With the Bills poised to elevate second-year quarterback J.P. Losman to the starting job for 2005, Buffalo on Wednesday afternoon will announce the release of 12-year veteran Drew Bledsoe, allowing him to become a free agent and continue his career with another team.
Bledsoe's imminent release was first reported by ESPN.com last Friday in Tip Sheet and also by ESPN's Chris Mortensen.
The decision to move forward with Losman, a first-round choice in 2004 who missed most of the season while recovering from a broken leg, was actually made weeks ago. But club officials, particularly in discussions between Bledsoe and coach Mike Mularkey last week, afforded the classy veteran the opportunity to consider returning to the team as a backup, and at a reduced salary.
After deliberating over the weekend, Bledsoe told the Bills he preferred to be released. The team, which is very sensitive to Bledsoe, respects him greatly, and certainly wants to do right by him, will honor his wishes. It is believed that Bills owner Ralph Wilson will attend the press conference.
Technically, Bledsoe cannot officially be released until next Tuesday, when the NFL's offseason moratorium on roster moves lapses.
ESPN.com has learned that there were discussions between the Bills and Dallas Cowboys officials in recent days about a potential trade. It is not known if the Cowboys opted not to pursue those talks or if Bledsoe advised the Bills he did not wanted to be traded. Such a deal would have reunited Bledsoe with Bill Parcells, the coach who brought him into the league as the first overall prospect selected in the 1993 draft.
Bledsoe played nine seasons for the Patriots until he was traded to the Bills in 2002 for a first-round draft choice. Bledsoe had suffered a serious chest injury in his final season with the Pats and lost his starting job to Tom Brady at that point.
There is still the possibility, of course, that Bledsoe could sign with the Cowboys as an unrestricted free agent. If he were to wind up in Dallas, there would be some irony to such a relocation. It was the Cowboys who dealt Buffalo a first-round pick in the '04 draft, and the extra selection was used by the Bills to grab Losman.
Several sources close to Bledsoe said he does not plan to retire.
After a couple of weeks at home in California, Losman arrived back at the Bills complex early last week, ahead of his teammates, to begin offseason workouts. Always a very hard worker, there was a reason for Losman to be the early bird in the weight room, since two sources told ESPN.com that he had been apprised of his pending ascent to starter's status.
Bledsoe, 33, had restructured his contract last spring to remain with the Bills for 2004. He was due a $1.05 million roster bonus in early March, and base salary of $3.3 million for 2005, and had a salary cap charge of $6 million-plus.
The decision to release Bledsoe now, though, is not so much a function of finances as it is the need by Buffalo to move in a different direction. The Bills feel they have gone as far as they can with Bledsoe and that they have to change the offensive dymanic in 2005 to close the gap between themselves and New England. They view the instant success of Ben Roethlisberger in Pittsburgh this season as validation that you can, indeed, win with a young quarterback when you surround him with solid talent.
Losman appeared in just four games in 2004, all cameos, and threw only five passes. But Mularkey and his staff are enamored of Losman, from both the physical and intangibles standpoints, and are ready to make the transition.
For his career, Bledsoe has appeared in 172 games and started all but one of them. He has completed 3,449 of 6,049 passes for 39,808 yards, with 221 touchdown passes, and 181 interceptions, with a career passer rating of 76.7. Bledsoe eight times threw for more than 3,000 yards and twice for 4,000-plus yards.
Len Pasquarelli is a senior NFL writer for ESPN.com. To check out Len's chat archive, click here.