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Bills release Young, give Thigpen brief reprieve


By Tim Graham

The Buffalo Bills have formally released quarterback Vince Young, and Tyler Thigpen almost certainly will follow him out the door in about four days.

The Bills worked out a trade for Seattle Seahawks quarterback Tarvaris Jackson, rendering Young superfluous. And a week ago, Young had beaten out Thigpen for the No. 2 job.

So the developments on Buffalo's QB depth chart don't help Thigpen much at all.

John Wawrow of the Associated Press reported the trade wasn't finalized until the Bills could renegotiate Jackson's contract. He was scheduled to make $4 million this year, and the Bills found that figure too exorbitant.

Young's base salary would have been $1.25 million this year with bonuses of about $24,000 for every game he was on the active roster. Thigpen would make a $2.5 million base salary this year. You can bet that's too expensive for a third-string quarterback.

Besides, Bills head coach Chan Gailey reaffirmed last week Brad Smith would be the third quarterback. Smith will make a $2.25 million base salary, but he's a commodity who can play receiver, return kicks and handle other special-teams duties in addition to run the Wildcat package.

Then why keep Thigpen around?

Somebody needs to get the Bills through Thursday night's preseason finale against the Detroit Lions. Starters generally play a series or two -- if at all -- in the fourth preseason game. The Bills must have a quarterback for those final three and a half quarters.

The Bills have only two practices this week. They were off Sunday because it was the day after a game. They will be off Wednesday because it will be the day before a game.

Jackson had to fly cross-continent and won't arrive at One Bills Drive in time for any kind of meaningful workout today. Practice is scheduled to begin at 3:30 p.m. (EDIT: Jackson was here in time for practice but didn't take any reps.) That leaves him with one practice and three days to learn the Bills' playbook in time for Thursday night.

The threat of an injury to Jackson is greater than quality reps against the Lions. Even if Jackson does play, it's not going to be all night. He won't know enough of his teammates or the playbook.

Smith can't play three and half quarters either -- not unless the Bills want to show the world their entire Wildcat package. Smith simply isn't a traditional quarterback who can drop back and give the Bills a worthwhile look at their base offense.

To go with Smith for an extended period of time essentially would be throwing away the Bills' final opportunity to examine their offense and all those bubble players before Friday's final roster cuts.

Thigpen, meanwhile, can use Thursday night as a public demonstration for the other 31 NFL teams. That's about the extent of it.

(Photo: James P. McCoy/Buffalo News)

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About Press Coverage

Tim Graham

Tim Graham

Tim Graham returned to The Buffalo News in 2011 after covering the NFL for three years at ESPN and for one year at the Palm Beach Post. Before that, the Cleveland native spent seven seasons on the Buffalo Sabres beat for The News and was president of the Boxing Writers Association of America.

@ByTimGraham |

Mark Gaughan

Mark Gaughan

Buffalo native Mark Gaughan started working at The News in 1980 and has been covering the Bills exclusively since 1992. He is a former president of the Pro Football Writers of America, and he is a member of the Pro Football Hall of Fame selection committee.

@gggaughan |

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski

Jay Skurski joined The News in January 2009. The Lewiston native attended St. Francis High School before graduating from the University of South Florida. He writes a weekly Fantasy column in addition to his beat writing duties.

@JaySkurski |