Dec 29, 2014 12:21 PM
Bills quarterback Orton announces plans to retire
The Associated Press
ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) Quarterback Kyle Orton told the Buffalo Bills on Monday that he plans to retire.
The surprise decision places further emphasis on the team's offseason need to address what's long been an unsettled position.
The Bills announced Orton's decision a day after the 10-year journeyman led Buffalo (9-7) to a season-ending 17-9 win at New England.
"It's just a family decision, and I've decided to get home and be a dad and call it a day," Orton said, in a statement released by the team.
The announcement was made shortly after the Bills held end-of-season meetings with their players. Despite enjoying its first winning season since a 9-7 finish in 2004, Buffalo missed the playoffs to extend the NFL's longest active postseason drought to 15 years.
The 32-year-old Orton declined to speak to reporters while making a brief appearance at his locker, where he picked up a few of his belongings.
In electing to retire, Orton is passing up the chance to make a $5.4 million base salary he was due next year.
His departure also leaves Buffalo with a veteran hole to fill at quarterback, which the team sought to address by signing Orton to a two-year contract a little more than a week before the start of the season.
Initially signed to help mentor EJ Manuel, Orton wound up replacing the second-year player after a 2-2 start.
Orton provided an initial spark in going 3-1 in his first four starts before he and the offense sputtered down the stretch. He finished 7-5 with 3,018 yards passing with 18 touchdowns and 10 interceptions.
Minus Orton, the Bills are left with two quarterbacks on their roster, Manuel and Jeff Tuel, who spent the entire season on the practice squad.
Manuel has two years left on his contract. The 2013 first-round pick's future as the team's long-term starter, however, remains in question after he was benched and lost the confidence of coach Doug Marrone.
Rather than considering playing Manuel against New England after the Bills were eliminated from playoff contention, Marrone stuck with Orton by saying the veteran gave Buffalo the best chance to win.
Receiver Robert Woods wasn't entirely caught off guard by Orton's retirement, noting the quarterback had hinted at the possibility in recent weeks.
"He'd talk about it here and there, just joking around, 'It's my last get-around, guys,'" Woods said. "I gained a lot of knowledge from him. I'm happy for him. We're thankful for him."
Running back Fred Jackson was surprised.
"Huh, I didn't know anything about it. This is the first time I'm hearing about it," Jackson said. "That's his choice. Obviously, he was a guy who did some things for us this year, stepped in and played a major role in what we were able to accomplish. We wish him well."
The Bills were already thought to focus on upgrading the position this offseason in free agency or through a trade. Their options, however, are somewhat limited when it comes to the draft.
Buffalo doesn't have a first-round pick after trading it to Cleveland in May to move up five spots for the right to select receiver Sammy Watkins fourth overall.
Quarterback shuffles are nothing new in Buffalo.
The Bills haven't had a starter last beyond three years since Hall of Famer Jim Kelly retired following the 1996 season. Including Orton, the Bills have now had 11 quarterbacks start at least eight games over the past 18 seasons.
Orton was at best considered a stop-gap measure for Buffalo.
He was already contemplating retirement in mid-July when he was cut by the Dallas Cowboys after failing to attend the team's spring minicamps.
With a 42-40 record as a starter, Orton was Chicago's fourth-round pick in 2005, and also played in Denver and Kansas City.
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