Rookie quarterback EJ Manuel took a big step forward in the competition to win the Buffalo Bills starting job after the team released veteran Tarvaris Jackson on Monday.
The move was announced by the team in a one-sentence release. And it came a day before the Bills open a three-day mandatory minicamp – the team’s final sessions before the start of training camp next month. The timing of the decision immediately frees up additional practice time for Manuel to further his development and become comfortable running the offense under rookie coach Doug Marrone.
Selected 16th overall out of Florida State, Manuel was the only quarterback taken in the first round of the draft.
Jackson’s departure leaves Manuel competing with Kevin Kolb, a sixth-year player the Bills signed in free agency in April.
Kolb and Jackson had mostly evenly split practice time with the first-team offense during the Bills’ 10 voluntary spring minicamps. Kolb appeared to have a better grasp of the offense.
Marrone had indicated two weeks ago that he wanted to increase Manuel’s practice time.
In the end, Jackson never received a shot in Buffalo after being acquired by the Bills in a trade with Seattle in August. The seventh-year player spent all of last season as Buffalo’s third-string quarterback. Jackson then signed a one-year contract to return to Buffalo in February, believing he would have an opportunity to compete for a starting job.
That chance hardly materialized, and his release is not regarded as a surprise.
Manuel is being groomed to take over the starting job sooner than later. And the Bills targeted Kolb in free agency, believing he could serve as a temporary stop-gap until Manuel’s ready.
Kolb has shown flashes of success in going 9-12 as a starter with Philadelphia and Arizona, but his career has been hampered by a series of injuries.
For Jackson, this marks the second consecutive offseason during which he’s been the odd-man out in a three-way quarterback competition.
Jackson was deemed expendable by the Seahawks last summer after rookie Russell Wilson secured the starting job ahead of Jackson and free-agent addition Matt Flynn. The Seahawks advanced to the NFC divisional round with Wilson under center, losing to Atlanta, 30-28.
Jackson acknowledged last month that the odds might be stacked against him in Buffalo.
”They invest a lot in the players in the first round,” Jackson said, referring to Manuel. ”I know how it goes. I just come out here and do my best. And sometimes, in certain situations, your best might not be good enough.”
Jackson was selected in the second round of the 2006 draft by Minnesota. The Alabama State product has appeared in 51 games, and has starting experience with both the Vikings and Seahawks. Jackson’s best season came in 2011, his one and only year with Seattle. He went 7-7, putting up career highs with 14 touchdowns, 271 completions and 3,091 yards.