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Tyrod Taylor’s option is not optional for Bills’ future

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The case for the Bills to pick up Taylor’s option.

NFL: Buffalo Bills at Oakland Raiders Cary Edmondson-USA TODAY Sports

After Spotrac engaged in a full breakdown of Tyrod Taylor’s potential contract, our staff chat at Buffalo Rumblings buzzed with discussion regarding the Bills’ quarterback, specifically whether his contract option should be exercised. The “room” was divided.

Taylor’s season has been a mix of flashes of brilliance (boy does the Seattle game seem like a long time ago) interspersed by middling quarterback play. Taylor’s unique running ability is unrivaled among current NFL QBs; unfortunately this often leads Taylor to trust his legs more than his eyes and arm. Taylor still routinely exits pockets early and unnecessarily, believing that he can gain more by scrambling than by waiting for a receiver to get open downfield (whether a receiver will get open or not is another story). The big pass plays that characterized Taylor’s first season have been mostly absent this season. But this article isn’t necessarily about Taylor as a player.

This article will instead focus on the hard truth regarding Taylor’s contract and its reality involving the Bills. Yes, $90+ million is a ton of money and, yes, it will pay Taylor as an NFL starting quarterback, albeit a below-average one. When current rookie contract starting-caliber quarterbacks (David Carr, Teddy Bridgewater, Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota and Jimmy Garoppolo) sign long-term contracts, Taylor’s contract will fall well into the 20s in terms of its rank amongst NFL quarterbacks. The $90+ million total value needs to be accepted; NFL starting quarterbacks make a ton of money. It is the hardest job in professional sports, and there are a very limited number of human beings who can be successful at it. Taylor is an NFL starting quarterback – he is going to make a ton of money.

That said, Taylor could absolutely be a better NFL starting quarterback. He was inconsistent in 2015 (as many first year NFL starters are) and has obviously been inconsistent in 2016. Despite this, Taylor has been considerably better than any quarterback the Bills have had in more than a decade. The team is currently ranked 9th in the NFL in points per game after ranking 12th in 2015. The last time the Bills finished in the top 10 in points per game was 2004. Prior to Taylor becoming the starter in 2015, the highest the team had ranked since 2004 was 14th and was ranked in the 20s more often than not. The Bills’ running game has been incredible, but Taylor being the league’s most dangerous quarterback threat to run might have something to do with that. The Bills’ leading wide receiver, Robert Woods, currently ranks 89th in the league in receiving. Marquise Goodwin is second at 110th. That may also have something to do with Taylor regression as a passer.

The Bills have been a better offense with Taylor than they have been with any of their quarterbacks over the years. If Taylor had been quarterbacking the Bills opposite their 2014 defense, the playoff drought would already be over. In 2016, Taylor’s quarterback play is in all likelihood going to lead the Bills to another .500 or better record. The Bills are not going to be able to draft a well-regarded quarterback prospect in the 2017 draft. There are no options in free agency.

In analyzing the decision to pick up Taylor’s contract option, the Bills’ options are to pay an NFL starting quarterback NFL starting quarterback money and provide him with NFL-caliber pass catchers, or tank next season (which may actually be difficult to do considering the team’s running game) and hope to draft a rookie starting quarterback for the 2018 season. The Buffalo Bills will be a considerably worse team in 2017 if someone other than Tyrod Taylor is playing quarterback.