The Bills on Friday evening reached a contract agreement with unrestricted free agent Kelly Holcomb, who rebuffed persistent attempts by the Browns to retain him, and possibly give him the starting job. Holcomb, 31, will sign a four-year, $6.6 million contract that includes a $2 million signing bonus.
An eight-year veteran whose resume includes 13 starts, Holcomb will provide the Bills a nice insurance policy behind second-year veteran J.P. Losman, who will go to training camp as the starter following the release of Drew Bledsoe two weeks ago. And should Losman falter a bit, Holcomb is more than capable of taking over the No. 1 spot on the depth chart.
Buffalo officials had hoped to re-sign journeyman Shane Matthews, who signed with the team during the 2004 season, when injuries ravaged the Bills quarterback unit. The Bills were waiting to hear back from Matthews, who is contemplating retirement, but had been monitoring the progress of negotiations between the Browns and Holcomb.
Those negotiations reached an impasse when the two sides could not narrow the gap of $2 million in compensation over four years. The Browns had offered a deal worth $8 million and Holcomb was seeking $10 million. At the Indianapolis combine last week, agent Frank Bauer said he was confident that he would find a suitor for Holcomb if the discussions with the Browns did not produce a deal.
"We didn't feel real comfortable with what's going on in
Cleveland," Holcomb's agent, Frank Bauer, told The Associated Press. "When someone tells you they want to
think about it or revisit it, you better move because there's
something burning in the kitchen. ... You never know if you wake up
tomorrow morning and suddenly they have a quarterback and you're
hung out to dry."
Holcomb has appeared in just 28 games in four seasons but has produced some big performances, twice throwing for more than 375 yards. He has completed 368 of 580 passes for 3,892 yards, with 27 touchdown passes and 29 interceptions.
As recently as Thursday afternoon, Browns first-year coach Romeo Crennel said he was confident the team would reach an agreement with Holcomb, who would have easily won the starting job given the lack of experience on the Cleveland depth chart. Crennel noted, though, that the Browns had several options in mind if Holcomb signed elsewhere.
One of those options might be a trade to acquire Seattle backup Trent Dilfer. There have been some discussions already between the Browns and Seahawks about the availability of the veteran quarterback. New Cleveland general manager Phil Savage was with the Baltimore Ravens when Dilfer led the team to a Super Bowl XXXV victory in 2000.
As reported two weeks ago by ESPN.com in the "Tip Sheet," the Browns might also seek a younger quarterback who is currently a backup in the league. Possibilities include Chris Simms of Tampa Bay and New England's Rohan Davey.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.