Bills find backup in Fitzpatrick

Rather than sign a quarterback to challenge Trent Edwards, the Bills opted for the Cincinnti free agent. It was smart for the Bills to settle the quarterback issue early.

It wasn't the signing fans hoped for. But after entertaining four free agents Friday, quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick reached a deal with the Buffalo Bills.

Fitzpatrick figures to replace J.P. Losman as Trent Edwards' back-up. The Harvard-graduate started 12 games last season for the Cincinnati Bengals in place of Carson Palmer last season. Through the Bengals' forgettable year, Fitzpatrick threw for 1,905 yards, eight touchdowns and nine interceptions.

Considering Edwards' injury history through two seasons, landing a formidable backup was imperative for the Bills.

"It was a little stressful, but a lot of fun too," Fitzpatrick told the team's website. "It's been a long day here in Buffalo, but it's been a great day getting a chance to meet everybody and talking with Coach Jauron for a bit. It's an impressive organization from top to bottom."

The signing also suggests the Bills' faith in Edwards more than anything. With a handful of quarterbacks on the market including Matt Cassel, Jeff Garcia and Kurt Warner, Buffalo opted for the prototypical veteran backup. Fitzpatrick was effective in a No. 2 role with the St. Louis Rams. His career highlight came in his first NFL action ever. In 2005 against Houston, Fitzpatrick erupted for 310 yards and three touchdowns to lead the Rams to an overtime win.

Fitzpatrick struggled through most of last season in his first extended game action, but he did help Cincinnati finish on a three-game winning streak. Against Washington's seventh-ranked pass defense, Fitzpatrick completed 16-of-29 passes for 209 yards for one touchdown, no picks and a rushing score in a 20-13 Cincinnati win.

He's young. Last season, Fitzpatrick was thrown into the fire. The best two defenses in the league reside in his division. It's unreasonable to expect him to post Palmer-like numbers.

The Bills wisely sought and inked a backup quarterback right away. It sure isn't the signing a down-and-out fan base wanted, but signing Fitzpatrick can't be underestimated. Edwards, though sharply accurate and a quick decision-maker, has had trouble staying healthy --- all of his injuries have cost Buffalo dearly. When Edwards went down with a concussion and a groin injury last year, the Bills went 0-3. And when he was sidelined during his rookie season, Buffalo's playoff hopes were crushed in blowout losses to New England and Jacksonville.

There was some speculation that the Bills may bring a stronger arm to challenge Edwards via free agency or the draft. There's a reasonable chance Matthew Stafford or Mark Sanchez falls to No. 11 overall. Edwards didn't necessarily take the giant leap forward, Buffalo expected in his sophomore season. In 10 games, Edwards threw for 2,699 yards, 11 touchdowns and a 65.5 completion percentage. But the thinking is that Buffalo's true flaws lie at receiver where nobody was able to take pressure off Lee Evans.

Hence, Laveranues Coles' visit Friday. Curing the real issue with the offense's woes starts with locking up Coles. Still, it was smart for the team to put the quarterback issue to rest.

Click here to say whether you think the Fitzpatrick signing was a good move. Should Buffalo have signed somebody to challenge Edwards, rather than back him up?


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