ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) - Quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick agreed to terms on a multi-year contract on Friday in a deal that secures him as the Buffalo Bills long-term starter.
The contract extension comes as Fitzpatrick has helped the Bills to a surprising 4-2 start, while leading an offense that's ranked 10th in the NFL in yards and third in points.
The Bills return from their bye week off to ``host'' the Washington Redskins (3-3) in Buffalo's annual game at Toronto on Sunday.
Fitzpatrick becomes Buffalo's first starting quarterback to renew a contract with the team since Doug Flutie in 1999. That's a reflection of the difficulty the franchise has had at that position, which has remained in flux since Hall of Famer Jim Kelly retired following the 1996. Previous starters over that stretch included Drew Bledsoe, J.P. Losman and Trent Edwards.
With a 13-15 record in Buffalo, Fitzpatrick has been the quarterback for all but one of the Bills victories over the past two-plus seasons.
With 1,477 yards passing with 12 touchdowns and six interceptions this season, Fitzpatrick ranks in the top 10 in four statistical categories, including being tied for fifth in TDs. More important, he has a fuller command of coach Chan Gailey's offensive approach after replacing Edwards as the starter in Week 3 of last season. Edwards was then cut a week later.
He didn't want contract talks to serve as distraction, though he acknowledged a new deal was on his mind.
I'd be lying if I said that it's something I haven't even thought about all year,'' Fitzpatrick had said.It's something that exists, that's in the air. I'm human, too, so I can't just block it away.''
General manager Buddy Nix was open to negotiating a new deal with Fitzpatrick this offseason, but was prevented from doing so because of the lockout.
Fitzpatrick is a seven-year NFL veteran, who broke into the league as the St. Louis Rams' seventh-round draft pick in 2005. The Bills are Fitzpatrick's third team after he spent two seasons with Cincinnati, including 2008, when he finished the season going 4-6-1 in taking over for injured starter Carson Palmer.
Last season, Fitzpatrick provided the Bills offense the semblance of spark despite the team's 4-12 finish. Going 4-9 as a starter, he finished with 3,000 yards passing - the first Bills player with that many since Losman in 2006. And he threw 23 touchdowns, the most since Bledsoe had 24 in 2002.
Fitzpatrick has spent much of this year establishing himself as a leader. During the lockout, he helped organize several player workouts, including one at his native Arizona, where he had his teammates stay at his house.
The work has paid off given how the Bills passing attack has remained productive despite a group of no-name receivers after Buffalo lost two regulars to season-ending injuries and traded its most proven threat, Lee Evans, to Baltimore in August.
Fitzpatrick has earned his teammates' respect.
He's our guy. We throw basically everything on Fitz. And I believe he should be getting something done,'' receiver Stevie Johnson said.You want to have a team together so hopefully they get a contract done with Fitz, and then myself and Freddy (Jackson). Whatever order, it doesn't matter as long as we get to stay together.''
Gailey had such confidence in Fitzpatrick's potential that he essentially awarded him the starting job at the end of last year. The Bills backed up that trust by not selecting a quarterback in the draft, while adding journeyman Tyler Thigpen in free agency in July with the sole intention of using him as a backup.