Brace yourselves, Buffalo Bills fans. Regardless of how Tyrod Taylor played in the playoffs (17-of-37 for 134 yards and 1 INT), it is looking increasingly likely that it won’t have any bearing on Tyrod Taylor’s future in Buffalo.
There is near-universal belief among Bills fans that the team needs better quarterback play than Taylor can deliver if the Bills are to avoid starting another playoff drought. Taylor is due $6 million on the third day of the new league year, March 17th. Conventional wisdom is that Taylor will be released at some point after the Super Bowl and before March 17th. Even if Taylor had played very well in the playoffs, there is too much game film of Taylor not being a franchise QB to be ignored.
Taylor isn’t a franchise QB and he wasn’t a good fit for the offense that recently-fired offensive coordinator Rick Dennison ran. Head coach Sean McDermott saw enough of Taylor’s limitations to bench him for fifth-round rookie Nathan Peterman, who promptly threw 5 interceptions. The Bills tried replacing him during a playoff run, so that probably doesn’t bode well for his long-term prospects.
Free agent options are pretty limited:
- Drew Brees can’t be franchised but he is 39 and loves the city of New Orleans. It’s a good bet that he stays in the Big Easy.
- Kirk Cousins is 29 and it would take more than $34 million to franchise tag him. He has no love of D.C. but he also isn’t a clear-cut franchise QB.
- Jimmy Garoppolo won’t be leaving San Francisco. They will franchise him if necessary.
- Sam Bradford may be staying in Minnesota but even if they cut him loose he’s an injury risk.
- Teddy Bridgewater may be staying in Minnesota but even if they cut him loose he’s an injury risk.
- Alex Smith will be 34, making him little more than a bridge QB. He isn’t a free agent but chatter about him being traded won’t go away given the investment the Chiefs have in Patrick Mahomes.
- A.J. McCarron hasn’t proven anything in the NFL.
Of the options, only Cousins and Smith make any sense for Buffalo. Cousins isn’t going to sign on to be a bridge to some draftee, nor is Cousins a true franchise QB. Smith might make sense, though with about two years left in the tank he will more likely be looking for a place to call home as opposed to a 1 or 2-year layover on his way to official journeyman status. The good news for Bills fans that they will both go somewhere else, to teams that currently need QBs.
The Cleveland Browns, New York Giants, maybe the Indianapolis Colts, Denver Broncos, and New York Jets could all take a quarterback in the top six picks. The Browns have two of those spots, and could trade it out to the highest bidder looking to move up to get their guy. The Cincinnati Bengals, Washington Redskins, Arizona Cardinals, and possibly more teams could make that move.
With few viable free agent options and no guarantee that the Bills will be able to trade into the top 5 to get a QB that Buffalo wants, the smart play may be to pay Tyrod Taylor his $6 million on March 17. He would be an expensive bridge/backup if the Bills are able to get a genuine franchise QB prospect. Retaining his services relieves the pressure of not having a QB at all if the Bills can’t get into position to draft that potential franchise QB. If the Bills do get the quarterback Beane and McDermott want in the draft the Bills could then look to trade Taylor after the draft and eat the signing bonus as quarterback insurance.
Those hoping for a quick Taylor departure might be disappointed as paying him $6 million keeps a lot of options open through the draft. There is at least one path those fans can hope the Bills follow: identify the franchise QB prospect McDermott and Beane believe to be “can’t miss” and do a deal with Cleveland for the top pick before March 17th. Short of that, the money saved by releasing Taylor prior to March 17th ties the hands of Buffalo’s war room on draft day.