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Buffalo Bills quarterback situation a three-way race for now

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

NFL: Buffalo Bills-OTA Timothy T. Ludwig-USA TODAY Sports

When we went through our early offseason State of the Bills roster, we noted that the Buffalo Bills were at a quarterback crossroads. No more is that the case following April’s draft and the free agent signing period.

The Bills kicked things off by trading their starting quarterback of the last three years, Tyrod Taylor, to the Cleveland Browns for a third-round pick. The Bills eventually used the pick to trade up and select linebacker Tremaine Edmunds in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft.

Also in the draft, Buffalo traded both of their second round picks and one of their first round selections to move up and take their quarterback of the future.

But the big-time capital the team has spent on the position don’t mean there aren’t major questions entering training camp. No one has emerged at the top of head coach Sean McDermott’s “rep chart” and while he says there is a plan in place for their big-time rookie, he also notes that plan is open to change based on the play of the quarterbacks in training camp and spring practices.

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

Nathan Peterman

  • Contract Status for 2018: Signed through ; $614,874 cap hit ($555,000 cap savings if post-6/1 cut)
  • Age: Turned 24 on 5/4/18
  • 2017 Playing time: 98 snaps (9.32% of offensive total)
  • Key 2017 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

Peterman had an inauspicious start to his professional career in 2017, throwing five first-half interceptions against the Los Angeles Chargers in his first career start. He was pulled but got another chance later in the year after an injury to Taylor forced him back into the starting role. He earned his first win, albeit from the trainers’ room, after emergency QB Joe Webb led an overtime victory in a snowstorm following an injury to Peterman.

Chances are great that Peterman has a home on the roster, as he was one of head coach Sean McDermott’s first selections as a member of the Bills. He had a great spring, inserting himself into the conversation to be the starting quarterback on opening day for the 2018 Bills.

If he plays well in camp, he could not only secure his role on the roster, he could make the next guy on our list expendable.

AJ McCarron

  • Contract Status for 2018: Signed two-year, $10 million contract this offseason ($4.9 million cap hit if released)
  • Age: Turns 28 on 9/13/18
  • 2017 Playing time: 26 snaps (2.7% of offensive total)
  • Key 2017 statistics: 7/14 (40%), 66 yards, 0 TD, 0 INT

As Andy Dalton’s backup in Cincinnati, McCarron didn’t play much in 2017. His only three career starts came in 2015 in place of an injured Dalton, where he had the Bengals in position to win a playoff game before defensive penalties led to a loss.

For his career, McCarron has a 64.7% completion percentage for 920 yards with six touchdowns and two interceptions, but he’s largely unproven. With that being said, he has much more experience than the other two competitors.

McCarron is the only quarterback in realistic danger of being cut this offseason. It won’t cost the Bills much and if the rookie and Peterman both play well, there might not be a need for a third quarterback. McDermott only kept two true quarterbacks on the roster last year. During offseason workouts, McCarron played it safe so it’s fair to wonder if he’s going to play it even closer to the vest when the pads go on and the pass rush starts bearing down.

Josh Allen

  • Contract Status for 2018: Unsigned as of this writing
  • Age: Turned 22 on 5/21/18
  • Draft pick: Selected 7th overall in the 2018 NFL Draft (Buffalo traded pick 11 plus two second-round selections)

The quarterback of the future. There is no doubt that Allen fits that thought process, but what will his role be in 2018? The cannon-armed rookie has shown well in his limited snaps this spring, but he’s always been a workout warrior who looked great in shorts and a helmet.

If Allen continues to progress, Buffalo would be silly not to start him early in the year. If he’s the best QB on the field during camp and the preseason, he adds an element to the offense that McCarron and Peterman can’t. Recent history is littered with quarterbacks who played well as rookies. (It should also be noted, no recent highly-touted rookie quarterbacks have sat for an entire season.)

Training Camp Outlook

The writing was on the wall all the way back to Peterman’s first NFL start that the Bills weren’t happy with Taylor. It was no surprise they moved on from him. General manager Brandon Beane is going to be judged on how Allen does, most notably in comparison to the quarterback selected at number 8 overall, Josh Rosen.

There is a realistic chance that any of the three quarterbacks could be the opening day starter. McCarron is safe, Peterman is developmental, and Allen is the golden boy. None of them have a lot of experience. Which one is going to separate himself from the pack?