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The Tyrod Taylor trade scenario, and why the Buffalo Bills may be exploring it

Here’s why it makes sense for the Bills to be noncommittal on Tyrod right now.

The Buffalo Bills can trade Tyrod Taylor, and it’s something the team may very well be considering during the NFL combine to execute the first few days of free agency.

During his press conference in Indianapolis on Wednesday, Sean McDermott was essentially noncommittal on everything, outside of Kyle Williams coming back for the 2017 season. However Buffalo’s head coach confirmed he and GM Doug Whaley hadn’t made a final decision on Tyrod yet, and that they could go to the deadline before deciding what to do regarding Buffalo’s veteran quarterback.

That led to wide speculation that Buffalo was indeed preparing to let Tyrod walk in free agency.

Yes, we’re in “lying season,” but this is what McDermott said:

“I’ve been impressed by his worth ethic... having said that the decision making process continues. We’re going to exhaust every resource, every avenue, and every option available to us.”

That comment leaves much to interpretation, doesn’t it? To me, it hints at the possibility of a trade.

Well, here’s how a Tyrod trade could go down.

Over the past few months, it’s been assumed that if the Bills don’t pick up his option, he automatically hits the market. The new league year begins on March 9, but Tyrod actually won’t be a free agent then. The Bills have until March 11 — the third day of the league year — to make a decision on Tyrod. When the new league year begins, he’ll technically be under contract with Buffalo at a fully guaranteed $27.5M, as a unique part of his contract states. If and when the option is picked up, his cap hit drops to $15.9M in 2017 and $3.25M of his 2018 salary becomes fully guaranteed.

Therefore, because the Bills own Tyrod’s rights from March 9 until March 11, that’s when they can trade him and his contract (option included) to another team. And what’d be a positive for Buffalo — no new dead money.

The only dead money would be the $2.85M in prorated signing bonus carried over from the 2016 portion of his deal. Without seeing the full details and language of the contract, this is a slight assumption, but as Rumblings’ resident cap expert Tom Mitchell mentioned, “if the Bills can cut Tyrod on March 10 for no new guaranteed or dead money, how can they not trade him on March 10 for the same?”

Back to McDermott’s comment that provided a lack of commitment to the incumbent starting quarterback.

There's nothing for the Bills to gain by publicly committing to Tyrod now before the deadline.

By keeping their thoughts a mystery, they leave the trade window open. And really, why ever shut it yourself, unless you have an unquestionably elite quarterback?

Even if McDermott and Whaley are comfortable with Tyrod as the starter in 2017 and maybe beyond -- I think they are, by the way -- it makes perfect business sense to at least to tease the idea to the rest of the NFL that Tyrod could be acquired at the right price.

Kirk Cousins got the franchise tag from Washington, and is fully expected to sign it. On Wednesday, Adam Schefter reported the Patriots aren’t expected to trade Jimmy Garoppolo.

That means Tyrod is the top "potentially" available quarterback, unless you believe Mike Glennon or AJ McCarron are better, a sentiment that seems far fetched.

Then consider the relatively weak quarterback draft class, and you'll realize Tyrod's trade value is rather high and will likely never be higher.

During his time as Bills GM, Whaley has a earned a reputation as a wheeler and dealer, a distinction that could lead to him receiving to a few more exploratory phone calls than many other GMs would in the same situation.

The teams with the top 3 picks in the draft -- the Browns, 49ers, and Bears -- are all decidedly in the market for a quarterback, and it’s very doubtful signal-callers will be selected with the No. 1, No. 2, and No. 3 overall picks. The Jets, owners of the No. 6 overall pick, have a desperate need a quarterback too. Cleveland also has the No. 12 overall pick, which could be ideal for a quarterback selection. Will three quarterbacks be taken in the top 12 though? Probably not.

So, with the acquisition of Tyrod, the new team gets a veteran quarterback it likes at below market value for draft-pick compensation. It’s entirely plausible for a team to want Tyrod with his current deal. If that team “waited” until he “hopefully” got released, a bidding war could ensue, thereby driving up Tyrod’s price.

Using the Browns as an example, here’s what they'd have to weigh:

  • Rookie quarterback at No. 12 overall, with a contract in the vicinity of four years, $13M fully guaranteed.
  • Established 28-year old QB, $16.6M APY for the next three years.

What could Tyrod fetch? I have no idea. But I do believe the Bills would have to be blown away to move him.

The 49ers got two second-round picks for then soon-to-be 29-year-old Alex Smith in 2013. And although their minimal-turnover playing style would be used in making a comparison between the two quarterbacks, Tyrod doesn't limit an offense the way Smith does and clearly adds dynamic elements with his legs and the deep ball that Smith does not.

I don't think a first-round pick for Tyrod is out of the question.

Whaley enters 2017 undeniably in "win-now" mode. Another playoff-less season, and he'll almost assuredly get fired. He can't afford to start a "tank" at this stage in the game. There's a chance he's willing to roll the dice with a rookie quarterback, and if that's the case, an extra first-round pick — or simply another early-round selection(s) — received in return for Tyrod would make it easier to take that risk at No. 10 overall and bring more top-level talent to Buffalo.

There's no way nearly two months have elapsed and McDermott and Whaley still aren't exactly quite sure what they think of Tyrod. They know.

But telling everyone the team won't pick up Tyrod's option and will release him would be a short-sighted, wasted opportunity. The same is true for announcing they’ll pick up the option now. He's a valuable trade chip, and I think the Bills want to see just how sweet of a deal they might be offered for Tyrod before ultimately deciding to pick up his option.