The Buffalo Bills signed Tyrod Taylor to a contract extension, and I have a lot to
say write about the deal.
I’ll start with this — yes, this is a gamble for the Bills. No question about it. But it’s a calculated one.
Taylor has played in just 14 games and missed two due to injury in 2015. Before that, he was an unknown on the Ravens. Having said that, about 90% of NFL contracts are (calculated) gambles. Very rarely are teams afforded the luxury to sign a sure-fire lock of a superstar like J.J. Watt, Antonio Brown or Luke Kuechly, and because of the ever-present threat of injury, even signing those type of players comes at a risk.
While there’s a saying in the NFL that you can’t pay players for what they’ve already done but what they will do... I think we can all agree Taylor’s performance in 2015 was well worth him earning $9.5 million in 2016:
#Bills QB Tyrod Taylor will make $9.5M in '16, then the team has an option. If they pick it up, he gets $27.5M in '17 & the extension begins— Ian Rapoport (@RapSheet) August 12, 2016
A whopping 23 quarterbacks will make more than $9.5 million in 2016. Taylor’s potential two-year average of $18.5 million is the 15th-highest in football. That’s it. If Taylor’s play significantly spirals downward in 2016 and the Bills move on, he’d have played in Buffalo — and given the team at least one solid season — on a two-year, $10.4 million contract. Super reasonable.
GM Doug Whaley spoke to the Bills’ ideology regarding Taylor’s extension in his conference call today:
#Bills Doug Whaley on conference call: "It's a deal that can keep [Tyrod] with us for as long as he can keep performing at a high level."— Nick Veronica (@NickVeronica) August 12, 2016
Pretty perfect quote, right?
In essence, the Bills accelerated the process with Taylor. They’re giving him a mini franchise tag deal for 2016 and will (gladly) pay up after that if he impresses again.
But if you had made up your mind that Taylor had yet to play in enough games to deserve a multi-year deal, then there was no pre-2016 season extension with which you would have agreed, and that’s fine.
However, had the Bills allowed Taylor to play into this regular season without a new deal, Buffalo would have really been rolling the dice in a game that featured one, seemingly unlikely, favorable outcome and two unfavorable outcomes for the organization.
In that situation, had Taylor played poorly in 2016, the Bills would’ve been able to let the quarterback walk having saved an enormous amount of money. Then the quarterback search would have commenced once again.
But if Taylor did play well, he’d have gained immense leverage with each victory and/or strong performance. At that point, Buffalo would have either been forced to:
1. Pay him an exorbitant amount of money as part of a long-term deal, essentially “overpaying.” Two great seasons in a row quarterbacking the Buffalo Bills — Taylor would’ve been able to start his contract demands at about $28 million per year.
2. Let him leave and hit free agency because his extreme — and justified — contract demands wouldn’t be able to be met under to the salary cap. For a franchise that’s been on an arduous 20-year quest to find its franchise quarterback, this option was likely the absolute worst nightmare for the Bills’ front office.
(Side note: I’ve gone on the record many times saying and writing I would’ve made a final decision on Taylor’s contract on Halloween 2016 if I was Doug Whaley. That’s because I’d have been willing to take the risk of the quarterback playing well and thereby seeing his demands skyrocket. However, as outlined above, what the Bills did is the much safer decision. Also, if three months ago someone told me that Taylor would be happy to agree to a $15 million APY deal that’s basically year-to-year, I wouldn’t have believed said person... but would’ve immediately been on board.)
And if anything, Taylor’s 2015 season indicates it’s much more likely that he’ll be, at the very least, an adequate quarterback capable of competently operating Greg Roman’s offense than a bottom-of-the-league flop.
Therefore, I understand why the Bills felt compelled to do this extension now, before Taylor plays in any more games.
At most, Taylor’s deal is reportedly for six-years and up to $90 million. Even casual NFL fans know that a player rarely reaches the end of a contract extension and hits every possible incentive to achieve the deal’s max value.
Even if Taylor gets to the end of his new contract and earns his incentives, just like his potential average of 2016 and 2017, his total APY of $15 million currently ranks 23rd among all NFL quarterbacks.
Some notable signal-callers ahead of Taylor on that financial list right now: Andy Dalton, Alex Smith, Brock Osweiler, Sam Bradford, Matthew Stafford, Jay Cutler, Colin Kaepernick and Ryan Tannehill.
Essentially every other quarterback making less than $15 million per season is either Ryan Fitzpatrick, Robert Griffin III, still on his rookie deal, or a backup.
(And if he happens to unlock all of the “performance bonuses” Vic Carucci of The Buffalo News alludes to here that could push the total value of the deal to “more than $100 million,” six years and, say, $105 million equates to just $17.5 million per year.)
For Taylor, this deal is tremendous.
According to the “Cash Earnings” page on Spotrac, the former sixth-round pick has earned a grand total of $3.29 million in his five-year pro career, which by NFL standards among players with starter ability, is chump change.
With this extension, he sees his yearly income quintuple (or possibly jump 6x) and will get a sizable sum of guaranteed dollars in 2016.
Had he not signed a deal before this season and stayed healthy, he’d have been a prime candidate for a one-year, $20-plus million franchise tag deal. But with his playing style, had he gotten seriously hurt, his leverage and negotiating power would have faded away to essentially nothing.
By signing the deal now, he gets a fully guaranteed 2016 — albeit less than what a franchise tag contract would’ve paid him in 2017 — with future years already built in.
Getting a massive overall pay raise, playing on a guaranteed, quasi-franchise tag deal in 2016, and being provided with insurance represents the most logical choice for the super-mobile, 27-year-old quarterback who’s made fewer than $1 million per season in his NFL career.
Neither the Bills nor Taylor had a clear upper hand in these contract negotiations, a fact that was a likely a catalyst in this extension getting done before Buffalo’s first preseason game of 2016.
The Bills provided themselves an amazing — and typically rare — opportunity to get a quality franchise quarterback at an bargain price with flexibility if things go awry.
Taylor sees a mammoth pay increase, a large chunk of guaranteed money this season and confidently enters Year 2 running an offense with a proven history of maximizing its (athletic) quarterback’s efficiency.
Both sides are happy. Bills fans should be too.