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Poll: With EJ Manuel out, which QB should Bills acquire?

By Tim Graham

With pedigreed rookie quarterback EJ Manuel out of commission for "a few weeks" and undrafted rookie quarterback Jeff Tuel looking unprepared to play regular-season NFL games yet, the Buffalo Bills are in the market for some outside help.

Doug Marrone today announced the Bills are on the lookout and whomever gets added to the roster could start Oct. 13 against the Cincinnati Bengals.

As the list below illustrates, options are far from rousing.

The free-agent market includes several quarterbacks the Bills have employed in the past or granted tryouts. Maybe there are a couple trade possibilities, too.

Tell us who you would go after if you had your druthers.

Kevin Kolb's head injury puts Bills in precarious QB position

By Tim Graham

The Buffalo Bills' quarterback depth chart has even more question marks today, and it's difficult to fathom they're not in the market to sign another one soon. Perhaps they're already on the phone.

Kevin Kolb went into today's exhibition game against Washington with a chance to reinsert himself into the quarterback competition but left in the first quarter with a head injury.

Kolb was kneed in the back of the head on a scramble. He was taken to the locker room for evaluation and diagnosed with concussion-like symptoms. Kolb has had concussion problems before.

Continue reading "Kevin Kolb's head injury puts Bills in precarious QB position" »

PFF analytics show which Bills provided most, least value in 2012

By Tim Graham

When the Buffalo Bills rebooted their operations in January, a point of emphasis was the creation of an analytics department. While no details have been divulged on how the Bills will implement analytics, a common usage around the league is in determining contract values., one of the most popular analytics sites, has applied its metrics to the Bills' 2012 roster to determine who underperformed and outperformed their salary-cap figures last year.

You can check out PFF for its explanation of each player, but here are the lists:


  • 1. Jairus Byrd, safety
  • 2. C.J. Spiller, running back
  • 3. Andy Levitre, left guard
  • 4. Kyle Williams, defensive tackle
  • 5. Alex Carrington, defensive tackle
  • 6. George Wilson, safety
  • 7. Nick Barnett, linebacker
  • 8. Scott Chandler, tight end
  • 9. Bryan Scott, linebacker
  • 10. Cordy Glenn, left tackle


  • 1. Mario Williams, defensive end
  • 2. Chris Kelsay, defensive end
  • 3. Ryan Fitzpatrick, quarterback
  • 4. Brad Smith, wide receiver
  • 5. Terrence McGee, cornerback
  • 6. Spencer Johnson, defensive tackle
  • 7. Mark Anderson, defensive end
  • 8. Tyler Thigpen, quarterback
  • 9. Erik Pears, right tackle
  • 10. Shawne Merriman, defensive end

The Bills already have released two of the PFF's 10 most undervalued players (Barnett and Wilson). Byrd, Levitre and Scott could become unrestricted free agents in a couple weeks.

From the overvalued list, the Bills have dumped McGee. Kelsay announced his retirement Wednesday night. From the free agents on the list, we safely can assume Thigpen won't be back, Merriman's probably a goner and Johnson isn't worth re-signing.

Tarvaris Jackson signing makes sense for Bills

By Tim Graham

Maybe I shouldn't be surprised.

But something about the fan reaction to the Buffalo Bills' decision to re-sign quarterback Tarvaris Jackson is illogical.

Throughout last season, fans bombarded me with comments that Chan Gailey was incompetent for not giving Jackson a chance to play.

Today, I'm receiving a fusillade of tweets from fans who think Bills General Manager Buddy Nix is a clown for re-signing Jackson.

Continue reading "Tarvaris Jackson signing makes sense for Bills" »

Bills coaching switch finally gives Tarvaris Jackson a chance

By Tim Graham

Tarvaris Jackson not only couldn't get on the field for the Buffalo Bills last year, but he couldn't get the team to issue him a uniform on game days.

New coach Doug Marrone, however, wants Jackson to compete with Ryan Fitzpatrick for Buffalo's starting quarterback job.

The Bills re-signed Jackson today, and Marrone delivered his first insightful comment about how he intends to approach the Bills' most important position.

Continue reading "Bills coaching switch finally gives Tarvaris Jackson a chance" »

For the record: Breakdown of Bills 2013 free-agent class

By Tim Graham

Here is a breakdown of the Buffalo Bills' 2013 free-agent class and what their designations mean.

Unrestricted free agents (13)

Teams have exclusive negotiating rights, but once free-agency begins, players are free to negotiate with other clubs. Original team receives no compensation if the player signs elsewhere.

