There is a 67 percent chance that the quarterback the Buffalo Bills choose to start on opening day will be the seventeenth man to start under center for the club since Jim Kelly announced his retirement immediately following the 1996 NFL season (or the eighteenth, if you actually count Matt Cassel as the Bills’ starter for the opener against the Indianapolis Colts in 2015).
The team’s newest veteran acquisition was originally thought to be a shoo-in for the starting quarterback gig. However, a strong challenge from a 2017 holdover is giving life to the competition.
In the latest installment of our “90 players in 90 days” series, we profile one of Buffalo’s three quarterbacks.
Name: AJ McCarron
Height/Weight: 6’3” 220 lbs.
Financial situation (per Spotrac): McCarron signed a two-year deal with the Bills that can earn him up to $10 million. In 2018, the contract carries a $3 million cap hit, which doesn’t exactly scream “starting quarterback” money. His is the 38th-highest cap hit in the league, just behind Deshaun Watson and just ahead of Chad Henne.
2017 Recap: McCarron threw 14 passes last year, competing 7 of them for a total of 66 yards.
Positional outlook: The Bills drafted Josh Allen seventh overall in order for him to be the quarterback of the future, but that doesn’t necessarily make him the quarterback of the present. Most scouts agree that Allen needs plenty of time to sit and watch at the NFL level, leaving second-year man Nathan Peterman as McCarron’s most likely challenger for the starting gig.
2018 Offseason: Early returns from minicamp and offseason workouts indicate that Peterman is outplaying McCarron. ESPN’s Mike Rodak said that Peterman was sharp, noting that he should be considered a legitimate challenger for the starting job. McCarron had one strong day of camp, but was otherwise criticized for playing too safe by members of the media who attended those practice sessions. If McCarron was hoping to win the job outright early in the offseason, early returns suggest that he has failed to do so.
2018 season outlook: It would still surprise me if anyone other than McCarron is starting on the first day of the 2018 NFL season; however, that possibility is far more likely now than it was even a month ago. McCarron is paid like a backup, and although he was initially thought of as an obvious placeholder while Allen learns the ropes at the NFL level, it’s possible that he will help the rookie from the sidelines as they both watch Peterman start. Whatever happens, the quarterback competition will be an exciting one to watch all summer long.