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Buffalo Bills at a quarterback crossroads

To continue on their current path, or not to continue on the very same road?

Stop me when you’ve read this before: The Buffalo Bills have multiple questions surrounding the status of the most important position on the football field heading into the offseason. In years past, the questions regarding quarterbacks centered on their inability to lead the team to the playoffs. With Buffalo’s seventeen-year playoff drought ending this season, that question no longer remains.

The question that emerges in its place doesn’t involve whether or not a quarterback can take the Bills to the playoffs, but instead whether or not that quarterback can help the team take the next step towards becoming a legitimate contender in the AFC.

For the twenty-first consecutive offseason, the Bills will look to find a true franchise quarterback. Is that person already on the roster? Or, will the Bills have to invest significant capital, be it in draft picks or cash, in order to acquire that man?

Our “State of the Bills Roster” series begins with a look at the Buffalo Bills’ three quarterbacks. All statistics and snap counts are courtesy of, and all contract and financial data comes from Spotrac.

Tyrod Taylor

  • Contract Status for 2018: Signed; $18.08 million cap hit ($10 million cap savings if cut with post-6/1 designation; $6 million roster bonus due if on the roster 3/16/18)
  • Age: 28 (29 on 8/3/18)
  • Playing time: 927 snaps (88.12% of offensive total)
  • Key statistics: 263/420 (62.6%), 2799 yards, 14 TD, 4 INT, 89.2 rating, 56.4 QBR, 84 carries, 427 yards (5.1 YPC), 4 TD, 4 FUM

Taylor regressed significantly this season, posting career-lows as a starter in every major category except for completion percentage. Already a risk-averse passer hesitant to throw into tight windows, he became almost entirely dependent on check-downs as the season progressed. While he did make strides throwing over the middle, it came almost completely at the expense of attempting anything outside the hash marks.

Taylor's one great strength as a passer in 2015 and 2016 was the ability to stretch the field vertically; however, that never materialized in 2017. Whether it was because of play calls, a lack of talent at the receiver position, or a shift in philosophy, Taylor never seemed comfortable throwing the ball outside and long like he did with Greg Roman and Anthony Lynn calling the offense.

While it once seemed hopeful that Taylor could become the guy, it is now fairly clear that he is merely another guy in a long line of who’s-whos attempting to replace Jim Kelly. He could succeed in a scheme better fit to his unique abilities, but if the current offensive coaching structure remains, it is hard to see Taylor staying and finding much success in Orchard Park.

Nathan Peterman

  • Contract Status for 2018: Signed; $614,874 cap hit ($555,000 cap savings if post-6/1 cut)
  • Age: 23 (24 on 5/4/18)
  • Playing time: 98 snaps (9.32% of offensive total)
  • Key statistics: 24/49 (49%), 252 yards, 2 TD, 5 INT, 38.4 rating, 12.1 QBR, 7 carries, 23 yards (3.3 YPA), 2 FUM

The second of Buffalo’s two fifth-round picks in the 2017 NFL Draft, Peterman was expected to back up Tyrod Taylor for the season; however, after Taylor turned in a downright abysmal performance against the New Orleans Saints in an embarrassing Week 10 blowout loss, Peterman was named the starter for the Week 11 matchup with the Los Angeles Chargers. One half and five Peterman interceptions later, the Bills went back to Taylor.

Peterman did perform admirably in the Snowvertime victory against the Indianapolis Colts, which he started after Taylor left the first game against the New England Patriots with a knee injury. After completing 5-of-10 passes for 57 yards and a touchdown in white-out conditions, Peterman was concussed when diving for extra yardage on a scramble.

Chances are very good that Peterman is on the roster next year, as the coaching staff seem to trust him and have a good deal of faith in him at a young age. While many fifth-round picks would have a more tenuous hold on their roster spot, Peterman is a near-lock to be with the Bills in 2018.

Joe Webb

  • Contract status for 2018: UFA
  • Age: 31 (32 on 11/14/18)
  • Playing time: 39 QB snaps (3.71% of offensive playing time); 278 ST snaps (63.62%)
  • Key statistics: 2/7 (28.6%), 35 yards, 1 INT, 8.3 rating, 64.2 QBR, 8 carries, 54 yards (6.8 YPA)

Webb was brought on as a special teams player and emergency quarterback, and he fit the bill in that “emergency” role against the Colts. He completed 2-of-6 passes in that game, and an interception late in the fourth quarter nearly ended Buffalo’s playoff hopes. Instead, Adam Vinatieri missed a field goal, and Webb had the chance to complete a huge throw to Deonte Thompson in overtime, setting the stage for LeSean McCoy’s 21-yard touchdown scamper to keep hope alive for Buffalo.

Webb is a good athlete and a fine “Swiss Army knife,” but he’s an unrestricted free agent, and the Bills will almost certainly let him walk while adding another true passer to the quarterback room this offseason. If he does return, it won’t be as a quarterback, but as a special teams player once again.

Offseason Outlook

Buffalo failed to gain 200 yards passing in 11 of their 17 games this season. Sure, they were 6-5 in those games, but teams that can’t beat a defense through the air don’t win consistently in the 21st century NFL. The Bills are definitely going to be aggressive in trying to add another quarterback. Through what avenue that addition will come is the only question.

Buffalo has four of the first 56 picks in the 2018 NFL Draft. They select 21st and 22nd in the first round thanks to last year’s trade with Kansas City that landed the Chiefs Patrick Mahomes and the Bills Tre’Davious White. The Bills’ second-round picks are 53rd and 56th overall, with the latter coming from the Los Angeles Rams in the Sammy Watkins trade.

The Bills could package some or all of those picks together and move up the board to select “their guy,” whether he’s Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen, Mason Rudolph, Baker Mayfield, or another player. They could also stand pat and hope someone falls to them. They may even decide to try to acquire a veteran like Alex Smith, Kirk Cousins, Case Keenum, or Sam Bradford, thereby enabling them to use those draft picks to shore up other holes in the roster.

The writing is on the wall, and it’s very unlikely that Buffalo’s 2018 starting quarterback is on the current roster. It’s possible that the team could use Taylor as a bridge to its next quarterback, but that scenario is unlikely given the salary cap savings that can be had by cutting Taylor before March 16. In any case, it will be another offseason of speculating about who will play quarterback for the Buffalo Bills.