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Bills Start Over With New QB


Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images
Photo by Joel Auerbach/Getty Images

The Fitzmagic is gone.

Ryan Fitzpatrick, the only Bills quarterback besides Jim Kelly to throw 24 touchdown passes in three straight seasons, has been released by Buffalo after four mostly maddening seasons.

And now Kevin Kolb, who reportedly agreed to a two-year deal with the Bills over Easter weekend, is the No. 1 quarterback on Buffalo’s roster.

Fitzpatrick, isn't the only Bill who has shuffled off from Buffalo. Andy Levitre, reportedly received a six-year, $46.8 million deal from the Tennessee Titans. The 6-foot-2 guard, who made 64 starts for Buffalo, is one of only three offensive linemen drafted in 2009 to start every game since coming into the NFL. The Bills also allowed defensive linemen Spencer Johnson and Kyle Moore, and fullback Corey McIntyre to become free agents.

Buffalo, which was unable to reach an agreement to restructure Fitzpatrick’s contract, released the Harvard product a day before he was due a $3 million bonus. In 55 games with the Bills, Fitzpatrick threw 80 touchdown passes and 64 interceptions, including a career-worst 23 in 2011.

“We kept every possible option open right down to the wire, when we had to make a decision on whether to keep Ryan,” general manager Buddy Nix told the Associated Press. “In the end, we had to do what we feel is best for our football team. And it was a difficult decision."

Fitzpatrick, who was in the midst of a six-year, $59 million contract extension signed in October of 2011, went 20-33 as a starter over four seasons in Buffalo. He took over the starting job three weeks into the 2010 season, after Trent Edwards was benched and then released a week later. After Fitzpatrick helped the Bills get off to a surprising 5-2 start a year later, the Bills rewarded him with the largest contract in team history before signing defensive end Mario Williams to a six-year, $96 million deal last year. However, after their promising start in 2011, the Bills went to lose nine of their last 10 games, and went 6-10 again last year.

Along with Levitre, Fitzpatrick is now in Tennessee as the Titans' backup to Jake Locker. However, despite landing Kolb, Nix — the man behind the two biggest deals in Buffalo history — intends to find a QB in this month’s NFL draft.

“Our focus remains on adding another quarterback to our roster,” the GM said, “and we will continue to explore every option available to us.”

The Bills have used shaky options at quarterback ever since Kelly retired after the 1996 season. Over that stretch, Buffalo has turned its offense over to Rob Johnson, Drew Bledsoe, J.P. Losman, Kelly Holcomb and, most recently, Edwards. Despite Fitzpatrick’s Ivy League pedigree and low draft status -- he was selected 250th overall in the 2005 by St. Louis – the Bills thought they finally had stability at QB. Less than two years into Fitzpatrick’s massive contract extension, the Bills are forced to start over again with Kolb.

That’s not great news for new Bills coach Doug Marrone, who inherits a team with a 13-season playoff drought — the NFL’s longest active streak.