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State of the Buffalo Bills’ roster: Quarterbacks

One spot is settled. What about the rest?

Washington Redskins v Buffalo Bills Photo by Brett Carlsen/Getty Images

The Buffalo Bills have found their franchise quarterback. Man, it feels nice to type that sentence. After 25 long years and 17 players covering Todd Collins through Nathan Peterman, the Bills finally have “the guy” rather than “a guy” to replace Hall of Famer Jim Kelly.

With the starting quarterback settled, all that’s left to discuss with regard to the position is the backup. Do the Bills keep the current stable of quarterbacks? Or do they look for an upgrade via free agency or the NFL Draft? In today’s look at the State of the Buffalo Bills’ roster, we’ll discuss the current options a bit.

Josh Allen

Contract status for 2021: Signed; fourth year of rookie contract ($6,910,057 cap hit; $6,740,057 dead-cap charge if cut)
Age: 24 (25 on 5/21/2021)
Playing time: 16 games (16 starts), 960 offensive snaps (88.24 percent)
Key statistics: 396/572 (69.2 percent), 4,544 yards passing, 37 passing touchdowns, ten interceptions, 107.2 rating, 81.7 QBR, 102 rushes, 421 yards rushing , eight rushing touchdowns, one target, one reception, 12 yards receiving, one receiving touchdown, nine fumbles

In our Rumblings staff previews, I wrote that 2020 would be the year where we figured out if Josh Allen is the guy or just another guy. Well, Allen is the guy, folks. The 2020 season marked the best year by a quarterback in Bills history, as Allen literally rewrote the team’s record books. He now sits atop the single-season leaderboard in passing yardage, completions, quarterback rating, completion percentage, and touchdown passes. The Bills technically have to decide whether or not to exercise the fifth-year option on his rookie contract, but the real decision isn’t to keep Allen or let him play out the string. The real question is whether the team should look to sign him to a big contract now or wait until next year to begin negotiating a long-term contract.

Matt Barkley

Contract status for 2021: Unsigned; unrestricted free agent
Age: 30 (31 on 9/8/2021)
Playing time: Five games, 53 offensive snaps (4.87 percent)
Key statistics: 11/21 (52.4 percent), 197 yards passing, one touchdown, one interception, 80.9 rating, 33.9 QBR, six rushes, -6 yards rushing

Barkley has been like a big brother to Allen, serving as a high-quality mentor in the quarterback room for Buffalo’s budding superstar. While Barkley doesn’t have the strongest arm or great mobility, he does have a solid grasp of the Bills’ offense. He saw extended time in the season finale—a blowout win over the Miami Dolphins where Barkley passed for 164 yards, one touchdown, and one interception on 6-of-13 passing. The Bills could absolutely do better than Barkley from a talent perspective here, but they could certainly do worse.

Jake Fromm

Contract status for 2021: Signed; second year of rookie contract ($855,740 cap hit; $824,020 dead-cap charge if cut)
Age: 22 (23 on 7/30/2021)
Playing time: N/A
Key statistics: N/A

Fromm spent the 2020 season quarantined, essentially redshirting as a healthy scratch throughout the entirety of his rookie season. After the initial firestorm regarding some leaked text messages where Fromm wrote that only “elite white people” should have access to silencers for firearms, the rookie quietly went about his business.

Davis Webb

Contract status for 2021: Signed reserve/future contract on 1/26/2021 ($850,000 cap hit; $0 dead money if cut)
Age: 26 (27 on 1/22/2022)
Playing time: N/A
Key statistics: N/A

Webb was elevated to the active roster for one game, Buffalo’s Week 16 blowout win over the New England Patriots, though he was a healthy scratch in that one. The coaching staff praised Webb effusively for his professionalism and his work ethic, so it’s no surprise that the team wanted to keep him in the fold by signing him to the reserve/futures deal.

The Bills have one of the league’s best starting quarterbacks for the first time in 30 years, and they’ll need to make sure that Allen stays around for many years to come. The love between Allen and the Bills is mutual, as the kid from tiny Firebaugh, California has taken to Western New York perfectly. The questions lie behind him on the depth chart, as the Bills have to decide whether to let Barkley walk or retain him. To paraphrase one of my favorite Irish sayings, if they retain Barkley, then there’s nothing to worry about. But if they let him walk, then there are only two things to worry about: whether they’ll replace him through the draft, through free agency, or through the existing depth chart. I can’t imagine a world in which a Super Bowl contender goes into the 2021 season with someone as unproven as Jake Fromm as the backup quarterback, so it could be Davis Webb who moves up to the active roster as Allen’s backup. The team could also look to sign a veteran who fits the system and mirrors Allen more closely as an athlete, though people like that are obviously few and far between. Most of the available quarterbacks will come with heavy question marks of their own (Is Cam Newton done? What kind of money would Jacoby Brissett command? Could we reunite with a former starter like Ryan Fitzpatrick?). With Allen’s name etched into the starter’s perch, the Bills find themselves in an enviable place at the game’s most important position.