The Buffalo Bills signed veteran free-agent tight end Tony Moeaki on Wednesday and released reserve running back Tashard Choice.
Moeaki was a starter for the Kansas City Chiefs in 2010 and 2012. He sat out 2011 with a knee injury and suffered a fractured shoulder in a preseason game in August. He was put on the injured reserve list but reached an injury settlement on Oct. 23 in order to land with another club.
The Bills signed him to a deal through 2014.
Moeaki had visited the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tennessee Titans, and four teams were interested in signing him, according to his agent.
Moeaki, 6-foot-3 and 248 pounds, was a third-round pick of the Chiefs out of Iowa in 2010. He had a good rookie year, catching 47 passes for 556 yards, an 11.6-yard average. He also blocked well.
Coming out of Iowa, Moeaki was viewed as a capable in-line blocker and a good receiver on short to intermediate routes. He ran the 40-yard dash in 4.69 seconds. By comparison, Bills starter Scott Chandler ran 4.78. Bills rookie tight end Chris Gragg ran 4.50.
Moeaki was bothered by some nagging injuries in 2012. While he started 14 games, his numbers dropped to 33 catches for 453 yards.
Durability was a concern about Moeaki entering the draft. He dealt with a broken hand, dislocated elbow, wrist surgery and foot surgeries at Iowa.
“Injuries happen, and they happen at bad times,” Moeaki said. “I’m not worried about them. They have a great training staff and strength and conditioning staff here. I’m just going to work with them and get ready to go.
“I was really focused on rehabbing and training,” Moeaki said of his workouts the past six weeks. “I was rehabbing up in Chicago after I did the injury settlement, and I’m excited to be here and ready to get started.”
The Bills’ outlook at tight end is uncertain. Chandler’s contract is up after this season.
The release of Choice was met with sadness in the running backs room. Choice was an upbeat, popular player on the team. Fred Jackson and C.J. Spiller both wore No. 20 jerseys, Choice’s number, during practice Wednesday.
“He was our brother for three years in that room with us,” said Fred Jackson. “We had to show him some love and let him know we were thinking of him today. He’ll definitely be missed in this locker room. A lot of guys would talk to him, come to him whenever they had something on their chest. But it’s part of the business. ... Obviously, it hurts to be let go from a team.”
Choice, a sixth-year NFL veteran, joined Buffalo midway through the 2011 season and served as the No. 3 running back since. He had 35 carries this season for 126 yards. Overall, he had 105 carries for 389 yards in 29 Buffalo games. Choice played six snaps on offense over the past three games. Ronnie Wingo is the other halfback on the roster, after Spiller and Jackson.
The Bills were at full strength Wednesday. Defensive tackle Kyle Williams was rested.
Tampa lost starting strong-side linebacker Jonathan Casillas to a knee injury. He’s the 14th Bucs player to go on injured reserve.
Two Bucs starters, receiver Vincent Jackson and guard Davin Joseph, did not practice Wednesday due to minor injuries. They are expected to be ready for Sunday.
There’s conflict in the Bills’ quarterback room. Florida State, alma mater of EJ Manuel, plays in the Atlantic Coast Conference championship game Saturday against Duke, alma mater of Thad Lewis. Florida State is a 29-point favorite.
“We’ll probably do some friendly bet like dinner or something like that,” Manuel said. “I already know who’s going to win that.”
“I talk trash to him every day,” Lewis said. “We’re going to pull off the upset. There’s going to be no undefeated teams going into the national championship.”