The Bills announced on Friday that they have re-signed Jackson to a one-year deal worth up to $4.5 million, as reported by lead journalist Chris Brown of BuffaloBills.com (contract via Rotoworld). Jackson was acquired via trade from the Seattle Seahawks just before last year’s regular season kicked off, yet he never had an opportunity to see the field.
However, with a new coaching staff in place, led by head coach Doug Marrone, and a new set of ideas and schemes, Jackson may finally get his shot in Buffalo.
As Brown reports, Jackson is expected to compete with Fitzpatrick for the starting job. However, there is plenty of reason to believe that Jackson winning the job is inevitable.
Per Brown, one of the likely reasons the team brought the 29-year-old back is his familiarity with the West Coast offense, which has roots in new Bills offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett’s system.
What was likely most attractive to head coach Doug Marrone and his offensive staff about Jackson is his strong background in the West Coast system. Jackson had been in it his entire NFL career between his six seasons in Minnesota and one season as a starter in Seattle in 2011. Offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett’s scheme has a lot of West Coast principles.
Surely, Jackson’s background is a big advantage in this situation. In addition, he has also proven to be a viable starter in this league, after setting career highs in completions (271), passing yards (3,091) and passing touchdowns (14) in 2011 with Seattle.
As a result, the move to bring him back could be a telling sign that Fitzpatrick’s career with the Bills is nearing its end. Beat writer Joe Buscaglia of WGR 550 Buffalo shared this sentiment on Twitter:
Because Fitzpatrick is due to count as $10.45 million against the salary cap next season, there’s no reason the Bills would keep him as Jackson’s backup. Similarly, it’s hard to imagine the team agreeing to terms with Jackson if he was not assured a legitimate chance to win the job, since he has long been fighting for a starting position in the league.
The Bills have already shed a lot of money after cutting ties with veterans Nick Barnett and George Wilson, and then releasing Terrence McGee on Thursday. There is also speculation that Chris Kelsay’s spot on the roster is far from safe, as the 33-year-old counts $4.9 million against the cap in 2013 (h/t Mark Gaughan of The Buffalo News).
They are clearly opening up some money to prepare to shape this team as they see fit with the new staff, and Fitzpatrick may ultimately fall victim to the long-term plan.
While the “Amish Rifle” has had some statistical success with the Bills, his inconsistency, his tendency to throw costly interceptions and his lack of downfield accuracy have been burdensome on offense. He has failed to shine since being signed to big money midseason in 2011, so it wouldn’t be a surprise to see Doug Marrone ultimately turn the page on the quarterback position.
Having someone like Jackson on the roster still gives the Bills a veteran presence, and he comes much cheaper than Fitzpatrick would. If they see him as a capable starter next year, it would also enable them to draft a rookie to groom behind him.
Buffalo may be calling this an open competition, but in light of its recent roster moves and the decision to bring back Jackson, Fitzpatrick's time with the Bills appears to be running out.