ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (WAVY) — The Buffalo Bills signed free-agent quarterback Josh Johnson on Tuesday in a move that raises questions regarding the status of banged-up starter Tyrod Taylor.
Johnson was signed a day after coach Rex Ryan said Taylor was “beat up” and “sore” following a 14-13 win against Tennessee. Ryan then didn’t go into specifics when asked whether Taylor, who went to Hampton High School and Virginia Tech, might be too sore to play Sunday, when Buffalo (3-2) hosts Cincinnati (5-0).
“We all know he finished the game, but we’ll see how he’s doing,” Ryan had said Monday. “We’ll be looking at him throughout the week. … But he’s sore now, I can tell you that much.”
Ryan is next scheduled to speak with reporters on Wednesday. Taylor was not spotted in the Bills locker room during a 45-minute period when players are available to reporters on Tuesday.
Jason La Canfora of CBS Sports is reporting that Taylor sprained his MCL after being brought down with a horse-collar tackle during Sunday’s game vs. the Titans. He reports that while Tyrod recovers, EJ Manuel from Virginia Beach will take over at quarterback.
Vic Carucci of the Buffalo News says Taylor could miss the Bills next two games.
Replays show Taylor was initially hurt when his left leg bent awkwardly while he was dragged down by the back of his jersey by Titans linebacker Zach Brown following a 24-yard scramble midway through the fourth quarter. Brown was penalized 15 yards for a horse-collar tackle, and Taylor left the game for one play before returning for the next snap.
Three plays later, Taylor split out as a receiver and caught a 4-yard pass from Chris Hogan before tumbling into the sideline after being struck in the right leg by Perrish Cox. Taylor got up slowly and immediately grabbed his left knee before returning to the huddle. He then hit Hogan for a go-ahead 2-yard touchdown with 5:30 left.
Taylor was sacked four times and finished with a team-best 76 yards rushing, including a 22-yard touchdown, and completed 10 of 17 attempts for 109 yards and a touchdown.
Bills receiver Percy Harvin, who is starred at Landstown High School in Virginia Beach, was impressed by the poise Taylor showed playing through the injury upon returning to the huddle after being sidelined for one snap.
“He just told the linemen he was going to be a limited a little bit running the ball. He said, we were going to need to protect him and let’s go win the game,” Harvin told The Associated Press on Tuesday. “To come back into the game, to still be making plays, to still be able to stay focused while being injured, a lot of times that’s very difficult to do at the quarterback position.”
Now it’s a question as to how much time — if any — Taylor might miss.
After playing Cincinnati, the Bills travel to London to play Jacksonville on Oct. 25 before entering their bye week off.
Taylor is a first-time starter after winning a three-way quarterback competition. He signed with Buffalo in March after spending four seasons as Joe Flacco’s backup in Baltimore.
Johnson was signed a day after he was cut by Indianapolis for a second time in two weeks. He provides the Bills experienced depth after Buffalo traded veteran journeyman Matt Cassel to Dallas three weeks ago.
In six NFL seasons, Johnson has 1,042 yards passing, five touchdowns and 10 interceptions in 29 games, including five starts, split between Tampa Bay, Cleveland, Cincinnati and San Francisco.
Johnson is familiar with offensive coordinator Greg Roman’s philosophy after working under him with the 49ers last season.
“So far it’s been going well,” Johnson said. “I’ll learn more about what we’re doing for this week, but I feel pretty confident about picking things up.”
The Bills turned to Johnson after first expressing interest in signing Matt Simms off the Atlanta Falcons practice squad, two people familiar with the discussions told The AP. However, Simms elected to stay in Atlanta, the two people said speaking on the condition of anonymity because the Bills did not disclose that information.
Simms is familiar with the Bills offense after spending the preseason in Buffalo before being cut on Sept. 4.
To make room on their roster, the Bills cut kicker Billy Cundiff a week after signing him. Cundiff replaced Jordan Gay as the team’s kickoff specialist, while veteran Dan Carpenter handled field-goal and extra-point duties.