BBD Editor: Dan Hope
What was expected to be a three-way training camp competition to be the Buffalo Bills starting quarterback has suddenly become a two-man race. The Bills announced the release of veteran quarterback Tarvaris Jackson on Monday night.
After Jackson finished third in another three-way quarterback competition with the Seattle Seahawks last season, the Bills acquired him prior to the start of the season in exchange for a seventh-round pick. Jackson did not see any playing time, however, in his only season with the Bills.
Jackson went into organized team activities as the only returning quarterback from last season’s Bills roster. The Bills’ quarterback roster now consists of one veteran in free-agent addition Kevin Kolb, who signed an incentive-laden two-year contract this offseason, and two rookies: first-round pick EJ Manuel and undrafted free-agent signing Jeff Tuel.
The returning quarterback was given plenty of opportunities to make an impression in the starting quarterback during organized team activities. Jackson split the majority of first-team quarterback repetitions with Kolb during OTAs, according to Chris Brown of BuffaloBills.com. Manuel also received first-team repetitions in OTAs, but not as many as Jackson and Kolb, according to Brown’s report.
Given the team’s decision to release Jackson one day prior to the start of their mandatory mini camp, his performance in OTAs must have been poor enough to assure the Bills he would not win the starting job.
Jackson’s release is good news, of course, for both Kolb and Manuel. With Jackson out of the mix, expect the Bills to work Manuel into the competition with significantly more first-team reps, while Kolb will continue to have a shot to hold him off as a more experienced veteran.
In truth, Jackson was a long shot to win the competition. While he does have 34 career starts under his belt, he never came close to looking like a long-term starting quarterback option with either the Minnesota Vikings or Seattle Seahawks. Having finished outside the top two in open quarterback competitions two years in a row now, his chances of being an NFL starting quarterback again have likely come to an end.
When I handicapped the Bills’ quarterback competition at the beginning of May, I set Jackson’s odds at only 5 percent, so this move does not come as a huge surprise, and does not say much about how the quarterback competition will end up.
The starting quarterback competition will ultimately come down to whether Manuel is ready to start in Week 1, and whether Kolb proves himself to be the more viable starting option for 2013. Jackson’s early release indicates that Kolb clearly outperformed him in OTAs, but it also opens the door for Manuel to get more on-field repetitions and as a result, have a quicker opportunity to develop into a viable starting quarterback.
An even bigger beneficiary of Jackson’s release, however, is Tuel. If the Bills decide to keep three quarterbacks on their roster for 2013, the door is now wide open for Tuel to get that roster spot. It is unlikely that Tuel will steal any first-team reps from Kolb or Manuel, but he is in a very good position for an undrafted rookie. Assuming Tuel continues to show off his physical tools and develop progressively in minicamp and training camp, the Bills will have no reason to look elsewhere for a third-string quarterback.
Check back at the end of the week after the Bills finish up mini camp, when we will take a look at how what now looks to be a two-way starting quarterback battle has progressed in anticipation of training camp.