Backup quarterback signings don't – and probably shouldn't – generate a whole lot of excitement.
For teams such as the Buffalo Bills, they're particularly uninspiring. After all, the Bills still don't even know if they have a legitimate long-term starter.
Monday's acquisition of T.J. Yates could very well be different.
It isn't so much that Yates is going to necessarily improve the Bills' offense with his play. If things go as planned, he won't take a meaningful snap.
The greatest value of this move is Yates' contribution off the field. Or so the Bills hope.
Yates instantly becomes the one player they have with a thorough understanding of the scheme of new offensive coordinator Rick Dennison. Yates learned it during the three seasons (2011-2013) they spent together with the Houston Texans when Dennison was their offensive coordinator.
Dennison, who joined the Texans in 2010, was part of the decision to make Yates a fifth-round draft pick from North Carolina. Dennison and offensive-minded coach Gary Kubiak brought him along as a rookie, feeling enough confidence in Yates' grasp of the offense to start him in two playoff games after the team was ravaged by injuries at the top of the QB depth chart.
"I’ve been keeping up with Rico quite a bit this offseason," Yates said during a conference call with reporters covering the Bills. "And being comfortable with him, comfortable with his offense I ran for so long, it’s definitely a good thing for me and, hopefully, for the team."
There is reason to believe the Bills' offense will benefit from his presence. How much remains to be seen, but it's safe to say that things can't get a whole lot worse. The passing game has struggled badly as offensive coordinators have come and gone with each new coach.
It could be that they simply haven't had the right people in charge. It also could be that they've lacked players, particularly at the quarterback position, who knew the ins and outs of the playbook and overall offensive philosophy.
Certainly, that guy wasn't around in 2015, when Tyrod Taylor became a first-time starter and EJ Manuel – with all of two seasons under his belt – was his primary backup. Neither had been exposed to the scheme of then-offensive coordinator Greg Roman. Even veteran Matt Cassel, who had competed for the No. 1 job and was shipped off to Dallas early in the season, was learning it on the fly.
Would it have made a difference if the Bills had a quarterback, even if he were a backup, who knew Roman's offense in the meeting room? Maybe.
They didn't have that guy last year, either, as the coordinator job went from Roman to Anthony Lynn.
They have him now. Assuming Yates beats out Cardale Jones for the No. 2 spot behind Taylor, he intends to do all he can to enhance his value as a voice to enhance and reinforce all that emanates from Dennison.
Yates shouldn't be viewed as a threat to Taylor's job security. Instead, Taylor needs to see him as an asset, someone who can speak the unique language quarterbacks share. If anything, Yates could very well be a factor in helping Taylor to convince the Bills to keep him beyond the 2017 season – and shower him with many more millions of dollars.
"It all starts with the ground game and establishing the ground game," Yates said. "A lot of the offense plays off of that. I think it’s going to be a great fit for us here with the running game and the running backs that we have because everything works off of that."
Dennison certainty has no intention of straying from the lone area of the offense – and the team for that matter – that has represented any sort of success the past two years.
This season, though, the Bills are determined not to allow their dominance on the ground to exist in a vacuum. Dennison plans to utilize run plays, including some that feature Taylor, that are complementary to the passing game.
And vice versa.
"The type of outside of the pocket stuff that is in this offense, I think, will be tremendous for Tyrod in how athletic he is and how versatile he is," Yates said. It’s a "very explosive offense, and we have a lot of explosive players on this offense, so I think it’s going to be a great fit."
The same can be said for Yates.