Can the Buffalo Bills move on from quarterback AJ McCarron?

When the Buffalo Bills began the offseason in earnest after trading starting quarterback Tyrod Taylor, they were left with Nathan Peterman as the only quarterback on the roster. As a safety net they signed AJ McCarron before the 2018 NFL Draft, then moved up to pick Josh Allen. With Peterman and Allen playing well this preseason, where does that leave McCarron?

Simply put, there were two internal quarterback battles happening this offseason: 1) Was Josh Allen ready to be the opening day starter (or at least the backup) as a rookie and 2) If not, should it be Peterman or McCarron?

To answer the first question, Allen has proven he isn’t in over his head. He has shown the ability to hang in the pocket and use his feet to get out of trouble. Which means they don’t necessarily need a third quarterback.

The second question has clearly been answered by Peterman, who has had a command of the offense unmatched by either of the other two competitors (and stats to match). So if McCarron isn’t need as the starter or the backup or the quarterback of the future, will the longtime backup seeking a starting shot be content as the third-string, inactive quarterback in Buffalo?

Last year, the Bills kept two quarterbacks on the roster with Taylor and then-rookie Peterman. In emergencies, they had Joe Webb, a quarterback-receiver-special teams hybrid player who was able to save them in a snowy November overtime game. Webb is no longer on the team, but former quarterback Logan Thomas is a depth tight end and has played some QB in practice with the scout team.

So can they trade McCarron?

Oakland Raiders coach Jon Gruden said this weekend that he wasn’t sure if his backup quarterback was on his roster right now. Other teams also have need for backup quarterbacks with McCarron’s pedigree.

The financial ramifications aren’t too cumbersome, especially for a team with as much dead money as Buffalo has right now. His current cap figure is $3 million, with $900,000 coming in guaranteed salary, $100,000 in already-secured workout bonuses, and $2 million in signing bonus money. If you add in the rest of the signing bonus, Buffalo is on the hook for $5 million which would be split between this year and next on the salary cap (and $4.1 million has all already been paid in real dollars). If they cut him now, his cap hit stays the same in 2018.

If the Bills were able to trade McCarron, his cap number in Buffalo would go down by the $900,000 salary included in the trade.

There is reason to believe he would be an attractive trade option, too. A team looking for a veteran presence would get a salary-controlled quarterback for two years. He would cost the new team only $900,000 in 2018 and $3.1 million in 2019, a bargain for a player of his caliber. And he would likely be a second-stringer on his new squad, something he wouldn’t be in Buffalo. Even if he hits the playing time incentives built into his contract, it doesn’t make it cost-prohibitive for a backup quarterback.

A trade is a win all around. If he’s healthy, he should see all the game action on Thursday night to prove it and show off for a potential trade. Come Thursday night, Brandon Beane should be working the phones to make a move.

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