The Bills are at a crossroads with their QB situation — where should they go from here?
The biggest question for any NFL franchise is always what to do at the quarterback position. Some teams are lucky enough to find a franchise quarterback in the draft. Some find theirs in free agency. Some teams even trade for their franchise quarterback.
The Buffalo Bills are currently at an impasse when it comes to their quarterback situation. Some believe that the Bills may already have a franchise quarterback on their roster, and many think they do not. With the NFL Draft Combine and Free Agency soon upon us, how should the Bills approach the situation?
The current starting quarterback in Buffalo is Tyrod Taylor, who has been at times impressive in his two years or so as the starter, but has also proven inconsistent and often fairly unremarkable. The Bills have a hard deadline with Taylor — by Mar. 11, they have to decide whether or not to pick up the club option on his contract. If they do, the Bills will be committed to him and owe him $30 million in guaranteed money. If they decide to cut him, they shed that guaranteed salary, but they will also find themselves without Taylor, and with E.J. Manuel also being a free agent, this would leave the Bills (at least temporarily) with Cardale Jones as the only quarterback on their roster.
So, what should the Bills do?
Option 1: Keep Tyrod Taylor
In Taylor’s two seasons in Buffalo, he has thrown for 6,058 yards, 37 touchdowns, and 12 interceptions. He also has added more than 1,000 yards on the ground, and 10 rushing touchdowns. Unfortunately, ball security is a bit of a concern for Taylor, who has fumbled 13 times over the last two seasons.
While Taylor has been a decent enough quarterback for the Bills, he is not a true franchise quarterback that can take a young, talented team to the next level. With a new coach in Sean McDermott, perhaps the Bills should consider restarting at the quarterback position as well. With the whopping paycheck coming to Taylor if they pick up his option, the Bills should choose not to pick up that option, and cut Taylor loose. He’ll be a good addition for another, perhaps more talented team, but Taylor’s time in Buffalo should be over.
Option 2: The Draft
The Bills currently sit at No. 10 overall in the draft, where there should be at least one of the top three quarterback prospects (Deshaun Watson, Mitch Trubisky, and DeShone Kizer) for them to choose from. These prospects each provide different upsides, with Watson the most proven winner and leader, Trubisky perhaps having the most pure skill set, and Kizer having the most physical size and athletic ability.
Kizer may be more of a project than the other two prospects and is likely to fall in the draft, perhaps even out of the first round. If Watson and Trubisky are both on the board at No. 10 for Buffalo, then either one would be a solid choice for the Bills (if you ask me, Watson is the better prospect, but you didn’t, so I’ll end this tangent now). If only one of them is on the board, the Bills should be certain they believe in that particular prospect before using their first round pick with a lot of other needs on the roster.
Option 3: Draft-and-Stash
“Draft and stash” is a term that is usually used to refer to NBA teams that draft a player currently playing overseas, letting them finish out their contract before coming to play for the NBA team that drafted them (see: Dario Šarić). But what this option could be for Buffalo is drafting a quarterback outside of the first round who may be viewed as more of a “project” quarterback (DeShone Kizer, Brad Kaaya, or Josh Dobbs, for example), and having them sit out at least for a full season behind a veteran quarterback.
While this veteran QB probably shouldn’t be Tyrod Taylor because of the money and commitment the Bills would have to make by keeping him past Mar. 11, there are other options on the free agent market who could play as a one- or two-season stopgap, with plenty of veteran leadership and experience to pass on to their young QB prospect. The top options for the Bills in this strategy would be to sign Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh McCown, Brian Hoyer, Nick Foles, or even Mark Sanchez, or to trade for a quarterback like Tony Romo, who is most likely on the trading block.
There are a lot of quarterbacks who are available short-term who, as a stop-gap, could prove serviceable (E.J. Manuel even fits this bill if the Bills want to re-sign him). This could allow time for whatever young quarterback the Bills want to develop to adjust to NFL tempo without the pressure of being on a team that is struggling mightily at quarterback while they sit.
Option 4: Scour the Open Market
With word coming down recently that Colin Kaepernick is becoming a free agent, his name gets added to a list of quarterbacks that could have the potential to take a team deep into the playoffs under the right circumstances. With Kaepernick winning the NFC Championship Game with San Francisco, Mark Sanchez taking the Jets to the AFC Championship Game twice, and with four-time Pro Bowler Tony Romo, there are some quarterbacks with strong pedigrees that could be available to the Bills. This may seem more of a high-floor, low-ceiling kind of move for Buffalo, because these free agents and trade targets are more known entities, who may not necessarily quite have franchise quarterback potential, but could be decent quarterbacks to build a team around, at least in the short term.
None of these options is perfect. There is not a great quarterback class in the draft or on the free agent market, and Tyrod Taylor probably isn’t a long-term answer either. If I were GM of the Bills, I would lean towards draft-and-stash, with a prospect like Kizer or Kaaya, while signing a veteran free agent like Brian Hoyer or Mark Sanchez in the meantime. Any of these options, if chosen by the Bills, could be successful or a failure, as any decision in the NFL can be. The Bills should hedge their bets — get a known quantity for the short-term while developing a solution for the long term. If it turns out terribly, and the Bills have a catastrophically bad season in 2017, then there’s always Sam Darnold, who will be eligible for the 2018 Draft.
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