They negotiated their contracts earlier in the week and had agreed to terms, but signing free agents Tyler Thigpen and Brad Smith did not become official until Friday at 6 pm when they could sign their deals under the new CBA rules.
Both of them signed their contracts out at St. John Fisher Friday evening. Under the new league rules however, they cannot participate in any physical activities (conditioning, weight room work, practice) until the new Collective Bargaining Agreement is ratified by the NFL Players Union, which first must recertify before voting on the CBA.
Smith and Thigpen cannot participate in practice until Aug. 4th, which has been designated as the official start of the new league year. There's only one way they can practice sooner according to Bills GM Buddy Nix.
"It could be earlier if the union recertifies and ratifies the CBA and all that's done (sooner than Aug. 4th)," said Nix. "But until that's done and the league year officially starts, then they can't do anything except meet and work out on their own."
The 27-year old Thigpen, who made 11 starts under Chan Gailey when Gailey ran Kansas City's offense in 2008, and has already had some recall of his former coordinator's terminology and scheme.
"It will help him," said Gailey. "Being able to pick up and remember terminology is almost half the battle. I saw him earlier and he said he is starting to remember some of the things we did. He will be fine. He will be able to assimilate into the process a lot faster than some other quarterbacks would have."
Thigpen was on the Miami Dolphins roster the past two seasons appearing in six games with one start.
Brad Smith will be coming in brand new to all of it, so being able to sit in the meetings up until Aug. 4th will be invaluable. Gailey said Smith's primary position will be quarterback, but that's not all he will do.
"Brad is a very good athlete and was a very good quarterback coming out of college. He has proven he can make plays on the football field in a lot of different ways. We love his versatility and what he is going to bring to our football team," said Gailey. "I see him being used in a similar role as I used Kordell (Stewart) in Pittsburgh. He can play some receiver and quarterback. He gives you a lot of versatility. He can play special teams, cover kicks and return kicks. He can do a lot to help a football team win games."
Gailey said Smith would also be ideal as the primary ball handler in the Wildcat package. He rushed 38 times last season for the Jets for almost 300 yards and a touchdown in that role, but he has attempted just seven passes in his five seasons with the AFC East rival. Buffalo's head coach said Smith would also be a kick returner along with C.J. Spiller.
Smith's versatility could prove extremely valuable on game days now that there is no longer a third quarterback inactive designation. Under the new CBA teams can now dress 46 players instead of 45, eliminating the third quarterback and all the rules that went with it.
"You have 46 players to place wherever you want," said Gailey. "It is an advantage with a guy like Brad Smith. He can come in and out. He can go in and play, and come out. You don't have to re-designate someone else. In my opinion, it is good for teams to have a guy like that."