The Buffalo Bills have been searching high and low for the next franchise quarterback ever since Hall of Famer Jim Kelly retired following the 1996 season. Bills fans know very well the heartache this position has caused, with Buffalo coaches trotting out everyone from Todd Collins, Rob Johnson, and Doug Flutie, to J.P. Losman, Trent Edwards, and Ryan Fitzpatrick in an attempt to solve the quarterback riddle.
Tyrod Taylor, the quarterback who helped Buffalo finally snap that embarrassing stretch of 17 straight playoff-less seasons in 2017, envisions himself as a starting quarterback in the NFL. The question all season had been: do Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane, Buffalo’s head coach and general manager, feel that Taylor is the answer (short- or long-term) at quarterback?
If the Bills Mafia expected to hear a definitive answer from Beane and McDermott at this week’s Senior Bowl, well, Buffalo’s front office wasn’t tipping its hand.
“Just like any player,” Beane answered when asked how he would evaluate Taylor. “We’re looking at what all our options are at every position. So you look at quarterback and you evaluate it and that’s what we’ll continue to do until we know we have it right. ... Tyrod did a lot of good things and you have to look at what are the things he could have done better? What are the other things that happened? Was it receivers running the wrong route? Maybe we could have run a better play. There are just so many different things that you could do, and I’m sure Tyrod knows there are things he could’ve done better. We’re still early in the process. We like Tyrod a lot. He works hard and he does a lot of good things.”
Taylor, who has gone 23-21 in his three-year career starting for the Bills, is signed through the 2018 season at a cap number of over $18 million. He is due a $6 million roster bonus on the third day of the league year. It’s a clause written into the contract by Taylor’s agent to force the Bills’ hand; release him so he can sign with another team early enough to make a difference and some cash or pay him $6 million to wait around. It won’t allow Buffalo to sit back and see if they get the guy they want in the draft, but they may be able to get in under the wire with another free agent quarterback.
Taylor will then receive a $10 million salary and will have a total salary cap hit of just over $18 million for 2018. The status of his contract, Taylor’s on-field performance, his ability to take the Bills beyond the Wild Card round of the playoffs, and the quality of free agent quarterbacks and QBs coming out in the draft will surely be among the factors Beane and McDermott weigh when it comes to Taylor’s future.
“I’m not going to get into Tyrod’s future. Like I mentioned earlier, we’re still going through our evaluation. Those decisions will come at some point down the road here,” McDermott said at the Senior Bowl. “I thought the quarterback position, in particular Tyrod, and then Nate (Peterman), did some good things. I’ve mentioned before the work ethic, the intangibles that Tyrod brings to the table are very much appreciated and a big part of how we did things this year and what we were able to do. I thought he did some good things. So, overall, we’ll continue to evaluate where we are and what’s right for this organization moving forward.”
At several times during his media session, McDermott mentioned how the Bills needed to score more points in 2017.
Under new offensive coordinator Rick Dennison (who, thankfully, wasn’t retained for 2018), Buffalo ranked 31st in the league in passing yards per game (176.6, ahead of only the Chicago Bears). Taylor posted the lowest passing (2,799) and rushing (427) yardage totals during his three-year stint as Buffalo’s starter. This season marked the first time as a starter that Taylor did not eclipse 3,000 passing yards or 500 rushing yards. Taylor also logged a career-low 14 passing touchdowns while continuing to avoid back-breaking interceptions, as his four INTs were tops among qualified quarterbacks.
The Bills’ offense struggled mightily in the 10-3 Wild Card loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars, as Taylor guided the offense to a lone field goal while completing 17 of 37 passes (45.9 percent) for 134 yards with an interception.