With the 2013 NFL draft over, we have a better vision of what the Buffalo Bills are looking to do on both offense and defense. However, while we have an idea of what the coaching staff has in place, there are several positions that are up for grabs. Over the next week or so, we’ll be previewing each and every position that will have a competition.
To begin, we’ll start with the most intriguing positional battle to keep an eye on this offseason: quarterback.
The team re-signed Tarvaris Jackson at the beginning of the offseason and released Ryan Fitzpatrick. Kevin Kolb signed a two-year, incentive-laden contract as well.
However, the Bills used the No. 16 overall pick in the draft to select Florida State quarterback E.J. Manuel.
Thanks to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement, the Bills aren’t going to be forced into starting any of the quarterbacks. The team will have a battle in training camp and the best man should start week one.
Ryan Fitzpatrick counts for $3 million against the Bills’ salary cap on June 1st. Tarvaris Jackson will earn $2.25 million and Kevin Kolb is due $2.5 million. The last two No. 16 overall pick (Ryan Kerrigan and Quinton Coples) signed four-year deals worth roughly $8.8 million with first year cap hits of about $1.6 million. This leaves the Bills with approximately $9.35 million committed to four quarterbacks, an extremely reasonable number.
So what does each quarterback bring to the table?
Note: Quarterbacks listed in alphabetical order, not depth chart ranking
Tarvaris Jackson, 30
Tarvaris Jackson was a former second round pick of the Minnesota Vikings in the 2006 NFL draft, but has never fully developed into a starting-caliber quarterback. In his five seasons with the Vikings, Jackson started just 20 games before signing with the Seattle Seahawks in 2011.
In 2011, Jackson started 15 games, completing 60.2% of his passes for 3,091 yards while throwing 14 touchdowns and 13 interceptions. He was sacked 42 times in that span.
Jackson has veteran experience and has never complained about being a backup throughout his career, so he provides nice depth to mesh with a young quarterback in Manuel.
Kevin Kolb, 28
Kevin Kolb was a second round pick of the Philadelphia Eagles in 2007, where he backed up Donovan McNabb. The Eagles dealt McNabb to the Washington Redskins and head coach Andy Reid named Kolb the starting quarterback going into the 2010 season.
Kolb suffered an injury and Michael Vick took the National Football League by storm, making Kolb expendable. The Eagles eventually dealt Kolb to the Arizona Cardinals for a second-round pick and cornerback Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie.
Kolb has started 21 games in his career, appearing in 34. In that span he’s posted a 9-12 record while completing 59.5 percent of his passes for 5,206 yards, 28 touchdowns and 25 interceptions. Kolb hasn’t put up successful statistics by any means, but he’s never really been given a full opportunity, especially in Arizona where he was sacked 57 times in 15 games and the leading running back gained just 357 yards.
Kolb should have the upper hand in the competition due to his “experience” and ability. Behind a decent offensive line and a strong running attack, Kolb could be a solid game manager while Manuel develops.
E.J. Manuel, 23
Fans will be clamoring for the first-round rookie to start right away, however, Manuel should have to earn the job instead of being thrown into the fire. Football fans have been spoiled the past two seasons, watching talent like Cam Newton, Andrew Luck and Robert Griffin III come in and start day one, but forget that quarterbacks like Blaine Gabbert, who started too soon and turned into a disaster.
Manuel has the most athleticism, the strongest arm, and the most upside of any quarterback on the roster, but he should still be forced to earn a starting job. It wouldn’t be the end of the world to have him sit on the bench for a season while he fully learns and understands the concepts of a complex, pro-style offense.
Jeff Tuel, 21
The Bills signed former Washington State quarterback Jeff Tuel as an undrafted free agent, releasing Aaron Corp to make place for him. Tuel is a strong, thick-bodied quarterback with a strong arm and solid mobility. Tuel made 26 starts for the Cougars over four years, completing 61.4% of his passes for 5,936 yards and 33 touchdowns.
Tuel is an intriguing developmental prospect and it will be interesting to see if he can secure a No. 3 job or if he sticks around as a practice squad quarterback.
While Manuel is certainly the favorite to earn a starting role, competition will only bring out the best of all four quarterbacks on the roster. Kolb and Jackson have several years of playing experience, but Manuel has the arm and athleticism to surpass both if he works hard in camp. Regardless of the outcome, fans should be confident that the coaching staff made the right decision for the long-term future of the franchise at arguably the most important position in all of sports.