The Buffalo Bills re-signed Shawne Merriman, ensuring that the three-time Pro Bowl linebacker will be a part of the team's defense next season and beyond, general manager Buddy Nix confirmed Saturday.
Merriman signed a two-year contract with a guaranteed $2.5 million for 2011 and will make an average of $5.25 million over the two seasons, ESPN reported, citing a source.
Incentives could inflate the contract to $9.25 million per season, but the number would be closer to $8.75 million if Merriman remains productive and injury-free, according to the source. Also, by signing Merriman before the Saturday deadline, the Bills can charge some of the guaranteed money to the uncapped 2010 season.
"We had been working on it, and we agreed on it and got everything signed this morning," Nix told the Bills' official website about the deal. "I know heâs a leader. He's been a Pro Bowler. He's only 26 years old, and if he's healthy, he'll make plays for us and help us win games."
Nix is encouraged about the health of Merriman, who has battled knee, calf and Achilles' ailments over the past two seasons.
"The prognosis for him is good for him to be healthy and ready to go by the time offseason workouts roll around," said Nix, who told ESPN that Merriman will take an exit physical Monday or Tuesday.
Nix said he planned all along to keep Merriman in the fold.
"I don't know who else had that in mind, but I did," Nix said. "I've seen him when he's healthy, and I know what kind of player he is."
Nix, a member of San Diego's front office from 2001 to 2008, was an assistant under Chargers GM A.J. Smith when the team drafted Merriman in the first round in 2005.
Merriman hinted at a new deal Friday via Twitter, writing: "Since I said 2011 is about accomplishing its also about proving and if your a Bills fan I have some exciting news coming!!!"
The Bills placed Merriman on season-ending injured reserve Nov. 27 after claiming him off waivers earlier in the month, three weeks after the San Diego Chargers released him off IR because of a calf injury.
At the time, Merriman also was nursing a strained Achilles' tendon. In his first practice with the Bills on Nov. 10, he lasted just 15 minutes before re-injuring it.
Merriman's move to IR capped a tumultuous year for the one-time feared linebacker.
Merriman sat out most of the San Diego's offseason workouts and part of training camp to protest his contract. He finished the season with six tackles in three games for the Chargers.
The following Wednesday, Merriman walked onto the practice field for the first time with his new team, but that's when things went awry. During a harmless-looking individual drill, he backpedaled, then pivoted to his left before pulling up and hopping on one leg.
Merriman immediately pulled down his right sock and limped to the sideline, where a trainer spent a few minutes checking the linebacker's ankle. Merriman then consulted head trainer Bud Carpenter at midfield before being escorted to the Bills' fieldhouse, where the team's training room is located.
Merriman was inactive for the Bills' next two games against the Detroit Lions and Cincinnati Bengals. Bills coach Chan Gailey declared Merriman out for the Nov. 28 home game against the Pittsburgh Steelers, 24 hours before the team officially cut short the linebacker's season.
Nicknamed "Lights Out" for his aggressive and hard-hitting style, Merriman has 43.5 sacks in his 60-game NFL career. But his production has substantially dropped over the past three seasons, largely because of nagging injuries, including reconstructive knee surgery that forced him to miss most of 2008.
Since the start of the '08 campaign, Merriman has just four sacks in 18 games.
Merriman received a four-game suspension in 2006 after testing positive for steroids. He blamed the positive test on a tainted supplement, which he never identified.
Merriman also brought unwanted attention off the field after being arrested just before the 2009 season when reality television star Tila Tequila accused him of battery and false imprisonment at his suburban San Diego home. No charges were filed, and Merriman and Tequila settled dueling lawsuits.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.