By JOHN WAWROW
The Tonawanda News
Tonawanda News — ORCHARD PARK — Having already squandered two chances to prove himself as an NFL starter, quarterback Kevin Kolb arrived in Buffalo on Monday eager for a third opportunity.
“This is a big chance for me,” Kolb said, shortly after officially signing a two-year contract potentially worth more than $12 million. He agreed to the deal March 30. “That’s why I came here. And I’m excited about getting out there and doing some special things.”
A free agent after being cut by the Arizona Cardinals last month, Kolb mentioned several reasons that attracted him to Buffalo. The Bills have an immediate need for an experienced quarterback, and he’s comfortable with the up-tempo, West Coast-style of offense being introduced by rookie coach Doug Marrone.
He has no problem having to compete for the job with returning backup Tarvaris Jackson and potentially a rookie prospect the Bills are expected to select. And Kolb maintained confidence he has what it takes to put behind an injury-troubled past that scuttled his previous opportunities in Arizona and Philadelphia.
“For me, I know I can play at this level. I’ve done it here and there throughout my career two or three games at time,” he said, referring to injuries that cost him. “There are very limited opportunities in this league, and I’ve been lucky enough to have had a few of them. I plan on taking 100 percent care of that, and making sure I do my part to play at the highest level.”
The Bills have relatively high expectations of Kolb, too. At the very least, they’re counting on him fill an immediate need at starter after releasing Ryan Fitzpatrick for salary-cap reasons last month.
“We wanted to add some veteran experience to the quarterback position on our roster, and we think we’ve added a good one by signing Kevin,” general manager Buddy Nix said in a statement released by the team. “He’s a player we had targeted since he became a free agent, and he should be a strong candidate in the competition for the starting quarterback position.”
The Bills haven’t ruled out drafting a quarterback in three weeks.
Marrone said Kolb’s signing won’t alter the Bills approach to the draft, but did also cite the importance of adding veteran experience to the position.
“I’m not going to lie,” Marrone said. “I think it was very important for us to get a veteran on the roster for that competition. Very important.”
Selected by Philadelphia in the second round of the 2007 draft out of Houston, Kolb’s NFL career has been clouded by inconsistency. With a 9-12 record as a starter, he’s completed 59.5 percent of his passes, while throwing 28 touchdowns and 25 interceptions in 34 career games.
The Eagles drafted Kolb with an eye on him replacing Donovan McNabb. Kolb, however, was injured in the 2009 opener and eventually lost the starting job to Michael Vick.
The Cardinals then acquired Kolb in a 2011 trade, and signed him to a five-year, $63 million contract with $20 million guaranteed.
Kolb, however, got off to a 1-6 start and had trouble adapting to coach Ken Whisenhunt’s offense. He then hurt his toe and was eventually sidelined for the rest of the season because of a concussion.
Last season, Kolb helped the Cardinals to a 4-0 start before being sidelined for the rest of the year with torn rib cartilage.
Fully recovered, Kolb can appreciate how important it is for him to stay healthy. That’s something that was not a problem for him in college. He started a Houston-record 50 games and finished fourth in Division I history with 12,964 yards passing.
“They’ve been really tough,” Kolb said, referring to his past three seasons. “I think the biggest thing, is I never lost my confidence in that whole thing. And I was proud of myself for that.”
Kolb arrived to take part in the Bills’ offseason voluntary conditioning program that began last week. He’s expected to make his debut in practice next week, when Buffalo holds a three-day voluntary veteran minicamp.