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JUDGE: Bills gave up too much for Bledsoe

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Clark Judge

 
   
 
The Buffalo Bills chose not to sign free-agent Jeff Blake as their next quarterback and, instead swung a deal for veteran Drew Bledsoe. That was smart. But it took a first-round draft choice to get him, and that was too expensive. In short, the Bills overpaid for the former New England starter. Their offer on Saturday of a conditional second-round pick made sense because it would have required Bledsoe to take the club to the playoffs. Their offer on Sunday of a No. 1 pick in 2003 was too generous. Bledsoe is a proven pro quarterback, but let's look at what he's done in his career: He's taken the Patriots to the playoffs. He's taken them to the Super Bowl. He's thrown for 4,000 yards in a season twice. He's thrown for 25 touchdowns in a season four times. But look a little closer, and this is what you'll find: Over the last three years he has almost as many interceptions (36) as touchdowns (38) and a less-than-stellar 13-21 record. He's also taken a beating, sacked 105 times in 34 games. Critics complain that his offensive line wasn't good and that the Patriots' rushing attack didn't support him. Well, this just in, folks: Buffalo last season had the 22nd-ranked rushing attack, and its quarterbacks were sacked 46 times — a record of failure eclipsed by only three AFC teams. With off-season moves, the Bills have improved up front -- especially with a draft of tackle Mike Williams -- but molding an offensive line takes time. Then there is this: For all the success Bledsoe had early in his career, any idea what his record over nine years is? Try 63-60 in regular-season games and 3-4 in the playoffs. I don't argue that he's not an improvement on what Buffalo has. Bledsoe is a far, far superior quarterback to Alex Van Pelt, and the Bills' willingness to overpay demonstrates how desperate they were to fix that position. But they paid a price that few thought reasonable. Two months ago I surveyed nearly a third of the league's teams, and the prevailing response was that Bledsoe was worth a second-round draft choice — with some clubs insisting they would surrender nothing higher than a third-round choice. Their logic was twofold: 1) Bledsoe hasn't been productive lately, and 2) you're already doing the Patriots a favor by absorbing his $5 million contract, so why get yourself in double trouble by taking on the contract and surrendering a first-round draft pick, too? "I don't get this one," said an NFC scout. "If the Bills were so hell-bent on getting a quarterback why didn't they take Joey Harrington and build? They haven't bottomed out yet, and they're still rebuilding. But rebuilding with Drew Bledsoe makes no sense." Harrington wasn't available to the Bills with the fourth pick, so he wasn't an option. Trading up to get him was, but Buffalo was sold on Williams. Fine, but you better keep this in mind: This is no ordinary team Bledsoe is about to lead. Buffalo was the third-worst club in the NFL last year. It has a raft of needs, including quarterback, and it can't be expected to rebound in one season. That means the likelihood of the Bills being in the upper half of the draft next year are good, which means New England just pulled off a heist. I don't question Buffalo's motivation for acquiring Bledsoe. The Bills surveyed the landscape and determined that he was the best quarterback out there. So they determined they had to do what it took to get him, much as San Diego did in 1998 when it overpaid to move one spot in the draft to take Ryan Leaf. It's how much it cost Buffalo to get there that bothers me. The market determines what you pay for someone, and, frankly, there was no market for Bledsoe. Buffalo and Cincinnati were the only interested parties, and the Bengals were as lukewarm about Bledsoe as he was about them. Clubs couldn't reason taking on the contract and surrendering the first-round pick at the same time. Bledsoe insisted he never would play for Patriots coach Bill Belichick again, which put the Patriots in a tough spot. I know, I know. Bledsoe was under contract with New England. But do you honestly think the Patriots were going to pay $5 million to have him stew on the bench behind Tom Brady? I don't. Plus, there were those close to Bledsoe who swore he never would go to camp, thereby creating a disturbance that threatened to disrupt the Super Bowl champions. Those are problems New England no longer has to worry about. Bledsoe is gone, and the Patriots have what they want. So do the Buffalo Bills. For the moment, both clubs are satisfied. But a year from now, I suspect it will be New England that is happier. Clark Judge can be reached at his e-mail address, cjudge@foxsports.com.
Tagged: Bills, Bengals, Patriots, Saints, Buccaneers, Tom Brady, Drew Bledsoe, Jeff Blake

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