New coach Chan Gailey is leaving "no stone unturned" in his quest to find a starting quarterback.
In a brief meeting with reporters at Ralph Wilson Stadium, Gailey said he anticipates holding an open competition between rostered veterans Trent Edwards, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Brian Brohm. Gailey also didn't rule out finding an established veteran through a trade or free agency or drafting a candidate next month.
"Unless something different happens between now and post-draft, to me, it's an open competition for the job and we'll see what happens," he said. "We've got to see who can rise to the top."
Gailey's career specialty has been to groom quarterbacks of all talent level.
As for the incumbents, Edwards and Fitzpatrick were part of an offense that struggled in all aspects during a 6-10 finish in 2009, while Brohm, acquired in a trade with Green Bay, earned one start -- a 31-13 loss to Atlanta.
"We've got some guys that obviously have played well and times and some guys that are unproven that we don't know, but were well-regarded coming out," Gailey said.
"To me, we've got to see who can rise to the top. So it'll be an open competition, if it stays status quo. If it changes, if we see something that changes our mind or gets us to another point, then we would go from there."
--Coach Chan Gailey threw water on rumors the team is trying to trade safety Donte Whitner. "It must have gotten a life of its own someplace," he said. "We feel like we have a strong secondary and Donte's a big part of that. To me, you would not weaken one of your strengths. I don't know where that came from."
--Buffalo's cautious approach to free agency isn't unlike that of most teams in the NFL as an uncapped season approaches. Many experts predicated fiscal responsibility would be the norm. "Because you're not making splashes doesn't mean we're not taking every person that's out there seriously and checking them out and finding if they fit our football team," coach Chan Gailey said. "We're trying to be very smart and make good decisions about the type of people we bring in."
--Wide receiver became an area of some need for the Bills after they allowed veterans Terrell Owens and Josh Reed to leave. They're expected to address the need in the draft in the later rounds. Lee Evans and Roscoe Parrish are the only receivers with any experience of note on the roster. James Hardy missed most of last year with a knee injury and Steve Johnson has one career start. "It's not a lack of quality (just quantity)," Gailey said.
--Past associations with Bills defensive coordinator George Edwards and outside linebacker coach Bob Sanders helped lure free agent linebacker Andra Davis to Buffalo. Davis, who started six years for Cleveland and last season for Denver before his surprise release, signed a two-year, $4.4 million deal. Davis played for Edwards in Cleveland and Sanders at the University of Florida. "It was a huge factor," Davis said of Edwards' being on the Bills' staff. "Not only do I know him, but he knows me. We've constantly been on the phone with each other. We always have had that great communication and relationship."
-Former Bills GM/president Tom Donahoe, speaking to students in sports business studies at St. Bonaventure University in Olean, N.Y., told the Olean Times-Herald that the most difficult part of being a GM is the college draft. "The hardest thing is projecting players," he said. "It's also difficult to see how tough the players are and will be and how they will react to their contracts and all that money." Was he talking about Mike Williams?
--The late-season acquisition of controversial offensive lineman Richie Incognito provided the Bills with some much-needed toughness in 2009. Buffalo will now have to square off against the NFL's resident bad boy, who signed a one-year deal worth $725,000 with the Miami Dolphins. Incognito will compete for the starting right guard spot with Donald Thomas and Nate Garner.
Dolphins vice president of football operations Bill Parcells isn't known for having a soft, cuddly side, and that's why his favorite trait for his players is toughness.
That partially explains why Miami signed veteran lineman Richie Incognito to a one-year deal this week that could be worth a reported $1.35 million.
The 6-foot-3, 324-pound Incognito has been fined close to $100,000 by the league for various indiscretions since turning pro in 2005 when the Rams drafted him in the third round. He was cut two days after going berserk in a game against the Titans last year in which he committed two personal fouls that included head-butts, before arguing with his coach Steve Spagnuolo.
And last year he was voted as the NFL's dirtiest player in a Sporting News survey.
Parcells' protege, Tony Sparano, was a longtime offensive line coach (and player) before taking over the coaching reins in Miami two years ago. He's a firm believer in beefing up the trenches.
Clearly, this move indicates that Dolphins coaches have grown out of love for 2008 seventh round pick Donald Thomas, who missed all but one game of his rookie season with a fractured foot. Last year, Thomas, who earned the starting right guard job in his rookie training camp, lost his spot in the final four games of the season.
