Kyle Orton has signed with the Buffalo Bills, giving the team a much-needed veteran backup and Orton an avenue to continue in the league.
Orton was released by the Dallas Cowboys after he threatened to retire this offseason and then failed to report to team activities. After several weeks in the free agent pool, he signed with the Buffalo Bills, who have been searching for a backup behind EJ Manuel.
The Bills just released last year’s No. 2, Thad Lewis in a somewhat surprising move. Though Lewis struggled in the offseason, he filled in capably enough while Manuel was hurt last season, leading the team to two wins over the Miami Dolphins.
This week, the Bills signed Chicago Bears backup Jordan Palmer, and many thought he could serve as a mentor for Manuel. But the Bills cut Palmer after his only preseason game, leaving 2013 undrafted rookie Jeff Tuel as the only backup.
Bills coach Doug Marrone had said this week that the team needs to improve its backup quarterback situation.
“They either have to play better or we have to look to see if there’s someone that can better that position, like we would any other position,” Marrone said on Monday. “If we feel at the end of the day that it’s not good enough to win with — which we haven’t seen that yet — there’s only two ways to go.”
With the Kyle Orton signing, the Bills now appear to be giving Manuel a bit of competition. Orton, who was last a regular starter for the Denver Broncos, could take over as starter if Manuel struggles or is bit by the injury bug again. He only managed to start 10 games last season while dealing with some nagging knee injuries.
Some believe the Kyle Orton signing signals a bit of desperation on Buffalo’s part. Manuel struggled mightily in the preseason, and the team had already dumped considerable resources into winning now. Buffalo traded away its 2015 first round draft pick in order to trade up for Sammy Watkins, and both GM Doug Whaley and Marrone have a sense that they could be gone next year if they don’t reach the playoffs — especially with a new owner coming next year.
But it will take Kyle Orton some time to acclimate to the Bills offense, meaning Tuel is likely to start the season as the No. 2. Though he is eligible for the practice squad, Tuel showed enough potential last season — including nearly knocking off the then-unbeaten Kansas City Chiefs — that he would likely be snatched up.