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Why the Bills shouldn't pursue Donovan McNabb... yet

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I've abstained from discussing the ongoing trade saga - or lack thereof - of Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb. Will St. Louis make a move for him? How about Oakland, or even our beloved Buffalo Bills? Does McNabb even want to play for one of those teams? If he's moved, will McNabb's new team be anything more than rent-a-franchise for a year before moving on to greener pastures?

The worst-kept secret in the NFL right now is that the Bills need a franchise quarterback. It's why the majority of mock drafters don't have the Bills passing on a QB if one is available in their projection. It's why self-represented free agents want to talk to this franchise. It's why the Bills would even be interested in a 34-year-old quarterback with one year remaining on his deal in the first place. I don't think it can be understated just how desperate Buffalo's desire for a franchise QB is.

I'm sure you read the headline of this post and are looking for the opinion portion of the article as justification. Here it is: Buffalo's not building for the short term. That's it. I won't deny that a McNabb-to-Buffalo trade would ignite the city the way only a Bledsoe or Owens deal has done the past decade. A move like that might even make the Bills a fringe playoff contender in 2010. There are lots and lots of good reasons to try to make a move for Donovan. Those reasons don't make it advisable.

The best reason to trade for a veteran quarterback, however, is to set your franchise up for the long-term. Let's imagine for a moment that McNabb is on this roster. The Bills are fringe playoff contenders. They still lack identity offensively and defensively, they still lack foundation players, and they'd better get it right in this one year, or McNabb is walking and we're back to square one.

More importantly, they'd still be lacking a long-term solution at quarterback. In an ideal world, McNabb would buy Buffalo time to groom said long-term QB solution. But this is not an ideal trade - not because it's McNabb, not by a long shot, but because McNabb only has one year remaining on his deal. The tide turns if McNabb agrees to add a year or two onto the end of that deal (likely at exorbitant salaries, which are deserved) for his new team. Then the pursuit makes a great deal more sense.

GM Buddy Nix has one shot to get this right. He knows it. Ralph Wilson knows it. The organization as a whole knows it. The fan base knows it. Nix has displayed patience in free agency, and he'd be smart to do the same in this situation. Trading even a second-rounder for McNabb, as his deal exists now, would be a gigantic step toward career suicide, and more importantly, a huge stumbling block for the progress of the franchise. Rent-a-McNabb is a terrible plan. If that deal is extended, and only if the deal is extended, does it make even a small amount of sense for the Bills.

I'm not going to write about this again until something more concrete happens, because Philadelphia doesn't have to do anything with its star quarterback until early May. It's pretty clear that Nix and the Bills organization have informed the Eagles that they're interested in McNabb. Now they should - and likely will - back off. Let McNabb's camp decide what they want to do with the contract, and where they'd like him to play out the remainder of his stellar career. If things break well (i.e. he extends his deal and doesn't whine about destination), then Buffalo should re-open their pursuit of No. 5.