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Star LB Posluszny likes Bills but intends to test free agency

BUFFALO, N.Y. -- Linebacker Paul Posluszny's first intention is to consider re-signing with the Bills. That doesn't mean he'll refuse to entertain offers from other teams now that the NFL labor dispute has been settled and the league's free-agency period is about to open.

"I've said all along that I would like to be back with them. So that's a top priority," Posluszny told The Associated Press by phone Monday, shortly after NFL players voted to OK a deal to end the 4½-month lockout. "I'm definitely going to have to be responsible and hear what other teams have to say and go that route."

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Selected in the second round by the Bills in the 2007 draft out of Penn State, Posluszny completed the fourth and final year of his contract last season. Under the rules released by the NFL, Posluszny will join other free agents in being free to negotiate with all teams as of Tuesday.

Posluszny had expressed an interest in re-signing in Buffalo before the lockout. The Bills also were interested in re-signing him to a long-term deal and had went as far as to retain Posluszny's rights by extending him a contract tender in March.

That tender is no longer valid, meaning both sides will have to start from scratch.

"I'm very anxious because I have to get my contract squared away and figure out who I'm playing for," said Posluszny, who has spent much of the offseason working out five days per week outside of Pittsburgh. "I'm going to listen to everybody and, and then just try to make the best decision I can make."

The Bills, too, have expressed an interest in re-signing veteran cornerback Drayton Florence, who's also a free agent. Safety Donte Whitner was unhappy with the Bills' final offer in December and isn't expected to return to Buffalo after completing his five-year contract.

The Bills also will have to begin talks to sign their nine rookie draft picks, including defensive lineman Marcell Dareus, who was selected third overall.

Though teams are allowed to open talks with players, they're not allowed to sign contracts until Friday.

After missing much of his rookie season with a broken arm, Posluszny has been a three-year starter who led the team with 151 tackles last season.

From the Pittsburgh area, Posluszny had expressed interest in playing for Dave Wannstedt, the former University of Pittsburgh and Miami Dolphins coach, who was hired by the Bills in January. Wannstedt will double as the team's assistant head coach and work specifically with the inside linebackers.

Posluszny had briefly spoken with Wannstedt in April, when the lockout was temporarily lifted.

Bills players will begin reporting to the team's facility Tuesday, with training camp scheduled to open Friday at St. John Fisher College in suburban Rochester. The Bills are scheduled to open the preseason Aug. 13 at Chicago.

In a statement released by the team, Bills owner Ralph Wilson thanked fans for being patient and was pleased the two sides reached what he called a "fair" deal.

"I'm excited about the direction our team is heading as we enter the upcoming season," he said. "And I know our players and fans share in that excitement."

Coming off a 4-12 season, the Bills haven't qualified for the playoffs for 11 consecutive years, tying the Detroit Lions for the NFL's longest active drought.

Bills safety and union player representative George Wilson was relieved a deal was reached.

"I'm just pleased to be able to not have this be the focal point and to not have fans in limbo about when this thing is going to get resolved," Wilson told The AP. "Now that we all know where we stand and are able to get back to playing football, everybody can smile and enjoy having the game that we all love so much."

Wilson was still at his offseason home in Atlanta, and he expects to arrive in Buffalo by Wednesday. Others are expected to filter in earlier.

"Back to work," offensive lineman Ed Wang wrote on his Twitter account.

"Time to finish packing up here," tweeted rookie third-round pick, linebacker Kelvin Sheppard, who's also in Atlanta. "It's been real ATL, off to B-Lo tomorrow!!!!"

Copyright 2011 by The Associated Press

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