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Tyrod Taylor’s contract: two things you need to know

There are two very important things to keep in mind when considering whether the Bills should keep Taylor around for the next five years.

Yesterday, Spotrac co-founder/editor Michael Ginnitti gave us a very good look into the looming contract extension for embattled (can I call him that yet?) Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor.

I strongly encourage everybody with an interest in Taylor’s contract to read the piece. There are plenty of raw numbers given, and plenty of conclusions for you to arrive at no matter what side of the “should he stay or should he go” debate you fall on.

That said, even if you don’t read the breakdown, there are two points that really need to be clarified.

The cap hits for all five years are fairly low for a starting quarterback, but they’re sky-high for a backup

Per Ginnitti, the cap hits on the five years of the extension range from a low of $15.9 million in 2017 to a high of $17.65 million in 2021, with the final three seasons all above the $17 million mark.

When looking at 2017 cap hits for quarterbacks, Taylor’s contract puts him at 20th in the league, and while the offseason should shift that somewhat (Colin Kaepernick and Jay Cutler are currently ahead of Taylor, Kirk Cousins is in line for a franchise-type deal, and current leader Tony Romo is certain to be traded and could take a sizable paycut) it’s likely that the number would remain in the bottom half of the top 32 signal-callers. Even if he were to earn his 2021 salary (the peak cap hit of the contract) next season, he’d only place 17th among quarterbacks. It’s a low-cost contract for a starter in the league.

Of course, that’s assuming he’s earning starter money for a starter role. While Taylor is a bargain for a starter, he’s prohibitively expensive to keep around as a backup. If you eliminate each team’s highest-paid quarterback, the most expensive backup is Nick Foles of the Chiefs, and his $10.75 million salary is subject to a club option (Note: given the uncertainty around Romo’s situation, I’m not considering him in this discussion). Next up is Carson Wentz of the Eagles, who is playing on a rookie contract. Assuming he doesn’t retire, it’s likely that the highest-paid backup in the league next year will be Wentz’s backup in Philly, Chase Daniel, who has a cap hit of $8 million in 2017. While the salary assigned to the highest-paid backup will rise in the future, it’s not going to come anywhere near what Taylor is earning anytime soon.

That leads me to my second point...

It will be very hard for the Bills to get out of this contract prior to 2020

Per Ginnitti, here are the dead cap figures (the penalty assessed to the Bills’ salary cap if Taylor is cut in the given offseason) for the five years of the deal. Keep in mind, these numbers don’t mean anything until the remainder of the contract is picked up by the Bills:

2017: $33,603,334
2018: $17,690,000 (addt'l $9.75M kicks in on the 3rd league day)
2019: $10,660,000
2020: $6,880,000
2021: $3,100,000

Obviously, releasing Taylor at any point in the first two seasons is a non-starter. Ginnitti does float the idea of a release with a post-June 1st designation in 2019, but that would spread out the money without reducing it at all.

Ginnitti assumes a $168 million cap next season, which would represent a rise of about $13 million over this season and an increase of $45 million over the last five seasons. Using a conservative estimate that the cap will grow at a flat $13 million over the following two years, Taylor’s 2019 dead cap figure would represent about 5.49% of the team’s total salary cap. For perspective, the only players on the Bills with a bigger cut of the cap in 2016 are Marcell Dareus and Stephon Gilmore.

One thing I should point out is that a dead cap figure isn’t added on top of the player’s salary. For example, Taylor’s 2019 cap figure stands at $17.38 million, so if they were to release him they’d gain $6.72 million in salary cap space. However, there would still be $10.66 million out there that they couldn’t use, and they’d need to add a quarterback on top of that. It would either take a very good rookie or a very cheap roster to make that a viable option.

As I said on The John Murphy Show, I’m pretty sure the front office has already made up their minds on Taylor. I know I have, and I’m willing to bet that if you’re reading this then you probably have, too.

I hope you look at this, though, and at least pick up some of the mindset from the other side of the fence. If you think Taylor should be shown the door, just remember that it’s probable that his replacement (if they can even find one) is going to be a lot pricier and put more limits on the rest of the roster.

If you think he needs to stay, know that pegging him as the starter isn’t a decision that’s going to be easy to overturn for a few years, which could come into play if Rex Ryan is fired and a new coach comes in with designs on installing a standard passing offense that relies on quality quarterback play from the pocket.