By Mary Pesarchick // @HeyMom418
For the Bills, finding a franchise quarterback has been as epic a quest as the one for the Holy Grail. Since QB Jim Kelly retired in 1996, eleven different players have been at the position for Buffalo. That means, except for Drew Bledsoe (three seasons) and Ryan Fitzpatrick (four seasons), Bills’ starting QBs have lasted no more than one or two seasons each.
And the quest continues. Despite leading the team to the playoffs for the first time in seventeen years, current QB Tyrod Taylor is no lock to be the starter next season. Many NFL analysts believe the Bills will be looking to replace Taylor either through free agency or the draft.
Whether that is the opinion of the brain trust at One Bills Drive, though, is not a clear as it once appeared to be. Taylor’s benching in Week 11 against the San Diego Chargers was widely considered a signal that he was not part of the team’s future plans.
Speaking with Bills’ beat reporter, Sal Capaccio (@SalSports) at this week’s NFL Combine, general manager Brandon Beane seemed initially to support that interpretation. He said, “If we can upgrade at quarterback, we’ll upgrade at quarterback.”
However, Beane immediately followed by complementing Taylor for “being a big part of what we did to get to the playoffs.” He stated, “We’re planning on Tyrod being here until something changes.”
Here are my 1-on-1 video interviews with Bills’ HC Sean McDermott and GM Brandon Beane from the NFL Combine in Indy: https://t.co/tKuoXZdGhk
— Sal Capaccio 🏈 (@SalSports) March 1, 2018
So, what are the Bills going to do?? They will have to make at least one decision before mid-March. Taylor is due to receive a $6 million bonus if he is still on the roster by March 16.
According to spotrac.com, if the Bills honor the remaining year on Taylor’s contract and pay the bonus, it would mean taking a cap hit of $18 million. However, that number could be significantly reduced if they were to release or trade him after June 1, and the Bills would have the added benefit of pushing some of that dead-cap money into 2019.
So, assuming the Bills pay the bonus and Taylor stays with the team, he could serve several functions. First, he could be traded. As their shoddy performance in the playoff game against Jacksonville showed, Buffalo has many, many holes to fill on both offense and defense. Given the number of teams looking for experienced help at quarterback, there may be genuine interest in Taylor to swap for some veteran help to fill those holes.
Then there are the plethora of draft picks the Bills have acquired. The Bills have a total of eight picks in the first five rounds, including two back-to-back first-round picks at #21 and #22. They also have two picks in the second round.
Now, Beane could stand pat, get lucky, and have someone like QB Lamar Jackson fall to them at #21. If not, he’d use the early round picks to address needs, particularly at defensive tackle, linebacker, and wide receiver. Keeping Taylor as next year’s starter, they’d have a proven, if not spectacular, QB and someone who could guide any rookie they manage to acquire in later rounds.
One scenario proposed by Will Brinson of CBSSports.com has the Denver Broncos, should they sign QB Kirk Cousins, trading their #5 pick and a third-round pick for the Bills two first round picks and one of their second-round picks. That way the Bills get a potential franchise QB, and still have a second round and two third round picks to fill some of their roster needs.
Given the Bills woeful history in the quarterback department, to have all of these options is, at the same time, exciting and nerve-racking. ESPN recently reported that the Minnesota Vikings head coach, Mike Zimmer fully expects to be fired should he make the wrong decision in his complicated QB situation.
Beane and Bills coach Sean McDermott don’t admit to being under that same kind of pressure to get it right, continuing to trust that “The Process” will lead them to the answers. Fans are a bit more nervous as the wrong decision could mean the difference between a return to the playoffs in 2018 or the beginning of another long drought.
Talk Bills football with Mary on Twitter // @HeyMom418