May 29, 2012; Orchard Park, NY, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick (14) passes during organized team activities at Ralph Wilson Field House. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-US PRESSWIRE
Remember back in the summer of 2010, when we were talking about a potential three-man quarterback competition between Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brian Brohm? And how Edwards "won" that "competition," only to flame out after a measly two games? And how Fitzpatrick has done enough in 29 starts since that point to earn the richest contract ever awarded to an offensive player in team history?
Things have been weird for the Bills from the word 'go' in the Buddy Nix and Chan Gailey era, and in a way, they still are. Their three quarterbacks right now: a Harvard product that's 10-19 in two years, but who has shown flashes of brilliance; a former project of Gailey's that hasn't done much since one flash-in-the-pan season; and a former No. 3 overall pick with two Pro Bowls and 31 wins on his resume. Yet the position is defined by the starter, and this is Fitzpatrick's team through and through.
Age: 29 (30 in November 2012)
Contract: UFA in 2018. Signed a six-year, $59 million contract extension in October 2011.
In two seasons as the starter under Gailey, the Bills are 10-19 in games Fitzpatrick started, and he's completed 60.2 percent of his passes for 6,832 yards, 47 touchdowns and 38 interceptions. The completion percentage improved from year one to year two, but he also became much more turnover-prone in his first full year as a starter, particularly later in the season. At this point, we know a lot about Fitzpatrick: he's tough, competitive, gritty and gutsy, he's inconsistent, has flashes of brilliance, and can also be downright awful. What we don't know: if he can be consistent, and if the Bills can be a winning organization with him under center. We'll find out a lot about those final two points in 2012.
Contract: UFA in 2014. Entering the second year of a three-year, $9 million contract signed in July 2011.
Thrown into the fire (so to speak) with very little time to learn Gailey's offense last pre-season, Thigpen was horrendous, completing less than 50 percent of his passes at less than five yards per attempt in pre-season action. The team was apparently not comfortable enough with the veteran backup to turn to him when Fitzpatrick cracked two ribs and struggled, which is why they brought in serious competition for the backup spot this spring.
Contract: UFA in 2013. Signed a one-year, $2 million contract in May 2012.
The former No. 3 overall pick in the 2006 NFL Draft went largely unnoticed in the initial rush of unrestricted free agency, then latched on with the Bills after the 2012 NFL Draft concluded on a meager one-year deal. He was largely terrible in 2011 with Philadelphia, but the talent will always be undeniable with Young. He'll compete with Thigpen to be the primary backup to Fitzpatrick, and he's got an excellent chance of winning that battle.
POSITIONAL OUTLOOK: Adding in the fact that Brad Smith is working at quarterback this spring (which he'll continue to do, even though he's clearly more of a Wildcat/Slash threat than a true quarterback), the Bills have a nice group of veteran signal-callers here, and all three have proven to varying degrees that they can be successful and productive players at the NFL level. That's the good news. The bad news is that the Bills still haven't won anything with Fitzpatrick despite flashes of (high-level) competence, and they've added a potential high-profile distraction in Young. Oh, and they still don't have a developmental prospect in the works. But none of this will matter if Fitzpatrick performs like he did early in 2011, and the Bills are winning.