Kevin Kolb has signed a two-year, $13 million contract (including incentives) with Buffalo, which ensures that he will be taking snaps for his third NFL team next fall. The deal represents a sizable downgrade from the six-year, $65 million contract that he signed with Arizona in July 2011, although the enormous reduction in compensation directly corresponds to the steep decline in expectations for the six-year veteran.
Kolb first ascended into prominence when the Eagles chose to jettison six-time Pro Bowler Donovan McNabb to their long-standing rivals in Washington before the 2010 regular season, and elevate the unproven Kolb into the starting role. While Philadelphia did an excellent job of collecting talented athletes with which he could join forces, his numbers were underwhelming. Kolb managed only seven TDs and seven INTs in 189 attempts, as a Week 1 concussion forced him to the sidelines, and allowed Michael Vick to seize the starting role for most of the year.
Still, just two years ago, the Cardinals acquired him from Philadelphia in exchange for Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie and a second-round pick. Even though they could not accurately know how effective Kolb would truly be until he took snaps on a weekly basis. Unfortunately for Arizona, a combination of factors prohibited Kolb from amassing desirable numbers, which resulted in an extremely poor return on their hefty investment.
He only started 15 of a possible 32 games with the Cardinals, while manufacturing a grand total of 17 TDs, and 11 INTs. Not only did a concussion combine with injuries to his foot, ribs, shoulder to force him from the lineup for many of those contests, but poor protection and the inability to reach an appreciable comfort level in Ken Whisenhunt’s offense also doomed Kolb’s chances for success.
A New Opportunity With Buffalo
But even though his tenure in the desert is justifiably considered to be a massive disappointment, he has now been supplied with an opportunity to become Buffalo’s starting QB. That position is open, because former starter Ryan Fitzpatrick was released, after Buffalo GM Buddy Nix determined that he wanted to entrust a new signal caller under center. Fitzpatrick demonstrated his deficiencies during four years with the Bills, although he did perform in all 16 regular season contests during both 2011 and 2012, while generating 24 scoring passes each year. But those final numbers do not provide a clear picture. Because in each season, Fitzpatrick experienced a somewhat torrid September, but was unable to sustain consistent production afterward. In 2011, nine of those scoring throws occurred in Buffalo's first four games. And 11 of his TD passes were amassed in the first four weeks of last season.
His sporadic output after the initial month of both seasons was partially responsible for his undoing. After his March 11 release, the Bills clearly needed another QB, because Tarvaris Jackson and Aaron Corp were the only other signal callers residing on the roster. And with a severe lack of desirable options available via free agency or trade, Kolb became a viable alternative.
How It Impacts Buffalo's Offense
The Bills need to improve an attack that ranked 19th in total offense last season, but only 25th in passing, averaging just 204 YPG. Fortunately, their sixth ranked running game will be formidable once again providing that the electric C. J. Spiller and the gifted but injury prone Fred Jackson maintain some semblance of health. Spiller was the NFL's eighth leading rusher last season with 1,244 yards, despite being woefully underutilized by former HC Chan Gailey. A total of 21 backs were given more rushing attempts than the 207 that were allotted to Spiller, even though his impressive 6.0 YPC clearly demonstrated how impactful he could be if provided with the opportunity. He also accumulated 459 yards as a receiver by collecting 43 passes, and will supply Kolb with an enormously potent target to employ regularly. Jackson will also return at RB, providing the Bills with another gifted runner and receiver. Stevie Johnson joins Spiller as the team's other indisputable difference maker, after producing three consecutive 1,000-yard seasons, and averaging 79 catches in the process. Johnson was targeted 148 times in 2012, while garnering 79 receptions for 1,046 yards and six TDs. And that was accomplished with Donald Jones lining up as the team's WR2, and Scott Chandler performing at TE. Nix needs to upgrade Kolb's arsenal of receivers beyond Johnson. Starting with a (more effective) replacement for Jones, who departed via free agency. If Buffalo can obtain another wide receiver that opposing defenses are forced to respect, it will only make life easier for Kolb.
How It Impacts Kolb’s Value
Jackson currently comprises Kolb's only competition for the starting slot. However, Buffalo secured Jackson on a one-year deal worth $2.25 million, therefore it does not appear that the team was relying upon him to be their top QB. Which means that barring the unforeseen, Kolb will be under center when the season begins. But his history of health issues is a concern, and somehow managing to avoid them throughout a 16 game regular season for the first time ever certainly appears to be a risky expectation. It is also disconcerting that he only experienced limited success with two excellent offensive coaches in Andy Reid and Whisenhunt, yet will now be working with a head coach (Doug Marrone) and offensive coordinator (Nathaniel Hackett) who will be serving in those positions for the first time at the NFL level. On the plus side, Kolb will have the benefit of performing behind an offensive line that is superior to the units that blocked for him in Philadelphia and Arizona.
But factor in his track record of injuries, and his limited productivity, he should be considered nothing more than a QB2 by fantasy owners. If the Bills can garner a legitimate threat at WR2 to complement Johnson, then Kolb's value becomes slightly enhanced. But you still should not plan on utilizing him as your QB1. And do not be surprised to see the Bills select another signal caller in this month's draft.