After two years of struggling to commit to Tyrod Taylor, the Buffalo Bills finally decided to part ways with their quarterback, getting a third-round pick (#65) back from the Cleveland Browns in return for the 28-year-old.
With Taylor now definitively out of the way and only Nathan “5 picks” Peterman under contract for 2018, the Bills must have a plan for how they are going to address the position in the coming weeks. Right?
The free agent options
The Bills have a very nice $35 million in cap space for 2018, but that is not going to be enough to sign Kirk Cousins and add to the rest of the roster, especially if the reported three-year, $91 million fully guaranteed offer from Minnesota is real.
Behind Cousins in the free agent pool is Case Keenum, but he seems to have a bevy of interest from teams that can offer better receivers (Broncos), money (Jets), or weather (Arizona) than the Bills can.
If Keenum is no sure thing then it leaves the Bills with few real options. Sam Bradford is a good quarterback, but his health problems are very serious and he is unlikely to ever be a certainty to start on Sunday. Teddy Bridgewater’s catastrophic knee injury is physically behind him, but how mentally ready he is to play the position again is still a big question mark against putting all your eggs in his basket. AJ McCarron is entirely untested as a starter in the NFL, and while there seems to be a consensus that he has what it takes, being the team to actually take the plunge with him is not attractive.
Then there are the bridge players like Josh McCown, who is coming off his best season at 38, or the projects like Mike Glennon that are unlikely to do anything but suck the life out of your fan base.
In short then, unless they can land Case Keenum the Bills have little hope of finding a quarterback that can help them return to the playoffs in 2018 in free agency. Which leaves trade or the draft…
Trevor Siemian is reportedly being shopped around by the Broncos, and he has shown enough quality to think that a fresh start and the right coaching could make him into a solid starter. His would be an inexpensive path to take, but maybe the best option for the Bills is the Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles.
Despite some recent wheeling and dealing, the Eagles remain well under the cap and have to create space somewhere. Trading Foles would help their cap situation, and they are in a position to demand a kings ransom for him. Not only that, but Buffalo are in a position to pay it.
They have two picks in each of the first three rounds thanks to trading the Patrick Mahomes pick to Kansas City last year and the deal with Cleveland for Taylor. All that trading has given them five picks in the first 65 selections, which is more than enough to interest Howie Roseman. A trade of first rounders plus a second rounder would surely be enough to turn his head and accept a trade.
Or maybe, just maybe, the Bills take a run at one of the rookies…
Drafting the future
Keenum is a one-year wonder, Foles has been great in 15 games and bad in 26. None of the available quarterbacks are without fault, but the ones that carries the most upside and the most cost-control are in the draft.
Sam Darnold, Baker Mayfield, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen, and Lamar Jackson are all touted as first-round picks, but none has really separated themselves as the #1 guy. Statheads love Mayfield’s production, scouts love Sam Darnold’s classic tools and Josh Allen’s elite arm strength, but with such uncertainty at this stage it would be foolhardy in the extreme for Buffalo to try and make a move up from #21 now, but come draft day it would be a smart move.
The Giants and Colts could well be interested in a move down, and if the Browns take their guy at #1 then their #4 pick becomes eminently more available. Buffalo could well pair their first-rounders with a second- or third-rounder and jump up to #4 ahead of Denver and the Jets to take one of the quarterbacks that is left.
This then, is where I think general manager Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott will go. They have enough draft ammunition to chase the quarterback they like the most and not cripple their ability to restock the roster with both free agents and rookie talent. There are enough quality arms that they don’t have to hand over a 2019 pick to make a trade all the way up the ladder. Just getting to #7 could be enough to snag Baker Mayfield, who may end up being the best of the lot.
So Bills fans shouldn’t panic if Case Keenum and Teddy Bridgewater go elsewhere. They shouldn’t sweat if Nick Foles ends up being traded to Denver. The team have plenty of options and fall backs thanks to some smart preparation over the last year. They are in a good place to avoid another 17-year playoff drought.
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