Even in a bye week, the Buffalo Bills have hit the pause button on contract talks with Ryan Fitzpatrick but sources say he could be soon saying hello to a new contract that will secure him as the team's starting quarterback beyond 2011.
The two sides made enough progress the previous two weeks on a new contract that sources believe a new deal valued among the "second-tier" starting NFL quarterbacks that would average between $9 million and $12 million is within reach when the team regroups next week. The team and player would like to secure a new deal by the time the Bills take the field Week 8 against the Washington Redskins, sources said.
Fitzpatrick, in the final season of a three-year deal worth $6.9 million he signed as a backup, is scheduled to be a free agent after 2011. His base salary is $3.195 million this season. It is expected he will be paid at least in the range of Kansas City's Matt Cassel, who signed a six-year, $63 million contract with the Chiefs.
In leading the Bills to their unexpected fast start, Fitzpatrick has completed 66 percent of his passes for 1,477 yards, 12 touchdowns and six interceptions. His QBR rating of 70.9 places him fifth in the NFL, trailing only Aaron Rodgers (85.5), Tom Brady (78.8), Matt Hasselbeck (77.7) and Drew Brees (74.8). His NFL passer rating of 95.2 is also among league leaders.
Fitzpatrick, who has led the Bills to a surprising 4-2 start, directs an offense that averages 31.3 points per game, surpassed only by the Packers (32.8) among the 32 NFL teams. The Bills have scored 30 or more points in all four of their victories over the Chiefs, Raiders, Patriots and Eagles.
Fitzpatrick, who will be 29 on Nov. 24, was a seventh-round draft pick out of Harvard by the St. Louis Rams in 2005. He also spent two years with the Bengals (2007-08) before signing with the Bills as a backup for Trent Edwards. He replaced an injured Edwards on Oct. 18, 2009 and was eventually named the starter by then-coach Dick Jauron.
Edwards regained the starting job under new coach Chan Gailey when 2010 opened but Fitzpatrick wrested it away to make 13 starts before Gailey settled on him as a permanent starter.
Gailey, in his second year as the Bills coach, said before the NFL draft in April that he believed the team could win with Fitzpatrick if the team did not draft a quarterback. When Cam Newton went first overall in the draft to the Panthers, the Bills passed on all other projected premium quarterbacks.
Chris Mortensen is ESPN's senior NFL analyst.