It would be hard to find someone outside of Ryan Fitzpatrick's immediate family who would tell you the Bills were smart to give him a six-year, $59 million contract extension during the 2011 season. The team released Fitzpatrick last week (he has since signed with the Titans to serve as Jake Locker's backup) and now the depth chart looks like this: Tarvaris Jackson and Aaron Corp. One's a journeyman, the other was signed by the team last month after being out of football in 2012.
So it stands to reason that the Bills would be in the market for a quarterback in the coming weeks. It also explains why they're putting Geno Smith through a private workout Friday, according to the team's website.
Buffalo holds the No. 8 pick in April's draft and four out of six CBSSports.com/NFLDraftScout.com experts have them taking either Smith or Matt Barkley (Smith is NFLDraftScout.com's No. 1 QB). Whether it happens is another matter; the Bills have a new coach, Doug Marrone, who arrives on the job after four years at Syracuse, where Ryan Nassib was his quarterback.
We mention this because, in general, coaches are drawn to what they know, and it wouldn't be surprising if the Bills targeted another need with the eighth pick (like offensive line) and circled back for Nassib in the second round.
But would Marrone pull the trigger on Nassib in Round 1? It sounds crazy, but NFL Films' Greg Cosell recently called Nassib the top quarterback in the 2013 draft class.
"My No. 1 quarterback based on the film study I've done is Ryan Nassib," he said during an appearance on Path to the Draft. "I like him overall more than Geno Smith. I think he's a much more precise intermediate thrower. I think the ball comes out with a little bit better velocity at the intermediate level. And I think he's a little more accurate. And I like his footwork a little bit better.
"No one here is at the (Andrew) Luck, RG3 level," Cosell continued. "Maybe not even the (Ryan) Tannehill level. At the end of the day, Nassib, at this point, would be the guy I like the most."
Whether that means any quarterback is worth the No. 8 pick is another issue, but Cosell also outlined what he didn't like about Smith.
"When throws are there that are clearly defined and the ball needs to come out on time with anticipation, he has a tendency to be late with those throws," Cosell said. "In the NFL ... you have to be an anticipation thrower."
The Bills have a history of over-drafting quarterbacks; in 2004, they traded back into the first round to grab J.P. Losman. That experiment lasted five seasons and when Losman was finally released, he left Buffalo with 33 starts, a 59.3 completion percentage, 33 touchdown passes and 34 interceptions.
But the NFL is a passing league and teams without an elite quarterback don't go to Super Bowls. The problem: The need for franchise QBs far outstrips supply, and you end up with clubs taking, ahem, Hail Marys on the likes of Brandon Weeden, Blaine Gabbert and Mark Sanchez -- with predictable results.
It's unclear what the Bills will do this time around, but they can't go into the season with Jackson as the frontrunner for the quarterback job. Smith seems like a plausible option, perhaps more so than Nassib, if for no other reason than in 2009 Marrone thought former Duke basketball player Greg Paulus gave Syracuse a better chance to win than Nassib, then a redshirt freshman.
But a lot has changed in those four years -- except that Paulus remains somehow worse at football than basketball. (We grew up a UNC fan; we're allowed to say that.)