As an offseason begins in which the Buffalo Bills have no first-round draft pick, fans will pay extra attention to some of the top free agent prospects in the NFL. The quarterback position has received the most attention in Buffalo - not to anyone's surprise - and it is where we will begin our free agent preview series.
The most important task for the Bills' front office will be to identify viable options to compete for the starting quarterback position. EJ Manuel and Jeff Tuel are the only signal callers on the roster today, so it's safe to say that the team will explore the possibility of adding a veteran to the team during free agency.
The first, and most obvious, free agent discussed as of late is former Jets and Eagles quarterback Mark Sanchez. Fans considered Sanchez to be a viable option prior to the hiring of Rex Ryan as head coach, and that speculation intensified given Ryan's extensive ties to Sanchez.
Sanchez was able to revitalize his career with the Eagles under head coach Chip Kelly during the 2014 season. The Eagles were 5-4 with Sanchez under center, a stretch that included convincing victories against the Panthers, Giants, and Cowboys. With career highs in completion percentage (64 percent) and quarterback rating (88.4), it was a nice bounce-back season from a disastrous 2012 campaign with the Jets.
Ryan's familiarity with Sanchez brings him to the front of the quarterback discussion, despite subpar statistics in his time with the Jets. While his regular season numbers may have left something to be desired, Sanchez played his best football under Ryan in the playoffs, twice advancing to the AFC championship game. Together, the Ryan-Sanchez combination hold a 4-2 playoff record, with each game taking place on the road. Sanchez completed over 60 percent of his passes with a 9-to-3 touchdown-to-interception ratio.
The thought of reuniting Sanchez with Ryan - along with the creativity of new offensive coordinator Greg Roman - makes him a popular choice among some Bills fans.
While the Jets advanced to the conference championship game during each of Sanchez's first two seasons, many will argue that this happened in spite of the young quarterback's play, not because of it. In 2009, the Jets' defense finished first in the NFL in points and yards allowed, thanks to Ryan's suffocating scheme. Sanchez struggled as a rookie, with numbers that would have left fans pining for Kyle Orton level production.
In four seasons as the starter, Sanchez never topped 57 percent in completion percentage, and threw more interceptions (69) than he did touchdowns (68). To add to the turnover issues, Sanchez led the NFL in fumbles during the 2011 and 2012 seasons. Sanchez averaged under 200 yards passing per game in his four seasons under Ryan, which wouldn't exactly take advantage of the Bills talented receivers Sammy Watkins and Robert Woods.
The propensity for Sanchez to turn the ball over, combined with his accuracy issues, will have some fans looking at other veteran options throughout free agency.
Like it or not, Sanchez will likely be a name that is heavily debated leading up to the start of free agency on March 10. Sanchez will not command a starter's salary, but is in position to get a hefty increase over his previous one-year, $2.25 million deal in Philadelphia. In Buffalo, he would conceivably be given a chance to compete for the starting job with Manuel, making the Bills an attractive landing spot for one of this year's top free agent signal callers.
Do you think the Bills should make a push to sign Sanchez, or are there other options you would rather see them pursue?