BBD Editor: Dan Hope
The revolving door at the quarterback position for the Buffalo Bills took another turn Monday with the signing of Matt Flynn, one week after Flynn was released by the Oakland Raiders.
The move comes as little surprise for a team dealing with multiple injuries at the quarterback position. Starting quarterback EJ Manuel is expected to be out at least three more weeks with a sprained LCL in his right knee, while Thad Lewis suffered a foot sprain and left the stadium in a walking boot, according to ESPN’s Mike Rodak, after starting in Manuel’s place for the Bills in their 27-24 overtime loss Sunday to the Cincinnati Bengals.
The ultimate decision to sign Flynn may have been made in response to Lewis’ injury, which left Jeff Tuel as the only healthy quarterback on the roster, but the team was already interested in bringing in the veteran quarterback. Flynn’s Monday workout with the Bills was scheduled last week according to Bucky Gleason of The Buffalo News, and Flynn arrived in Buffalo during Sunday’s game according to Chad Graff of the St. Paul Pioneer Press and Michael Russo of the Star Tribune.
NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport, who originally reported the news of Flynn’s signing, said Flynn earned a roster spot with his performance in his workout with the team Monday.
The plan was for Matt Flynn’s workout to be due diligence. But sounds like it went really well, and he’ll be a member of the Bills soon.
— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) October 14, 2013
Flynn comes to Buffalo after losing starting quarterback competitions with two different teams in back-to-back seasons. Signed to be the Seattle Seahawks’ starting quarterback in 2012, he lost the starting job that preseason to rookie Russell Wilson, and was traded to Oakland after one year as a backup in Seattle. His stint in Oakland was even less promising, however, as he lost the quarterback competition to Terrelle Pryor and was released just five weeks into the season.
While Flynn was viewed as a promising potential starting quarterback prior to the 2012 season, it is unlikely any NFL team will view him as such after his disappointing brief stints in Seattle and Oakland.
He could see immediate playing time in Buffalo if Lewis’ injury causes him to miss any time, but even if Lewis is unable to go Sunday versus the Miami Dolphins, the Bills will only turn to Flynn if he demonstrates a strong understanding of the Bills’ playbook, a task that will be easier said than done with less than a week with the team.
Marrone: Thad Lewis will start if healthy, Flynn the backup if he learns #Bills system. Confidence in Tuel as starter or reserve if needed.
— Buffalo Bills (@buffalobills) October 14, 2013
Marrone also said Monday that he feels good about Lewis being able to play versus the Dolphins, confirming that Lewis’ status is day-to-day and that Lewis’ X-rays and MRI both came up negative for structural damage, according to the Bills’ official Twitter account.
With Lewis’ status uncertain, it makes sense for the Bills to keep both Flynn and Tuel on the roster as backups, giving the team adequate depth at the quarterback position and in Flynn, a veteran with starting experience who can step in and play if needed once he becomes familiar with the team’s playbook and its receivers.
Whether Flynn will even be with the team for the rest of the season, however, remains uncertain.
At this point in his career, he will only seriously challenge Lewis for playing time if Lewis struggles badly. Even in a loss, Lewis had a promising performance versus the Bengals on Sunday, accounting for three total touchdowns while completing 19-of-32 passing attempts for 216 yards. His physical tools and potential make him a better choice to lead the Bills offense and fill in for Manuel than Flynn.
Terms of Flynn’s contract have not yet been reported, but his deal will presumably be only for the remainder of the season. He provides solid veteran depth as a backup, especially for what is available on the market as a midseason addition.
That said, the Bills have not saved a roster spot for Jeff Tuel, an undrafted rookie who was clearly not ready to play in meaningful NFL action when he relieved Manuel following his injury against the Cleveland Browns, for nothing.
When Manuel — who Marrone said Monday is “ahead of schedule” in his recovery — is ready to return to the field and take over the starting quarterback job, the Bills are much more likely to keep Lewis and Tuel as backups, who could both be part of the Bills’ long-term plans as backup quarterbacks, instead of Flynn, who was signed to fill a temporary need for a healthy quarterback who can step in and play if necessary.
The Bills also have journeyman NFL quarterback Dennis Dixon on their practice squad, but there would be little reason for the Bills to elevate Dixon to their roster unless they plan to play him, which has become even less likely than it already was with the addition of Flynn.
The Bills opened a roster spot for Flynn by placing rookie strong safety Jonathan Meeks, who suffered an ankle injury Sunday, on the injured reserve list with a return designation. Meeks will be eligible to return to the practice field in six weeks and to game action in eight weeks.