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Bills sign Jordan Palmer: the "coach on the field" angle

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The Bills need Jordan Palmer to be a quality backup quarterback first - but could he also be a quality mentor for EJ Manuel?

Mike DiNovo-USA TODAY Sports

If you missed it last night, Field Yates of ESPN is reporting that the Buffalo Bills will be signing free agent quarterback Jordan Palmer. Presumably, that will happen sometime today, as the Bills will need to make a corresponding roster move to stay at the league-maximum 75 players prior to today's 4:00 p.m. ET deadline.

The Bills need Palmer, an eight-year veteran, to be the quality backup quarterback that Thad Lewis and Jeff Tuel have resoundingly proven themselves not to be this summer. It's also interesting that Palmer, who spent most of a calendar year with the Chicago Bears, was signed by the team that happens to be playing the Bears in Week 1.

There's a third angle to this story that is interesting, as well: Palmer, despite having a very short CV as a pro passer, has already developed a reputation as a player that can help develop young quarterbacks. Peter King was among the first to raise that point on Monday evening.

Blake Bortles, the No. 3 overall pick in the 2014 NFL Draft that has been highly impressive for the Jacksonville Jaguars this preseason, worked with Palmer extensively during the pre-draft process. Palmer spoke with the Chicago Tribune back in February about what that work entailed.

"I played in five NFL offenses and learned five systems," Palmer told Brad Briggs at the time. "I have taken the universal concepts, universal protections and formations that you will find in any NFL offense, and I built an offense. I am installing it, not just to learn the offense, but to teach them how to learn an offense. What you don't do when you are learning an offense is stare at the playbook and try to memorize it."

The current Bills regime, of course, is committed to trying to turn EJ Manuel into a franchise quarterback (a concept that Doug Marrone talked about just yesterday). Part of that process is building a strong support system around Manuel; they hired quarterbacks coach Todd Downing as part of that process, Nathaniel Hackett left the booth to call plays from the sideline because Manuel felt more comfortable that way, and perhaps a veteran quarterback with coaching upside will help, as well.

Palmer's association with Bortles can't have hurt his allure on the open market; he was there less than 24 hours, as the Bears released him on Sunday. In three preseason games to date, Bortles has completed 28-of-45 passes (62.2 percent completions) for 435 yards (9.7 yards per attempt) with one touchdown and no turnovers.

Again, there's no denying that the most important thing that Palmer needs to be for the Bills is a quality backup quarterback. But if he can help Manuel's progression in any way, that could make him a worthwhile investment in and of itself.