The original team has the option to place a franchise tag on one unrestricted free agent (a guaranteed one-year salary at the average of the five highest-paid players at the position or a 20 percent raise, whichever is greater) or one transition tag (a guaranteed one-year salary at the average of the 10 highest-paid players at the position).

"Exclusive" franchise tags prohibit the player from negotiating with other clubs. A team that uses a "nonexclusive" franchise tag on a player and then declines to match an offer sheet from another club will receive two first-round draft choices from that team. Transition tags offer no such compensation.

  • • Jairus Byrd, safety
  • • Tashard Choice, running back
  • • Tarvaris Jackson, quarterback
  • • Spencer Johnson, defensive end
  • • Andy Levitre, left guard
  • • Ruvell Martin, wide receiver
  • • Corey McIntyre, fullback
  • • Leodis McKelvin, cornerback
  • • Shawne Merriman, defensive end
  • • Kyle Moore, defensive end
  • • Chad Rinehart, offensive lineman
  • • Bryan Scott, linebacker
  • • Tyler Thigpen, quarterback

Restricted free agents (3)

The player may negotiate with other teams. But if the original club extends a qualifying offer to the player, then it retains right of first refusal to match any outside contract offer. There are three types of qualifying offers, offering different levels of payment and draft compensation if the player leaves.

Exclusive-rights free agents (2)

ERFA's are free agents in name only. They are players with two years of NFL experience or less and have expiring contracts. They may not negotiate with other clubs. If they are extended a contract offer, they must accept or not play at all.

  • • Mike Caussin, tight end
  • • Dorin Dickerson, tight end/fullback

Warren Moon understands why Tarvaris Jackson is third string

By Tim Graham

As the Seattle Seahawks radio analyst, Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback Warren Moon is familiar with what Tarvaris Jackson can do.

While some observers scratch their heads over how a quarterback can go from NFL starter to running the scout team as the third-stringer on a 5-8 club, Moon doesn't find the development strange.

"I feel kind of bad for Tarvaris because he's a really good kid," Moon told me Thursday. "He's a very humble guy, very hard-working. He's really talented. He's got a lot of physical skills.

"But it seems like he's been in the wrong place at the wrong time or hasn't been able to grasp a situation when it's put there in front of him."

Jackson spent five seasons with the Minnesota Vikings. He started 12 games in 2007, but lost the job to Gus Frerotte in 2008. The Vikings signed Brett Favre in 2009. Jackson signed with the Seahawks last year as a free agent and quickly was named the starter.

"Here, it was unfortunate because he came in when there was a lockout," Moon said. "So he didn't get a chance to learn anything until the season started. Then he got hurt in the first game. He was hampered by that, and he showed a lot of toughness. Our offensive line wasn't very good. He got beat up a lot.

"He was able to fight through the season and was able to earn a lot of respect from the coaches and also the players because he played with an injury, but they were looking for something more at the quarterback position."

Seattle signed high-profile free agent Matt Flynn and drafted Russell Wilson in the third round. Wilson beat out Flynn for the starting job, and Seattle traded Jackson to Buffalo.

"He's better than what he's shown," Moon said. "But sometimes as a quarterback you've got to be in the right place at the right time. I think that just hasn't happened for him.

"I think he can be a starter, but I think he definitely will be a good backup, the kind of guy who can make some plays for you, win a couple of ballgames for you.

"Being a starter, that's something he's going to have to earn. He had a 10-win season when he was in Minnesota. He's someone that can win football games, but organizations are always looking for a little bit more, especially when you don't make the playoffs."

Buffalo reportedly traded a conditional seventh-round draft choice to Seattle for Jackson, with the pick turning into a sixth-rounder if he was active for six games. Jackson has dressed for zero.

The Bills are paying Jackson a base salary of $1.75 million.

Chan Gailey addresses why Tarvaris Jackson can't play

By Tim Graham

PHOENIX -- Based on the fan reaction I see on Twitter, Facebook and in my email inbox, the prevailing theme about Tarvaris Jackson is that he must not have the wherewithal to learn the Buffalo Bills' playbook.

That's a totally unfair assessment, a pure guess from those struggling to find a good reason why the quarterback the Bills spent a seventh-round draft pick to acquire and are paying $1.75 million has been deactivated for every game.

For insight, I asked Bills coach Chan Gailey to address this unable-to-learn-the-playbook sentiment specifically. Here is Gailey's response Monday at the team's hotel in Phoenix:

"I don't think that is in any way true. He works every day with David [Lee] and learning the calls and stands back there, doing the mental gymnastics of playing the position. But until you see him take reps with our guys, with our receivers, throwing our routes and doing our reads with our protection calls, you don't know if he's got it. Mentally, it's easy to stand back there, but doing it when you got 3.8 seconds to get it all done, it's a little bit different. It wouldn't be fair to put him in there right now."

