The Buffalo Bills are looking beyond Ryan Fitzpatrick when planning the future of the club.
For the second time in seven days, Bills General Manager Buddy Nix emphasized the need to obtain a franchise quarterback, but this morning on WGR he made his feelings known even more forcefully.
Nix, on his weekly segment with the "Howard Simon Show," declared the Bills want to draft a quarterback in April. Last week, Nix said he wanted to make sure a franchise quarterback was in place before he left the team but didn't specify a timetable.
"Let me be as honest as I can," Nix said this morning. "I think we really need to address it this year. The thing we can't do is you can't create one. You can't go out, thinking 'I've got to make this guy a player.' If you do, then you're going to be in a bigger mess. We don't want to do that. We try to guard against that.
"But we do need another one, and we need to do it this time."
Nix suggested the Bills might not draft a quarterback with their first pick. He said he doesn't see a can't-miss quarterback in the upcoming draft class like there have been the past couple years.
"You've got guys spread out all over the league that have been successful that didn't go in the first round or the first five or 10 picks," Nix said. "That is the hard part, now.
"If you got a [Andrew] Luck, an RG3 [Robert Griffin III], a Cam [Newton], those were the buzz guys every year, and it proved to be accurate on those guys. But I don't see one of those yet in this draft. That may develop later on, but there is a lot of good players in the draft, a lot of good quarterbacks."
The top quarterback prospects in next spring's draft include USC's Matt Barkley, West Virginia's Geno Smith, Arkansas' Tyler Wilson and Tennessee's Tyler Bray.
The Bills signed Fitzpatrick to a six-year, $59 million contract extension last season.
But before you howl about that being a bad move in hindsight, don't forget the Bills' situation at the time. Fitzpatrick was in the final year of his contract, and the Bills were 4-2 (and would win their next game, too).
They appeared to be on their way to the playoffs after thrilling victories over three playoff teams from the year before: the Kansas City Chiefs, New England Patriots and Philadelphia Eagles.
Not re-signing Fitzpatrick would have been risky. Had the Bills not tanked down the homestretch and made the playoffs (as looked quite possible), Fitzpatrick would have become a chic free agent and much more expensive to keep, and the Bills wouldn't have had a high enough draft spot to draft another top quarterback.
As it worked out, the Bills lost seven games in a row and eight of their last nine.
The Bills have drafted one quarterback over the past five years. It was seventh-rounder Levi Brown from Troy in 2010.
And here we are.
(Photo: Harry Scull Jr./Buffalo News)