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State of the Bills Roster: Quarterback

An incredibly busy off-season in western New York trucks on. The Buffalo Bills have hired a General Manager (Buddy Nix), hired a new head coach (Chan Gailey), and begun the process of overhauling their football operation (firing John Guy). More important decisions will follow, including Gailey's coaching staff, what happens in the front office, and, of course, what happens with Buffalo's roster.

It's the last of those that we'll now turn our focus to here, because quite frankly, I'm sick to death of talking about coaches and front office personnel all the time.

Throughout the nearly three years that this community has existed, our "State of the Bills Roster" series has been amongst our most-commented and most popular. That series begins anew today; now that we have some semblance of the type of player that the Bills' new decision-making regime will covet, we can begin analyzing which players may or may not have solid futures with the organization.

There's no better place to start this series with the quarterback position. It's going to be the primary focus of Nix and Gailey once the administrative stuff is taken care of, and with good reason - it's football's most important position, bar none. The current state of Buffalo's quarterback position follows after the jump.

What the new regime might be looking for
The answer to that is pretty obvious: change. Neither Nix nor Gailey sounded particularly enthused about Buffalo's current stable of quarterbacks, and with good reason: none is a starting-caliber player.

Nix mentioned at his introductory press conference that the fact that the Bills play football in Buffalo makes a strong-armed quarterback that can handle the adverse weather conditions at Ralph Wilson Stadium a necessity. That's what we know about Nix, and it's fairly basic.

As far as Gailey goes, there's a predominant theory running wild at the moment - with Michael Lombardi at the forefront - that Gailey prefers athletic quarterbacks, citing his recruit preference at Georgia Tech and his recent work with Tyler Thigpen as rationale. While I don't want to go so far as to discredit that notion - that would be ill-advised, because Gailey has had moderate success with athletic quarterbacks - I wouldn't want to slap him with that specific label, either. Let's face it - Georgia Tech isn't exactly a breeding ground for blue-chip NFL quarterback prospects, and Gailey wasn't going to attract that type of recruit while head coach at GT. It's feasible that he focused on finding athletes simply to maximize the play-making ability of his offense.

In short, I wouldn't rule out an "athletic quarterback" in Buffalo next season, but I don't think that particular trait will be nearly as much of a focal point as the Lombardis of the world do. It's not necessarily the style that Nix prefers, and Gailey shouldn't be pigeon-holed there, either. It seems obvious, but I think they'll just try to get the best quarterback they can, with style a secondary trait to production, leadership and potential.

Current personnel
Buffalo currently has four quarterbacks on its roster in some fashion. I'm certain I don't need to mention the overall quality of the players at this position.

Ryan Fitzpatrick. Emerged as the Bills' de facto starter during the 2009 season after his predecessor fizzled out. He appeared in 10 games for the Bills last year, finishing the season with 1,422 passing yards, 10 total touchdowns (nine pass, one rush), 10 interceptions and a quarterback rating of 69.7. If the season were to start tomorrow, there's little doubt in my mind that Fitzpatrick would be the starter.
  Contract status: 2 years remaining. Owed $2.3 million in 2010 and $2.8 million in 2011.

Trent Edwards. Once considered the future of this position in Buffalo, Edwards is now damaged goods. His injury history is a concern, as is his utterly demolished confidence in himself. Edwards was hardly remarkable early in his career, but he was decisive and semi-productive, and helped the Bills win games. Now, he's a shell of his former self, and it's very easy to see Nix and Gailey simply cutting him loose and moving on.
  Contract status: 1 year remaining. Owed $550 thousand in 2010.

Brian Brohm. I get why Brohm has more fan support than any other QB on the roster at the moment. Really, I do. He's got talent, and this team has been so starved for a QB that it's easy to get excited about anybody with talent. I'll just say this: one of the most loathed quarterbacks in Bills franchise history, Billy Joe Hobert, completed 17 of 30 passes for 133 yards with 2 interceptions in two brief appearances in 1997. It's very difficult for me to fathom why Brohm's stat line (17 of 29, 146 yards, 2 interceptions) is perceived any differently, even if he knew the watered-down playbook Buffalo's previous coaching staff prepared for him. Brohm, my friends, is nothing more than a developmental project player at this point. Stop with the hype. Please.
  Contract status: Under contract through close of 2010 season. Salary unknown.

Gibran Hamdan. We'll keep this short: he'll likely be a restricted free agent (counting on the probability of no CBA), and the only reason he's on the roster in the first place is because he was signed when Edwards was injured late in the season. There is no upside with Hamdan, who by the way is one hell of a nice guy. Hamdan's Bills outlook: duck soup.
  Contract status: Expired in March. RFA with no CBA, UFA with CBA.

Who stays? Who goes?
Let's get the easy one out of the way: Gibran Hamdan is a goner.

Brohm has a chance to stay. He's under contract, very cheap, and quite talented. There's no reason to believe Nix and Gailey won't at least give him a long look in mini-camp and training camp settings. There's also no reason to believe he'll be looked at as anything more than what he is: a project.

Obviously, Fitzpatrick and Edwards are the biggest question marks. I'll say this: I believe Nix and Gailey will look at production and whether or not they believe that they can win with these players. Fitzpatrick's lifetime record is 10-14-1; Edwards is 12-16. Not strong arguments for either player. However, the divide between the two is this: Fitzpatrick has proven of late that he can win games for you, while Edwards has proven of late that he cannot. Fitzpatrick is 8-4 in the last 12 games in which he's seen significant snaps. Edwards is 3-11 in the last 14 games in which he's seen significant snaps. Advantage: Fitzpatrick, particularly when considering his contract status.

If I were a betting man (and no, I'm not)
I think Brohm stays as a training camp arm and project player. I think Fitzpatrick stays, because he proved in the season finale against Indianapolis that he can throw in the snow, and because he's had moderate success in the win column of late. Hamdan has no shot at being here, and I think Edwards is done in Buffalo as well. Delving into the minds of Nix and Gailey, I think they'd like to find a veteran quarterback (or two) along with possibly a young guy (someone they draft, regardless of round) to toss into training camp alongside Fitzpatrick, who would be next season's backup, and Brohm. You need four quarterbacks anyway, so a vet to start, Fitzpatrick to back up, and a young guy to groom alongside Brohm wouldn't be the worst way to start at that position.

Names to keep an eye on
Absolutely no embellishment here, unless you ask for it, in which case I will provide my thoughts.

Chad Pennington. Michael Vick. Tarvaris JacksonTyler Thigpen. Billy Volek. Charlie WhitehurstSam BradfordJimmy ClausenTim Tebow. Dan LeFevour.