The Buffalo Bills tossed last year’s surprise UDFA former Jeff Tuel on the practice squad yesterday after bringing in veteran passer Kyle Orton a couple of days ago, and the move was met with plenty of surprise and intrigue. E.J. Manuel is still the Bills franchise quarterback, but the fact that the organization decided to spend $5 million (as much money as Josh McCown will make as the Tampa Bay Buccaneers starter ahead of second-year pro Mike Glennon, who was essentially called the team’s “QB of the Future” this offseason with McCown as a top stopgap) on Orton is a strong statement.
We received another strong statement today, as Bills head coach Doug Marrone stated that they targeted Orton “very early” and had “many discussions”, per the Bills official Twitter account. The Dallas Cowboys tried to coax Orton out of retirement, but he didn’t want to stick around as the backup behind Tony Romo despite the money he would have made. Brandon Weeden is the Cowboys new backup with Orton gone and Romo’s health still a question for some, but now Orton has a real opportunity to play in Buffalo, whereas he was just a contingency plan behind Romo in Dallas.
I don’t think the Bills will give up on Manuel, but this isn’t a vote of confidence in the raw, former first-round pick. Manuel had a disappointing rookie year, but that was to be expected. This move is likely an insurance policy, but it seems too expensive to simply be a backup plan. The Bills are currently carrying two QBs on the 53-man roster, and there’s a good chance Orton could end up becoming the starter if the Bills decide they don’t like what they are seeing from Manuel. If he struggles and doesn’t show enough in his development, the Bills could let him work from the bench, though there are also confidence risks involved with such a move.