Bills avoid having to pay large bonus

The Buffalo Bills have reached an agreement with quarterback Drew Bledsoe to restructure his contract.

Complete details of the restructuring were not immediately available, but it is known that the new deal runs through the 2006 season, and that Bledsoe's cap charge for 2004 will be reduced by about $3.5 million.

The new deal will preclude the Bills from having to pay Bledsoe, coming off one of the poorest seasons of his career, an exorbitant option bonus in November to retain him. More important, from a football standpoint, it will almost certainly keep the 11-year veteran in Buffalo beyond the coming season and eases the urgency for the Bills to prepare rookie J.P. Losman to be the starter in 2005.

"This is something I'm really excited about," Bledsoe said on
a conference call Tuesday. "At this point in my life, having a
little extra money isn't going to make a big change in my life.
This allows us to have stability, both personally and within the

Buffalo selected Losman, of Tulane, with the 22nd overall pick of the draft Saturday, trading up from the second round by sending the Dallas Cowboys a package of picks that included the Bills' 2005 first-round selection.

"I'll do everything I can to teach him and help him along and
help him develop as a quarterback," Bledsoe said about Losman.
"There certainly won't be any information withheld from him by

Under the contract Buffalo assumed when it acquired Bledsoe from the Patriots in 2002, the Bills owed the quarterback a $7 million option bonus by Nov. 1 of this year to trigger the 2005-2007 segment of his contract. Even if the Bills chose not to exercise the option, they would have had to give Bledsoe a $2 million "buyback" payment.

Bledsoe, 32, was scheduled to earn a base salary of $5.9 million for 2004 with a salary cap charge of $8.33 million.

There was considerable speculation that Bledsoe would have been released after this season had an agreement not been reached. The sides discussed a new deal last Friday but could not consummate it before the draft.

"We still have great confidence in Drew, and we've told Drew
that," Bills president Tom Donahoe told the Associated Press. "But we have to prepare
for tomorrow."

Last season, Bledsoe completed 274 of 471 passes for 2,860 yards, with 11 touchdown passes and 12 interceptions, for a passer rating of 73.0. The TD passes were his fewest in a full season and the passer rating his worst since 1995.

Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. Information from The Associated Press was used in this report.