'Fitz' has to prove he's not Kolb or Cassel

October, 28, 2011
10/28/11
2:30
PM ET
Coming into the season, the Buffalo Bills were not sure of their starting quarterback beyond the 2011 season.

Fitzpatrick
But on Friday, Buffalo officially made its decision. The Bills signed quarterback Ryan Fitzpatrick to a six-year extension worth $59 million, ESPN's Chris Mortensen reports. The contract guarantees Fitzpatrick $24 million.

Fitzpatrick is off to a good start for the surprising Bills (4-2). He has thrown for 1,477 yards, 12 touchdowns and six interceptions. That was enough to convince Buffalo's front office to make Fitzpatrick, 28, its long-term solution. The Bills had to make a decision before the end of the season. Fitzpatrick was due to become a free agent next year.

Fitzpatrick is worth more to the Bills than any other team. He fits Buffalo's spread offense well and has become a leader in the locker room. I like this signing for all those reasons.

But Buffalo also made a huge financial investment in Fitzpatrick, who remains somewhat unproven. He has never thrown for more than 3,000 yards.

The contract now puts Fitzpatrick in the second tier of quarterbacks, under eilte players like Tom Brady and Peyton Manning. Fitzpatrick will average nearly $10 million per season. There is pressure that comes with that.

Other quarterbacks, such as Kevin Kolb of the Arizona Cardinals and Matt Cassel of the Kansas City Chiefs, recently received similar deals. I would take Fitzpatrick over both of those players.

So far, Kolb and Cassel are proving they're not worth their approximate $10 million-per-year salaries. It will be up to Fitzpatrick to prove to the Bills he won't follow in those footsteps.

James Walker | email

ESPN Miami Dolphins reporter

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