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Tyrod Taylor contract details: Buffalo Bills QB gets paid if he plays

Tyrod Taylor has a very modest contract with the Buffalo Bills... unless he plays a lot and is successful. Let's break it down.

Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Although officially signed and announced on March 12, specific contract details have finally emerged for the Buffalo Bills' second offseason quarterback addition, former Baltimore Ravens backup Tyrod Taylor. Aaron Wilson of The Baltimore Sun reported the following: two years, with an absolute maximum of $7 million. If achieved, that would mean the Bills had seen great success with Taylor as their starting quarterback.

More likely, the contract will serve as a very reasonable three-year deal valued at $3.35 million.

Taylor's contract is contingent upon playing time. Without the full detailed information to break down the contract, it can best be analyzed based through two scenarios: one where Taylor serves as a backup, and another where Taylor ends up as the starting quarterback for a significant portion of the 2015 or 2016 seasons (or both).

Taylor as a backup

In this scenario, the contract is simple and follows the minimum mentioned above. Taylor received a $400,000 signing bonus, which will be prorated over the life of the three-year contract. He will receive salaries in 2015, 2016, and 2017 of $750,000 (guaranteed), $1 million, and $1.2 million, respectively. In this scenario, Taylor's cap hits will be very reasonable at $833,333, $1,133,333, and $1,333,334.

Taylor as a starter

If Taylor wins out in a 2015 training camp battle, or the Bills are forced to move in a different direction after the start of the season, the contract becomes a bit more complicated. According to Wilson, Taylor has $1 million in maximum playtime incentives for 2015. Without knowing the specifics of those, my guess would be that these incentives are tiered so that, for example, if Taylor played in 35 percent of the plays he gets $250,000, $750,000 at 50 percent, and then the $1 million max at 75 percent.

It also appears as though Taylor can double up on his playtime incentives if he reaches similar playtime percentages and the Bills also make the playoffs. Wilson again reports that these incentives also max out at $1 million, so based on the above percentages, if Taylor took 80 percent of the snaps in 2015 or 2016 and the Bills made the playoffs in the same season, he would receive the full $2 million in incentives for that year.

In addition to the playtime incentives, Taylor also has a maximum $1 million salary escalator (which, if I had to guess, would be tiered as well) for his 2016 salary, which is tied to his 2015 playing time. Meaning, if Taylor played considerable snaps during the 2015 season, he would receive all (or a portion) of the playtime incentives (doubled if the Bills make the playoffs) and his 2016 salary would increase accordingly.

For 2016, it appears as though the playtime-based incentive structure is the same, with those incentives again doubling if the Bills make the playoffs. If Taylor did not play much in 2015, his 2016 salary would stay at $1 million, and he would be unable to earn the $1 million escalator.

The most interesting piece of the contract, also tied to Taylor's playing time, is a voidable clause. If Taylor plays in over 50 percent of the Bills' plays in either 2015 or 2016, and remains on the roster five days following the 2016 Super Bowl, the third year of the contract voids. This clause would allow, if he received significant playing time in either 2015 or 2016, Taylor to become a free agent for 2017. (If the contract voids, Taylor's third-year signing bonus proration would serve as dead money on the Bills' 2017 salary cap). This type of clause makes considerable sense for Taylor, because his 2017 salary of $1.2 million could be grossly inadequate if he becomes the Bills' starting quarterback and performs well during the 2015 or 2016 season.

Lastly, here is a breakdown of the maximum value that Taylor can receive if he serves as the Bills' starting quarterback in 2015 and 2016 (and the Bills make the playoffs in each season):


$400,000 (signing bonus)
$750,000 (guaranteed base salary)
$1 million (maximum playtime incentives)
$1 million (incentives plus playoff berth)

Total pay: $3.15 million ($2.88 million cap hit)


$2 million (salary plus 2015 playtime escalator)
$1 million (maximum playtime incentives)
$1 million (incentives plus playoff berth)

Total pay: $4 million ($4.13 million cap hit)

Under this breakdown, the 2017 contract year would void, and if Taylor had led the Bills to two straight playoff appearances, the $7.15 million he would have earned in 2015 and 2016 would pale in comparison to his next contract.