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Spurned by Packers, Barnett agrees to sign with Bills

PITTSFORD, N.Y. -- Linebacker Nick Barnett didn't last long in free agency after agreeing to a three-year contract with the Buffalo Bills on Sunday.

A person familiar with negotiations told The Associated Press about the agreement and spoke on the condition of anonymity because the team had not announced the deal.

The agreement came two days after Barnett was released by the Green Bay Packers. And it was reached hours after the eight-year veteran watched a Bills walkthrough at training camp in suburban Rochester, N.Y. Wearing his 2011 Super Bowl ring, Barnett spent much of the session chatting with assistant coach Dave Wannstedt, who also doubles as the team's inside linebackers coach.

The Bills were in need of an inside linebacker after losing returning starter Paul Posluszny, who signed with the Jacksonville Jaguars last week.

Barnett had already begun posting notes hinting at the agreement on his Twitter account.

"You bills fans are great here on twitter. How bout in the stadium?" Barnett had written. He also added: "GO BILLS."

Under NFL rules regarding veteran free agents this offseason, Barnett will not be allowed to practice with the team until the collective bargaining agreement is formally ratified. That is expected to occur by Thursday.

Barnett was a cornerstone of the Packers' defense since being drafted in the first round in 2003 out of Oregon State. Injuries, however, have limited his performance and he's ended two of the past three seasons on injured reserve.

That includes last year, when a right wrist injury limited him to only four games. His 2008 season was cut short following a right knee injury.

Barnett had a solid season in 2009, when he had a career-best four sacks, while being credited with 105 tackles. Overall, he has 15.5 sacks and nine interceptions in 107 career games.

The Bills continue revamping a defense that finished last against the run last year, while also giving up an average 26.5 points a game. It was a patchwork and injury-plagued unit that took much of the blame for the team's 4-12 finish.

Bills players were upbeat about the possibility of Barnett's signing following their walkthrough.

"He's a special kind of player and you can't help but be excited about the possibility of playing with him," linebacker Shawne Merriman said.

Rookie linebacker Kelvin Sheppard was impressed after Barnett introduced himself.

"For him to actually come up to me and say, 'What's up Shep?' That's exciting," Sheppard said. "How could you not want a guy like that on your team?"

Barnett's release by the Packers was not a surprise. Scheduled to make more than $5 million this season, Barnett proved to be the odd man out, especially after the Packers reworked linebacker A.J. Hawk's deal in March.

Barnett also proved to be a distraction in Green Bay. In January, he and tight end Jermichael Finley had complained on Twitter that injured players weren't going to be allowed in a team photo scheduled to be taken days before the Super Bowl in Dallas. The Packers eventually relented and allowed the injured players to take part in the photo session.

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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