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Kolb signing might save a Buffalo gaffe

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Posted: Sunday, April 7, 2013 8:49 pm

So here’s my take on the Bills signing enigmatic veteran quarterback Kevin Kolb.

It possibly saved a first-round Buffalo draft blunder.

Theoretically, the 6-foot-3, 218-pound former Eagles’ second-round draft choice will battle holdover Tarvaris Jackson, who wasn’t active for a single Bills game last season after Buffalo acquired him from Seattle for a seventh-round draft pick ... which is why it has only six selections in this month’s lottery.

We pretty much know Jackson’s limitations (38 touchdowns, 35 interceptions as a Viking and Seahawk) — former coach Chan Gailey’s disinclination to make him active on game days speaks volumes — but he has the advantage of not being Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Bills’ fans haven’t been first-person witnesses to his failings.

That’s also true of Kolb (28 TDs, 25 picks), who has never played more than nine games in an NFL season — due to injury — since he became the Eagles’ nominal starter in 2008.

The former University of Houston star had the confidence of Philadelphia coach Andy Reid, one of the NFL’s most respected offensive minds.

That said, three years later, Reid cast his lot with Michael Vick and, a season later, it cost him his job.

Still, Jackson and Kolb, who endured two disastrous health-related season in Arizona, give the Bills two veterans ostensibly battling for the starting job.  That would seemingly preclude an obligatory “reach” for a QB in the first round and the possibility of taking the hard-to-assess Geno Smith from West Virginia, Matt Barkley of the flawed USC lineage (think Mark Sanchez, Carson Palmer or Matt Leinart) or, the worst alternative, new coach Doug Marrone’s pet, Syracuse’s Ryan Nassib.

Smith and/or Barkley figure to be gone by the Bills’ pick at No. 8 but Nassib should still be there when Buffalo makes its second-round pick at No. 41, and taking him there would be easier to accept.

But for a team with so many needs in the first round — wide receiver, tight end and cornerback for starters — rolling the dice for a QB in a bad draft year for that position is foolhardy.

It’s hard to believe that a quarterback-needy team such as Buffalo passed on budding star Russell Wilson in last year’s third round in favor of wide receiver TJ Graham, who showed so little as a rookie he’s rarely even mentioned in this year’s outlook.

That said, the Bills are a team which, since 2000, have taken the likes of Erik Flowers, J.P. Losman, Donte Whitner, John McCargo, Leodis McKelvin and Aaron Maybin in the first round.

One of Buffalo’s most glaring problems — Gailey is a perfect example — is the inability (unwillingness) to admit a mistake.

Fitzpatrick isn’t nearly the incapable quarterback Bills’ fans perceive. And, full disclosure, we mediatypes loved his intellect and self-deprecating sense of humor.

But it also wasn’t us who signed him to a $59 or $62 million — reports vary — six-year extension after Buffalo opened the 2011 season at 5-2 that included 3-point road losses at the eventual Super Bowl champion Giants and the playoff-bound Bengals.

Fitzpatrick merely accepted the offer, the subsequent overpayment rests squarely with Buffalo’s front office.

True, the Bills’ financial responsibility was terminated when Fitzpatrick was waived last month, but his $24 million signing bonus — already paid — will impact the Bills’ salary cap for five more years.

It’s hardly the first major financial gaffe committed by Buffalo’s administration.

Take 2007 when it drastically overpaid for guard Derrick Dockery and tackle Langston Walker, who each provided two years of mediocre play ... at best.

But Dockery was waived with an $18.5 million signing bonus in hand while Walker got $10 million ... and each earned two year’s of salary.

It was an incredible waste of money.

The same argument could be made about last season’s 6-year, $96 million commitment to free agent defensive end Mario Williams ... though he admittedly generated some excitement heading into training camp.

But by the middle of the 2012 campaign, he was tabbed as one of the five worst free agent signings of the year.

Williams eventually recovered to a degree, but his 46 tackles, 10 1/2 sacks, two forced fumbles and a pair of recoveries hardly justified a $16 million average salary.

 So forgive me if the free-agent signings of Baltimore linebacker Manny Lawson and Seattle defensive lineman Alan Branch don’t have me salivating for OTAs.

Nor have they caused the Bills’ to hire extra personnel to handle an increased demand for season tickets.

(Chuck Pollock, the Times Herald sports editor, can be reached at cpollock@oleantimesherald.com)

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