The Buffalo Bills have an elite quarterback. That feels nice to say out loud, so I try to say it whenever I can. Even though I’m technically typing it here and not saying it, we can all take a moment and read it out loud (whisper if you’re at work and you don’t want your boss to know you’re doing Mafia things instead of 9-5 things): The Buffalo Bills have an elite quarterback.
This was the hope, of course, when that elite quarterback was drafted in 2018, but even the most optimistic among us would have had trouble predicting just how quickly the young man from Firebaugh has risen from strong-armed project to lethal weapon. His rise has been so meteoric that other similar prospects—the traits-based ones who have a fatal flaw or three—are all compared to him now, as teams around the league search for “the next Josh Allen.”
While others look for the knockoff, we can rest easy knowing we have the official version right here. In what should be our final installment of “90 players in 90 days” for this summer, we profile QB1.
Name: Josh Allen
Height/Weight: 6’5” 237 lbs
Age: 26 (27 on 5/21/2023)
Experience/Draft: 5; selected in the first round (No. 7 overall) of the 2018 NFL Draft by Buffalo
Acquired: First-round draft choice
Financial situation (per Spotrac): While Allen signed a six-year, $258 million extension last year, the years on that contract don’t technically kick in until next season. So, he’s not quite playing under the terms of his rookie contract right now, but some of the money has been moved around a bit. As a result, Allen has just a $16,372,281 cap hit, which is second-highest on the team, 42nd-highest in the entire NFL, and 14th-highest among all quarterbacks.
2021 Recap: Allen played so well in 2020 that, at times, it felt as if his 2021 season was a bit of a step backwards. That’s reflected in the fact that he threw one fewer touchdown pass and five more interceptions in 2021 than he did in 2020. However, he also ran for a career-high 763 yards last year, leading the NFL with 6.3 yards per carry. For the first time in his career, he led neither a fourth-quarter comeback nor a game-winning drive. All he did was complete 63.3% of his passes for 4,407 yards in leading the Bills to their second-straight AFC East Division victory. He was absolutely brilliant in the playoffs, completing 77.4% of his passes for 637 yards and nine touchdowns without an interception in two games. He also led the team in rushing, carrying 17 times for 134 yards in those games. Unfortunately, the team’s defense couldn’t hold on for long enough to give him a chance to continue that run in a home AFC Championship Game, as Buffalo was eliminated in the AFC Divisional Round with a 42-36 loss to the Kansas City Chiefs. It was the second consecutive year where Kansas City ended Buffalo’s season. Allen wasn’t named to the Pro Bowl and he received zero MVP votes even though he was among the league leaders in all important categories.
Positional outlook: Allen is clearly QB1, with Case Keenum and Matt Barkley settled in as his backups.
2022 Offseason: Allen is healthy and he has participated in all offseason and training camp practices to date. He did not play in the team’s preseason opener against the Indianapolis Colts.
2022 Season outlook: If Allen plays like he did during the playoffs for an extended period of time this year, not only will he win the league MVP, but Buffalo should be able to make a deep playoff run. He’s a top-three quarterback at worst, and the Bills have finally found their man after decades in the quarterback wilderness.
As Allen enters his age-26 season, it’s reasonable to hope that the team finds a way to limit his rushing, especially during the regular season, but it’s also hard to take such an important part of what makes him great out of his game. Allen, for his part, has done a better job protecting himself by running out of bounds and sliding over the last two years. He has exceptional receiving talent all around him, and he has an offensive line that, at least with its starting unit, should be above-average.
Buffalo’s success is on his shoulders, and his legs, and his health, and his continued growth as an elite-level player. Whereas we Bills fans have often been conditioned to wait for the negative to come, with Allen, at least, it seems as if we don’t need to do that anymore. This guy is as good as there is.