Share this article

print logo

MATTHEWS WILL RETURN AS NO. 3 QB
VETERAN TO BACK UP LOSMAN AND HOLCOMB

The Buffalo Bills are close to a deal on a contract to bring back Shane Matthews as a backup quarterback this season.

Matthews has reached a verbal agreement, according to a source close to the quarterback, to return to the Bills as No. 3 behind starter J.P. Losman and new No. 2 Kelly Holcomb.

Matthews is a 12-year veteran who will turn 35 in June. He fit in well in practice and in the locker room last season as a backup to Drew Bledsoe. He knows the Bills' offensive system. He represents another experienced signal-caller who can offer guidance and a positive influence for Losman.

The Bills signed Matthews in an emergency move before the final preseason game last Aug. 30 after backup Travis Brown was injured. Matthews impressed just three days later in a preseason game in Detroit.

Matthews appeared in just two games, coming on at the end of blowout Bills wins over Arizona and San Francisco.

The Bills are Matthews' fifth team. He spent seven seasons with the Bears and has started 22 games in his career.

Holcomb, 31, was signed in March as a free agent from Cleveland. He started 14 games over the last three seasons with the Browns.

Meanwhile, draft guru Mel Kiper acknowledged Tuesday there was merit in the statement by Bills President and General Manager Tom Donahoe that Losman would be No. 1 overall in this year's crop. Kiper stopped short of saying where Losman would be picked if he were eligible this year. But he said the Bills' deal last year made sense.

The top two quarterbacks, Utah's Alex Smith and California's Aaron Rodgers, are strong contenders for the No. 1 overall choice Saturday, and both are expected to be gone in the first 10 picks.

"Losman was rated right in line with Alex Smith and Aaron Rodgers," Kiper said on a national conference call. "He would have been right in that grouping. . . . That's a hard one.

"But now you've got a year with him. Now he's your starting quarterback. You've had a whole year to get him ready. So you're ahead of the game if you're the Buffalo Bills. If Buffalo says this year where would we have been picking? Who would we have been able to take that's a quarterback this year that's the 20th pick overall? Alex Smith and Aaron Rodgers aren't even going to be there."

So would he pick Losman No. 1?

"I can't put myself in a position to make that call," Kiper said. "Tom can. Because he's around J.P. . . . Tom knows what he's made of. He drafted him. He had strong convictions about him when he got back into the first round to take him. He's their starting quarterback.

"If you drafted a kid now you couldn't do that. You'd put him on the shelf for a year."

Kiper predicts the Bills will take Northwestern defensive tackle Luis Castillo with their second-round pick, the 55th overall.

"Actually I think he could go a little higher that that," Kiper said. "There's a chance he may not even be on the board at 55 because the defensive tackle crop is not that strong. There may only be one defensive tackle in the first round -- that's Travis Johnson of Florida State. You're going to have several second-round tackles -- Mike Patterson of USC would be in that mix, Anttaj Hawthorne from Wisconsin and Castillo. Some people think Castillo is the second-best defensive tackle in the draft."

Castillo admitted to NFL teams last week that he took steroids in preparation for the scouting combine workouts. He said he did it to help his performance after he was slow to heal from an elbow injury. Kiper thinks that will have no impact on his draft standing.

"None at all," he said.
e-mail: mgaughan@buffnews.com