Dockery didn't fit the offensive line scheme under assistant Sean Kugler, who took over last year after Jim McNally retired.
Dockery was scheduled to make $21.75 million over the final five years of his contract, not including incentives. The Bills signed him to a seven-year, $49 million deal on the first day of free agency in March 2007 as part of major offensive line overhaul, which included the addition of right tackle Langston Walker.
Listed at 6-foot-6 and 335 pounds, Dockery started all 32 games in Buffalo and was part of one of the NFL's largest offensive lines in terms of height and weight. But the line struggled last season, allowing 38 sacks, 12 more than the previous year, and the offense finished 25th in the NFL in total yards.
Royal completed his seventh NFL season and was released after spending three years with the Bills. He was scheduled to make just under $3 million over the final two years of his contract.
Despite being nagged by injuries last season, the seven-year NFL veteran finished with career-highs in catches (33) and receiving yards (351) and scored one touchdown in 15 games, including seven starts.
McIntyre primarily was used as a blocking back by the Bills, who signed him on Sept. 30 after he was released by the Atlanta Falcons before the start of the season. The fourth-year pro had no carries and two catches for minus-1 yard in 11 games for Buffalo last season.
Chambers is a versatile backup, who played both guard and tackle in appearing in 16 games -- including four starts -- in his second season with the Bills last year.
Wilson has proven to be a key backup and special-teams player for the Bills.
Former starting linebacker Angelo Crowell, who missed all of last season with a knee injury, also is expected to test the free-agent market.
On Thursday, the Bills hosted two free agents, former Jacksonville Jaguars cornerback Drayton Florence and former Denver Broncos linebacker Jamie Winborn. Earlier this week, former Jaguars running back Fred Taylor and former New England Patriots wide receiver Kelley Washington visited Buffalo.
Copyright 2009 by The Associated Press