ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WIVB) - The Buffalo Bills released QB Ryan Fitzpatrick Tuesday, shortly after a prank call involving the team's general manager was posted online.
The Bills had reportedly offered Fitzpatrick a restructured contract, and when the QB turned it down, he was released. The team would have had to pay the QB a $3 million roster bonus on Wednesday if they had not released him.
Fitzpatrick spent four years with the Bills. He had issues with turnovers, struggled with deep throws and was known for inconsistent performances. Despite the problems, the team signed Fitzpatrick to a six-year, $59 million contract extension in October 2011.
"I think the fans were a great experience. This is four years of my life that I'll really look back on with fond memories," Fitzpatrick said.
"I wish we could have been more successful. I wish I would have been able to do more the last few years to really get the fans what they deserve, and that's a Bills team that's a winner and to get back in the playoffs."
Because the team released Fitzpatrick after 4 p.m. on Tuesday, at the start of the new league year, he was designated as a "post-June 1st" release. That will allow the Bills to split up the $10 million hit on salary cap over the next two seasons.
Aside from the cost of the QB's contract, the change in the team's head coach likely didn't help Fitzpatrick. Chan Gailey was replaced by Doug Marrone in January after three losing seasons. Gailey had been a big supporter and defender of Fitzpatrick.
"There were certainly moments where you could really tell what the Bills' fans could be like and what probably they were like back in the day when it was a winner, year in and year out," Fitzpatrick said.
The news came just hours after an online report that included audio from a conversation between GM Buddy Nix and Tampa Bay GM Mark Dominik.
In the prank call, Nix stated, "We just can't afford to pay that kind of money for a guy who's fighting for probably a backup job."
MORE | Hear what else Nix said
The team re-signed Tarvaris Jackson a couple weeks ago and Nix said the Bills still plan to draft a quarterback.
In a statement from the team after Fitzpatrick was released, Nix stated:
"We kept every possible option open right down to the wire when we had to make a decision on whether to keep Ryan. In the end, we had to do what we feel is best for our football team and it was a very difficult decision. Ryan did some great things as our starting quarterback. He is a class act, a terrific guy with a great family and has been involved in many charitable endeavors in our community. But difficult decisions often have to be made and so we are moving forward. We wish Ryan and his family the best of luck in the future and offer him our sincere thanks for everything he has done for the Bills."