When the Buffalo Bills made the decision late last week to trade away Tyrod Taylor, their starting quarterback for the past three seasons, it was a spot of news that not many Bills fans were caught off guard by. The writing has basically been on the wall dating all the way back to the last offseason when the Bills would have moved on from Tyrod Taylor had he not agreed to take a pay cut for the 2017 season.
It was *that* close.
But, he did, and the Bills have to be plenty happy about his decision to do so — because they turned him and his expiring contract into a third-round pick. For a quarterback that they had no plans for in the future, and striking the deal before his $6 million roster bonus was due on March 16, it was an outright heist to get that high of a pick — the first pick of the third round, and 65th overall.
But by this point, that’s old news. Now with free agency rapidly approaching this week, Bills fans and many casual onlookers of the Bills’ offseason plans are wondering what’s next for the team at quarterback.
And for that, it requires that head coach Sean McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane take a critical and realistic look at their roster, where it’s trending, and then to develop the proper game plan for how to attack such an important offseason in 2018.
Based on everything I’ve seen from the Bills in their 2017 games, where their roster is headed, and where change is needed, this is my general takeaway:
The Bills are closer to a rebuilding status than they are being a Super Bowl contender — which, at the end of the day, needs to be the ultimate goal now that the playoff drought is merely an afterthought. Even last year I think their winning and playoff run caught them a little off-guard at the start of the season, but once that train got going in motion, they hopped on board full force — which is why you saw the trade for wide receiver Kelvin Benjamin at the trade deadline.
With that said, one of the things that is to be respected about this current regime is that they’re realists about what their roster is, and they’re committed to “the process,” which in non-jargon language means they want to build the organization and the roster the right way — and to not cut corners in the meantime.
That brings us back to the quarterback position as it relates to the offseason plan. In my humble opinion, I believe there should be two objectives over the next month and a half.
Objective One: Use all of these draft resources they’ve accrued over the last 12 months and work out a trade to move all the way up into the Top 5 for the quarterback they so desire, while keeping a normal semblance of a draft (one 1st-round pick, one 2nd-round pick, one 3rd-round pick, etc.).
It’s clear that this is a priority of the Bills this offseason, and is one of the worst-kept secrets in the NFL. They know they’re going to have to pay a pretty penny to move all the way up for the quarterback they desire. But at that position, if the player is the right one and they knock it out of the park, no one is going to care the cost to bring a game-changing quarterback to the franchise. I don’t think anyone in Philadelphia is thinking twice about the big trade up the board for Carson Wentz right about now. And he still has years ahead of him.
Because this should be the top priority of the Bills’ offseason, it further complicates the other big part of the offseason — free agency. However, I think there’s a plausible solution here, and it might not make some fans that want to win immediately in 2018 happy.
Objective Two: Find a low-rent bridge quarterback that can start games now and help the young quarterbacks (including Nathan Peterman), but will eventually yield for the rookie to enter the starting lineup when he’s ready. And ideally, wait until after the draft to find
Basically, for those that would like to see the Bills in the Case Keenum market, I would strongly advise against it for a few different reasons.
First, the cost would be astronomical for a player that they clearly won’t be married to — especially if they complete their primary objective in this quarterback market. A signing along those lines would be fairly short-sighted considering the bigger plan in play — essentially paying a lump sum for a bridge quarterback that might end up starting zero games, half the year, or at most, a full year until the young player is ready in their opinion.
I’d even qualify the players in the Sam Bradford, Teddy Bridgewater, and A.J. McCarron bracket into this discussion as well. They don’t want to be bridge quarterbacks and they want to be paid handsomely, so it doesn’t make a ton of sense to me.
By signing one of these players, they would eat up a legitimate amount of their cap space for the 2018 season, and potentially 2019 (if they sign a multi-year deal), and all the while it would eat into something that’s incredibly important to GM Brandon Beane.
Ahem, cue my broken record music.
If they sign one of those natural free agent quarterbacks, it would torch their top potential compensatory draft selection for 2019. I think that, in itself, might just be a non-starter for Brandon Beane and company. And yes, I saw the reports that they’re interested in Keenum and Bradford, but remember that this is now a stealthy front office. The leaks out of One Bills Drive have been eradicated.
You also have to consider the motivation of where that information may be coming from. If it’s an agent, they might want to drive up the market for their clients and now that the Bills have only Nathan Peterman on their roster at quarterback, using them could help their clients’ cost. I don’t doubt the report and the validity of the information by any means, but I think there’s a whole lot of grey as opposed to just black and white in this free agent period.
So, then, you might be asking, “Joe, then who would they bring in?”
I doubt you’re going to love the names I’m about to type, but this is the type of player I think they should be targeting. Ready? Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
Trevor Siemian, a player under contract for one more season with the Denver Broncos. The Bills would have to likely send a late round pick for him, but that’s better than having to surrender a third or fourth-round compensatory selection by signing a natural free agent. He also has starting experience, and if he plays (and plays well enough), that could yield the Bills a potential compensatory pick in 2020.
Matt Moore, a player I’ve seen some fans discussing on Twitter a bit more these days due to his connection to Bills offensive coordinator Brian Daboll from their time in Miami together. Keep in mind that Moore also played with the Carolina Panthers while Beane was making his rise through the ranks. By signing Moore, they could get him for a low-cost deal, and likely wait until after the draft — which is right around the time where qualifying free agents for the compensatory formula is all finished up.
Mike Glennon, a player that got way overpaid the last offseason. However, he was released prematurely from his contract which makes him a non-qualifying compensatory pick free agent immediately. His cost would not matter to the Bills in their rebuilding efforts, and there would be no doubt that he is not the long-term answer.
I would have also listed Ryan Fitzpatrick in this little group had he not just re-signed with Tampa Bay, because he would easily fit the plan as well. However, he’s off the board. I might even throw Drew Stanton and Blaine Gabbert into this discussion as well.
These aren’t sexy names by any means, but they are efficient names for the long-term goal. And if they strike for the young quarterback that they love in the 2018 NFL Draft, the last thing you’d want to do is to undercut the rest of your rebuild by a short-sighted quarterback signing that will cost a lot, and might not bear much more fruit (wins) than one of the other guys I’ve listed — at least not with the roster as it stands today.
What will the Bills do, or rather, not do? Welcome to one of the most interesting weeks of the NFL year: the start of free agency.