His replacement, Nate Garner, was adequate but was unable to help Miami generate much of a rushing attack in the season-ending three-game losing streak.
Incognito, 26, adds versatility to the line, another desirable trait of this regime, as he has started at guard, center and tackle over the past four seasons (47 starts overall).
The Dolphins must also be concerned over the lack of durability from starting left guard Justin Smiley, who invariably ends seasons on injured reserve -- usually with chronic shoulder ailments.
However, Incognito has had his own durability issues, spending most of the 2005 and '07 seasons on IR with knee injuries. He's also had temper issues with officials, opposing players and his own coaching staff which led to him getting cut by the Rams last December. The Bills picked him up but chose not to tender him by March 5.
--The Dolphins slippage in defense last year has been targeted as the team's primary offseason business strategy starting with the firing of defensive coordinator Paul Pasqualoni and the hiring of Mike Nolan.
They still need a free safety to replace castoff Gibril Wilson to help the two young corners and Jason Ferguson's suspension and age points to a nose tackle as a priority acquisition.
The run defense was instantly upgraded with the free-agent signing of MLB Karlos Dansby, but the lack of a playmaker on offense must be addressed early on in the draft.
NEW YORK JETS
LaDainian Tomlinson has heard all of the critics who say that signing him was the Jets' version of March madness. And he believes he can prove them wrong.
"I have to prove to people where I am at this point in my career that I can still play this game, and I'm very confident I can," said Tomlinson, who spoke with reporters on a conference call two days after the Jets signed him to a two-year, $5.1 million deal to back up second-year running back Shonn Greene.
Tomlinson was signed nine days after the Jets released Thomas Jones, who rushed for a career-high 1,402 yards last season. Jones subsequently signed with Kansas City for $5 million over two years. He was owed $5.8 million by the Jets in 2010, a $3 million roster bonus and a $2.8 million base salary. Tomlinson rushed for career-lows in yards (730) and yards per carry (3.3) last season and was released by San Diego last month.
It's believed the Jets went to Jones and his agent Drew Rosenhaus with a similar offer to the one they gave Tomlinson, but general manager Mike Tannenbaum sidestepped all questions about a potential offer to Jones.
"It's still on me to prove that I can still play in this league," Tomlinson said. "Now here we are with the Jets, a team that has a very good offensive line and there's no more excuses."
"We still think he can run the ball effectively in our system with our players," Tannenbaum said, referring to the fact that the Jets' offensive line paved the way for the No. 1 rushing attack in the NFL last season.
Tomlinson "still has the ability to make people miss," Tannenbaum said. "He's still productive in the passing game. He still has the ability to be an every-down back. ... Our staple is going to be to continue to run the ball. We still think he can run the ball at a high level."
Tomlinson said he was bothered last year by a high ankle sprain he suffered on opening day, but said he is healthy now. He will be 31 in June. He visited both the Jets and Minnesota last week before deciding to sign with the Jets.
He said a big part of the decision was "having to learn a new offense (with Minnesota) vs. playing in an offense I already know with someone I know in Brian Schottenheimer."
Schottenheimer, the Jets' offensive coordinator, used to be the quarterbacks coach for the Chargers.
Tomlinson said he's OK with being a complementary player at this juncture of his career.
"I have no ego," Tomlinson said. "At this point, it's all about having the opportunity to win a championship. ... The Jets made it to the AFC championship without me. How can I come in here and demand to be a starter? They were very good without me. I just want to be able to have a role on this team and contribute."
--The Jets signed former Dolphins' DL Rodrique Wright, who was out of the league last season, but made nine starts for Miami during the 2007 season. The Jets are trying to be creative in re-stocking their roster, considering they can't sign unrestricted free agents because they have yet to lose one to another team.
--GM Mike Tannenbaum declined to comment on a report that the Jets are interested in trading for disgruntled Denver wide receiver Brandon Marshall. He did say that wide receiver Braylon Edwards, a restricted free agent who hasn't received any offer sheets, will be participating in the Jets' off-season conditioning program.
--While making his decision to play for the Jets, RB LaDainian Tomlinson said he communicated with Brett Favre about both the Jets and the Vikings. He got no indication from Favre whether the quarterback would play another NFL season.
Big surprise, right?