The Buffalo Bills have started paving the way for new defensive coordinator Mike Pettine to bring in some of his own.

They did so Monday by releasing two of their veteran leaders on that side of the ball in strong safety George Wilson and linebacker Nick Barnett.

Both players were entering the final year of their contract; by releasing them the Bills saved a combined $6.425 million against the 2013 salary cap.

Both Barnett and Wilson started all 16 games for the Bills in 2012, finishing first and second on the team in tackles, respectively.

“Moves like the ones we’ve made today are never easy, but we have to do what’s best for our team and keep moving forward,” General Manager Buddy Nix said in a news release announcing the moves. “We’ve got some good young players on our roster who we feel are ready to take the next step and they will now have the opportunity to do so. We thank both Nick and George for everything they’ve given the Bills organization and wish them nothing but the best for the future.”

Barnett, who will turn 32 in May, started all 32 games with the Bills in his two seasons with the team after being signed as an unrestricted free agent from Green Bay shortly after the NFL lockout ended in 2011.

On the NFL’s official transactions list, the reason for Barnett’s termination is listed as a failed physical. He appeared on six weekly injury reports during the season – Week Three and Weeks 13-17 – each time for a knee injury. He was listed as probable in each instance, except for Week 15, when he was questionable.

Barnett tweeted the news of his release, saying in part on the social media website: “Thanks to all the great Fans and friends I have met in Western New York. It was Truly a pleasure being apart (sic) of that organization and culture, Very unfortunate we didn’t get the Bills to the playoffs but I know you You guys will have many successful years ahead of you.”

The 10-year veteran made a team-high 112 tackles and two sacks last season playing weakside linebacker in defensive coordinator Dave Wannstedt’s base 4-3 scheme.