Quarterback Drew Bledsoe wasted no time finding a new team, reaching a tentative contract agreement with the Dallas Cowboys yesterday that will reunite him with Coach Bill Parcells.
The deal, which likely will be announced today, was confirmed by an NFL source who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the signing was not officially completed. Bledsoe's agreement with the Cowboys came on the same day that he officially was released by the Buffalo Bills.
The Bills announced last week that they'd release Bledsoe, and granted him and agent David Dunn permission to begin talking to other teams immediately. But the move could not be made until yesterday, when the NFL's waiver system went back into effect. The league's free agent market does not open until next week but Bledsoe, because he was released, was eligible to sign with a new team yesterday.
Bledsoe likely will become the new starter for a Cowboys club that went 6-10 last season, but perhaps could improve rapidly. The Cowboys have abundant salary cap space to sign free agents, and have two first-round picks in the April draft. Dallas will turn over its running game to tailback Julius Jones, who was highly productive as a rookie last season after recovering from a shoulder injury, and Bledsoe almost certainly will start at quarterback ahead of youngsters Drew Henson and Tony Romo.
Parcells made it clear during the season that he was wary of turning to the inexperienced Henson as his starter, and Bledsoe said last week that he was not interested in signing with the team that wanted him as a backup. The Bills offered Bledsoe, 33, a chance to accept a pay cut and remain in Buffalo to back up youngster J.P. Losman, but Bledsoe refused.
Bledsoe spent the first four seasons of his career, between 1993 and '96, playing for Parcells with the New England Patriots. Parcells drafted Bledsoe with the top overall choice in the '93 draft, and the two reached a Super Bowl together in the 1996 season.
Bledsoe played three seasons for the Bills after nine seasons with the Patriots. He was only the league's 25th-rated passer this past season and the Bills decided to go with Losman, a first-round draft pick last year, as their starter next season.
Veteran Vinny Testaverde, the Cowboys' starting quarterback for most of this past season, is eligible for unrestricted free agency next week and could be headed back to the New York Jets.