The Bills Tuesday made a move their critics argue should have been made months ago in the offseason.
They signed a veteran but untested backup quarterback in Jordan Palmer. To make room they released backup QB Thad Lewis.
Although Palmer is 30 and has been with three other NFL teams since he was drafted in the sixth round out of UTEP by the Washington Redskins in 2007, he has never started a regular season NFL game.
Palmer was released last weekend by the Chicago Bears, who just happen to be Buffalo’s first opponent in the regular season opener.
Bills coach Doug Marrone denied that Palmer’s knowledge of the Bears playbook was a motive behind the signing.
“I’m not part of that, ‘Hey, let’s bring the guy in and get information and things like that,’ ” Marrone said. “I think that’d be very disrespectful to do to Jordan if I did that, honestly.
“My conversation with Jordan was, ‘Hey, listen. I’m happy to see you. I’m happy to meet you. I’m going to give you an opportunity and you have an opportunity to get a position and we’re going to do whatever we can to get you ready for this game and play you.’ ”
Marrone would not concede that the Bills should have obtained a more experienced backup to EJ Manuel before training camp.
His explanation was that the organization thought that Lewis and Jeff Tuel, who filled in when Manuel was injured last season, would continue to progress and provide adequate insurance behind the No. 1 QB.
“We thought we could’ve been in great shape with those,” Marrone said of the team’s backup quarterback situation. “As it turned out … it didn’t turn out that way and here we are again.
“We did have a plan. It’s not like we weren’t thinking about it. We felt comfortable with this and then, all of the sudden, when it starts to play out … ”
Manuel has struggled getting the first offense into the end zone against the opposition’s first defense in the four preseason games so far. Tuel has performed about as well as could be expected for a player who was undrafted out of college, but Lewis seemed to regress from whatever promise he showed last season after the Bills obtained him in a summer trade with the Detroit Lions.
An injury to Manuel – he was knocked out of action three times last season – seemingly would leave the Bills vulnerable.
They still are vulnerable. Tuel has made just one NFL regular season start. Palmer’s last game action was in 2010 with the Cincinnati Bengals. Overall he’s thrown only 15 passes, completing 10 for 59 yards with two interceptions in just four NFL regular season games.
Palmer flew from his home in California on Monday and checked in for his first practice with the Bills on Tuesday. He is getting a crash course in the Bills offense so he can play in Thursday night’s preseason finale against the Detroit Lions at Ralph Wilson Stadium.
“My goal is to play him as much as I can,” Marrone said.
The younger brother of 2002 Heisman Trophy winner Carson Palmer is regarded as a quick study and student of the quarterback position.
In recent offseasons he has been a counselor at the Elite 11 quarterback camp in Carlsbad, Calif. There he first met the Bills’ Manuel, a fellow counselor, three years ago. Last winter he helped school Blake Bortles, the first round draft pick of the Jacksonville Jaguars, who is expected to be their starter this season.
Palmer admitted that it won’t be easy getting familiar with the Bills playbook and personnel before Thursday but said he faced the identical situation a year ago with the Bears.
“Right now I’m focused on Thursday night. Trying to get as much of the playbook as I can, trying to get an understanding of who these guys are and where they’re going to be and get the play called right and get the ball to the right guy, whether it be a pass or a run, and move the chains. … I just need to come in and be locked in on Thursday and perform well.