Jackson is in a bad spot because he was acquired a week before the regular season. Once the season commences, the starting quarterback gets almost all of the practice snaps, and the primary backup gets a handful.

Fans are curious about Jackson because the Bills obviously identified backup quarterback as an area of concern when they traded for him and cut Vince Young. The timing of the move also saved Tyler Thigpen's job.

With starting quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick playing erratically -- he has five touchdowns and no interceptions with a 112.1 passer rating in two victories, seven touchdowns, eight interceptions and a 68.7 passer rating in three losses -- many fans want him replaced by someone, but not Thigpen.

That makes Jackson's unavailability a warm topic.

"He's learning," Gailey said. "I mean, he can't get reps. That's the problem with being the third quarterback. You can't get reps in practice. There's just no way to get reps. I hate it for him. I hate it for us. There's just no way to get around it right now."

Chan Gailey has all but written off Tarvaris Jackson as No. 2

By Tim Graham

Looks like you can forget Tarvaris Jackson serving as the Buffalo Bills' backup quarterback, let alone replacing Ryan Fitzpatrick at some point.

The Bills two weeks before the regular season traded a conditional draft choice for Jackson and cut Vince Young. The move essentially saved Tyler Thigpen's job after a wretched preseason, but now it appears Thigpen will be the primary backup for the rest of the year.

"It would be very tough for Tarvaris to challenge for that spot this year because of limited reps," Bills head coach Chan Gailey told the club's official website. "Fitz takes almost every rep we have on offense during the course of the week. The backup gets very few reps through the course of practice. So it's hard for him to get the reps necessary to make a viable charge at this point for that position.

"We knew it would be a challenge. We knew that when we made the move, but we were hoping that we would be able to keep him around and keep him learning and eventually by osmosis pick up enough to help us if something were to happen later in the season."

The Bills also are paying Jackson a $1.75 million base salary. That's an expensive scout-team quarterback, and about $500,000 more than the Bills would have paid Young.

The Bills traded a seventh-round pick to the Seahawks for Jackson, but it will become a sixth-rounder if Jackson is active for at least six games. Based on Gailey's comments, that probably won't happen unless Fitzpatrick or Thigpen gets hurt.

Mike Martz: Tarvaris Jackson deal 'good judgment'

By Tim Graham

Don't tell Vince Young a preseason game doesn't matter. And don't think backup quarterback is an insignificant gig.

The Buffalo Bills clearly believe the role is important and are bringing in their third former starting quarterback in search of a Ryan Fitzpatrick backup they're comfortable with.

Young's two-interception performance in the second half of Saturday night's exhibition loss to the Pittsburgh Steelers might've cost him a job. It certainly caused the Bills to lose confidence in him to be their top backup.

The Bills on Sunday worked out a trade to acquire quarterback Tarvaris Jackson from the Seattle Seahawks.

A source with knowledge of Sunday's developments informed me the Bills demoted Young from his No. 2 job before the trade was finalized.

As the Jackson trade was being hammered out Sunday night, I had the chance to ask former NFL head coach and offensive coordinator Mike Martz about it.

"It's common sense and good judgment," Martz said from the Denver airport after working a game in his new role as a Fox Sports analyst. "In this passing league, when you lose that No. 1 guy, you're basically taking the air out of your team completely.

"So you want to make sure you're happy with your backup as a starter. You have to find that guy, wherever he is. Seventy percent of them will get injured. The odds are your guy's going to miss some amount of time. When that happens, you don't want to take a step backwards."

Jackson is 17-17 as a starting quarterback for the Seahawks and Minnesota Vikings. He started 14 games for the Seahawks last year. He has completed 59.4 percent of his passes and has thrown 38 touchdowns with 35 interceptions.

"He's been a little hot and cold, but he's been very good at times," said Martz, who for the past two years was Chicago Bears offensive coordinator. "His game-time experience and the fact he's played well at times is a big addition for them."

Last week, Bills head coach Chan Gailey said he was sticking with his plan to keep Brad Smith as the third quarterback and Wildcat pilot. That means Jackson probably knocked Young and Thigpen out of the box before his flight left Seattle.

Martz, the St. Louis Rams head coach when they drafted Fitzpatrick in 2005, has decades of experience in working with quarterbacks. Martz saw the writing on the wall with less than two weeks to go before the season opener.

"They feel like Tarvaris can come in and fill that role as a potential starter," Martz said. "They must be sure of that or they wouldn't make this trade. It's going to be hard for these other guys to fit on this roster.

"The Bills have made decisions with this move. Obviously, Tarvaris is going to make it."


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 |