The Bills hosted a handful of free agents on the first day of free agency, and when the day was over, they had an answer for their hole at backup quarterback, signing free agent signal caller Ryan Fitzpatrick Friday.
Fitzpatrick was the first free agent to visit One Bills Drive after the market opened arriving in the early afternoon. By the early evening hours Friday, the former Bengal had agreed to terms becoming Buffalo’s first signee of the new league year.
“It was a little stressful, but a lot of fun too,” Fitzpatrick told Buffalobills.com. “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 four-year veteran is coming off his most extensive NFL action last season as he stepped in for Bengals starter Carson Palmer, who suffered an elbow injury that required surgery.
Fitzpatrick (6’2” 225) started 12 games completing better than 59 percent of his passes. He threw for over 1,900 yards with eight touchdowns and nine interceptions and a passer rating of 70. The Harvard product played his first two NFL seasons with St. Louis.
“There comes a point where you can’t really improve or grow unless you’re on the field and last year was a big step for me in terms of getting those 12 starts,” said Fitzpatrick.
Buffalo made no secret that they wanted to add a veteran quarterback as a backup to Trent Edwards, that understands his role. The coaching staff is hopeful that a veteran can help to mentor Edwards on the finer points of the game as he continues to develop.
“I think it’s helped me a lot in my career to play behind Marc Bulger and Carson Palmer,” said Fitzpatrick. “I’ve been able to see how they approach the game, and in doing that I’ve been able to help them out. I think that’s what I’m going to bring here. Trent is still a young guy and I’m going to help him out with his preparation. I’m going to be his eyes when he’s on the field and I’m looking forward to that relationship.”
Fitzpatrick is considered a superior student of the game with good character marks all the way around.
With respect to the offense Fitzpatrick had an opportunity to go through some of the Bills offensive scheme with offensive coordinator Turk Schonert.
“We had a good talk over lunch just in terms of where he sees this offense going,” said Fitzpatrick. “Just on the outside looking in knowing the weapons that are here in Lee Evans and Marshawn and the players that can make a difference in the game. It’s a good group of players and that’s exciting. The up tempo style and things that he’s going to do with the offense this year I think we’re going to have a real good shot.”
Buffalo’s newest quarterback has met Edwards a couple of times previously as they have a mutual friend.
“Ironically enough, my number one receiver and go-to guy at Harvard was his number one receiver and go-to guy in high school at Los Gatos, so we’ve got a mutual friend in Brian Edwards, and I had met Trent when I was visiting Brian out in California.”
Buffalo now has four quarterbacks on their roster after re-signing third quarterback Gibran Hamdan to a new contract Thursday afternoon and tendering exclusive rights quarterback Matt Baker who spent the 2008 season on injured reserve.
Free agent quarterback J.P. Losman is expected to pursue free agent opportunities elsewhere.