The Buffalo Bills have decided to release Ryan Fitzpatrick, their starting quarterback for the vast majority of the past four years, reports Mark Gaughan of The Buffalo News. The Bills have confirmed the move, which comes in advance of the team owing Fitzpatrick a $3 million roster bonus tomorrow, and saves the team $7.45 million in cash.
In a bit of an upset, Chris Brown of BuffaloBills.com reports that the Bills cut Fitzpatrick after the start of the new league year as a post-June 1 designation, meaning that they've deferred $7 million of the $10 million cap hit from the release to the 2014 season. That means that the Bills will eat only $3 million this season, giving them another $7 million to play with this off-season.
Gaughan reports that the two sides tried - and failed - to reach agreement on a new contract. Reportedly, the Bills offered Fitzpatrick an "incentive-laden" four-year deal worth $3 million on average, with the ability to earn up to $7 million annually based on performance.
Fitzpatrick, 30, has started 53 of the 55 games in which he's played since the Bills signed him as a backup to Trent Edwards in 2009 free agency. The Bills sported a 20-33 record with Fitzpatrick at the helm, including 16-29 in the last three seasons as departed head coach Chan Gailey's quarterback of choice. In those four years, Fitzpatrick threw for 11,654 yards (the fourth-highest total in franchise history), 80 touchdowns (third) and 64 interceptions (fifth).
A strong start to the 2011 season - which saw him win NFL Offensive Player of the Month for September - netted Fitzpatrick a six-year, $59 million contract extension with $24 million guaranteed. It was the richest contract ever given to a quarterback by the Bills, and it's what ultimately led to today's decision to release Fitzpatrick, barely 16 months after he signed the deal.
Buffalo re-signed veteran quarterback Tarvaris Jackson to a meager contract earlier this off-season; he's now penciled in as the starting quarterback for the time being. The only other quarterback on the roster at the moment is second-year former undrafted free agent Aaron Corp.
Naturally, we'll have much more on this release soon. Until then, the comments section is all yours.