When well-connected Ian Rapoport went on NFL Network Thursday afternoon with a report that the Bills are not planning to cut Tyrod Taylor before he is due a $6 million bonus on March 16, I can tell you my eyebrows did not arch in surprise.
As the weeks have rolled by since the Bills were beaten by Jacksonville in the AFC wild-card round, trying to figure out what Sean McDermott and Brandon Beane are going to do at quarterback has been a daily exercise.
Are they going to drop a fully-loaded Brinks truck in Kirk Cousins’ bank account? Are they going to sign some other veteran free agent, someone like Sam Bradford, Case Keenum, Josh McCown, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Teddy Bridgewater, or the newly available A.J. McCarron? Would they try to acquire Alex Smith or Nick Foles in a trade? Or, are they going to put together a whopper of a draft pick package to trade up into the top five to draft Josh Rosen, Sam Darnold, Josh Allen or Baker Mayfield? Lastly, should they just stick it out with Taylor, use their draft picks to fortify other positions, and take their swing at their franchise quarterback next year?
To me, only two scenarios make sense for the Bills.
If they can win the Cousins’ sweepstakes, good for them. He’s not worth the absurd money it will take, but he would certainly be an upgrade over Taylor and just about every other quarterback the Bills have had dating back to Drew Bledsoe’s one big season in 2002.
Or, they make the play for one of the top kids in the draft. And if that’s what they do, then Taylor is the best option as the bridge quarterback because believe it or not, his $18 million cap figure (after the bonus kicks in) isn’t out of line in this day and age of quarterback salaries for one with seven years in the league, three as a starter.
Sounds crazy, right? Another year of Tyrod? Well, sometimes the grass isn’t always greener on the other side as someone once said.
Bradford has had two major knee surgeries and sat out almost all of 2017, so he’s a big risk and certainly can’t be considered a long-term option at age 30, and an old 30 at that. Bridgewater is intriguing, but he hasn’t played in two years because of a gruesome knee injury, plus, I think the Vikings would like to bring him and Keenum back.
If Keenum goes free, I wonder whether he was a one-year wonder playing in the perfect situation, and I have the same reservations about Foles if the Eagles put him on the trade market. Smith, of course, is already off the table with his trade from Kansas City to Washington. McCarron is somewhat interesting, but he hasn’t played a meaningful snap since 2015, so what is he? As for Fitzpatrick or McCown, come on, let’s not go there.
By paying Taylor his bonus, the Bills are at least protected until they figure out their course of action. If they don’t love any of the free agents, and they can’t swing a draft-day trade to move up, Taylor would be in the house. And as much as he sometimes drives all of us nuts, I’d rather have him than some of these other guys. For all his passing faults, he’s 23-20 as Buffalo’s starter and helped the Bills end their 17-year playoff drought.
And here’s the thing: Just because they pay him the bonus, they aren’t tied to him if something better comes along. In fact, by eating that $6 million on their own salary cap, it would be easier for the Bills to trade Taylor because when you subtract the bonus and the $2 million portion of his prorated signing bonus, the acquiring team would be on the hook for only $10 million. That’s a bargain for a starting-caliber NFL QB, and could bring a reasonably decent package back to Buffalo.
If the Bills could somehow trade Taylor before June 1, they would absorb a $7.6 million dead cap hit, but would gain $10.4 million on the 2018 cap. If they just outright cut him, the dead cap hit is $8.6 million and the cap savings is $9.4 million. So no, Rapoport’s report did not surprise me at all because I see the merit in not cutting ties to save $6 million.