The Buffalo Bills checked off yet another box from their offseason to-do list Friday with the signing of high-profile backup quarterback Vince Young.
Over the past 10 weeks, the Bills re-signed their most important players whose contracts were running out (Stevie Johnson, Scott Chandler, Rian Lindell and Kirk Morrison). They addressed their biggest weakness with the major free-agent acquisitions of pass rushers Mario Williams and Mark Anderson. They addressed numerous positions of need in the NFL Draft.
By signing Young to a one-year contract, they now have more security at quarterback if starter Ryan Fitzpatrick goes down. Young, who turns 29 next week, becomes the favorite in a battle with incumbent Tyler Thigpen to win the team's No. 2 QB job.
"We're looking always to try to improve our team -- get deeper and get more competition, and that's what this is," Bills General Manager Buddy Nix said. "It's a competition for the backup quarterback job. Not the starter, obviously, I've said that 100 times. He knows it. That's the way it is. It's just to try to get us better."
Young's profile is a lot more humble than it was when he entered the NFL in 2006 as the hero of the University of Texas' national championship season and the third overall pick in the draft. Young was discarded by Philadelphia this spring after one season in which he went 1-2 as Michael Vick's backup and threw four touchdown passes and nine interceptions. The Eagles signed ex-Bill Trent Edwards as their new No. 2.
Nevertheless, the 6-foot-5, 230-pound Young remains one of the most athletic quarterbacks in the NFL. He has a resume that includes two Pro Bowl appearances and a 31-19 record as a starter. He has done more than Thigpen, who has started only one game in the past three seasons and went 1-10 with a bad Kansas City team in 2008. Thigpen didn't wow anyone during the Bills' preseason last summer, but he didn't get much chance to show what he could do when it mattered, appearing just once, in garbage time of a loss at San Diego.
There was no bidding war for Young. His deal is worth a reported $2 million, with another $1 million in incentives. Thigpen is due to make $2.5 million this year.
"The guy's been to two Pro Bowls," Nix said. "He's 31-19 as a starter in this league. We think he can do that again. If he has to play, he can give us a chance to win the game or at least this, he will make Tyler [Thigpen] better. One of 'em will be better. So that will make our team better."
"Well, he's got a great arm," Bills coach Chan Gailey said. "When he worked out here, he threw it very well. Everybody knows his mobility. He brings you that. And he's won football games in the NFL. That's another positive."
Young brings a different style than Fitzpatrick, who has a lot of responsibility in the Bills' spread passing formations to set blocking assignments and make presnap reads to determine the best place to go with the ball.
Young's best success came when he was supported by an outstanding running game and made good use of play-action passes. In Young's three best seasons (2006, 2007 and 2009), the Titans' running game ranked fifth, fifth and second, respectively, in the NFL. Young also has rushed for 1,459 yards and 12 touchdowns in his career. Young's career completion rate is only 57.9 percent. (Thigpen's is 54.0.)
"We've got two of the best quarterback coaches in the business, starting with coach Gailey and then [quarterbacks coach] David Lee," Nix said. "Those guys are good teachers. They will do what he can do best. Trust me, he's a big good athlete who can do a lot of things for you. -- I've always admired his ability and the things he can do. I think our guys will get him more accurate and help him as far as not turning the ball over."
Gailey said he's not worried about Young conforming to Fitzpatrick's style.
"We tend to fit the offense around what people do," Gailey said. "We don't make people fit in to our offense. If we get an injury to Fitz and he ends up playing, we'll tailor some things to do what he does, using his movement skills."
"It's an opportunity to go play with one of the respected teams in the NFL," Young told television station KRIV in his hometown of Houston. "It's a good chance to learn some things from quarterback coach David Lee. I've been patiently waiting. This is the best option to go with. Buffalo is the best option because of the things that they're doing, especially with the guys they have on offense. They definitely will make some things happen."