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State of the Buffalo Bills’ roster: Quarterbacks

Let’s start off easy here by talking about a position headed by an elite player

NFL: Buffalo Bills Training Camp Mark Konezny-USA TODAY Sports

The Buffalo Bills are one of a handful of NFL teams that can be confident they’ve figured out the most difficult position to solve on their roster. Ask fans of anywhere between 15-20 other teams if they’d trade their starting quarterback for Buffalo’s straight-up, and you’re certain that they’ll say yes. There are another seven or so that should say yes, but might not. Finally, there are one or two who could be excused for saying thanks, but no thanks.

As for the Bills, they wouldn’t trade their QB1 for anyone at the moment. In Buffalo, the rare combination of the perfect player for the team and the fan base is exactly what we have in Orchard Park, NY, and it’s a great place to start in our analysis of the State of the Buffalo Bills’ roster heading into the 2023 season.

At quarterback, Buffalo has the answer to the most difficult NFL question, but there are still some things left to sort out at the bottom of the depth chart.

Josh Allen

Contract status for 2023: Signed; first year of six-year contract extension ($39,772,281 cap hit; $77 million-plus dead cap if cut or traded... which isn’t happening)

Age: 26 (27 on 5/21/23)

Playing time: 16 games (16 starts), 1,061 offensive snaps (97.8% of team total)

Key statistics: 359/567 (63.3%), 4,283 passing yards, 35 passing TDs, 14 INTs, 124 carries, 762 rushing yards, 7 rushing TDs, 13 fumbles

Allen’s year can be neatly divided into two parts based on the UCL injury he suffered against the New York Jets in Week 9. Through that contest, he completed 64% of his passes and averaged 300 yards passing per game. He had eclipsed the 300-yard mark through the air four times in eight games, gone over 400 yards twice, and narrowly missed 300 yards on opening night, totaling 297 yards passing against the Los Angeles Rams. After that injury, Allen completed 62.5% of his passes, averaging 235 yards passing per contest in his final eight games. He threw 19 touchdowns to eight interceptions in the first half of the year; he threw 16 touchdowns to six interceptions in the second half of the season. He eclipsed the 300-yard passing mark twice in the final eight games, and he was under 200 yards passing three times in that span. It’s a bit of an oversimplification to blame some of his downturn in production on the injury, as other issues (weather, offensive line woes, a renewed focus on running the football) also contributed some. Ultimately, there’s nothing to worry about with Allen, as he’s shown time and again that he is, at worst, a top-three player in the league at his position.

Matt Barkley

Contract status for 2023: Signed; one-year contract worth $1.165 million (zero dead cap if released or traded)

Age: 32 (33 on 9/8/23)

Playing time: N/A

Key statistics: N/A

The veteran backup did not appear in a game for the Bills this season, spending the year on the practice squad. He signed a reserve/future deal on January 23, and I imagine he’ll be back with the team in the same capacity next season.

Case Keenum

Contract status for 2023: Unsigned; UFA

Age: 34 (35 on 2/17/23)

Playing time: 2 games, 24 offensive snaps (2.21% of team total)

Key statistics: 2/7 (28.6%), 8 passing yards, 5 carries, 0 rushing yards

Keenum is a steady veteran who won some big games earlier in his career. However, he’s well past his prime in terms of looking for a starting gig, and it’s understandable if you’re worried about his ability to step in and keep the ship moving if Allen were to miss time. There are plenty of other places where the Bills need to commit resources, though, so I don’t imagine that backup quarterback is very high on general manager Brandon Beane’s list. Keenum may be at the point in his career where he’s content to hold the clipboard on a great team with Super Bowl aspirations.

I don’t expect much movement here, and it’s very possible that the room stays exactly the same in 2023 as it did in 2022. If Keenum wants to return for the veteran’s minimum, I assume that Beane and the coaches would be amenable to that. If he wants a chance to go elsewhere and play, and that opportunity presents itself, then Keenum will be gone. The only change I expect with Allen is a restructure of his contract, which Spotrac notes will free up around $21 million in cap space. As long as Barkley wants to keep playing, he’ll have a spot on Buffalo's practice squad. Perhaps the Bills could take a flier on a quarterback in the late rounds of the NFL Draft as a developmental prospect, or maybe they’ll sign a different veteran to replace Keenum. (Here are the unrestricted free-agent quarterbacks, according to Spotrac — anyone care to make a case for one of these guys?) Barring that, though, I don’t anticipate much movement here.