Welcome, Tyrod Taylor, to the increasingly fascinating 2018 NFL offseason quarterback market.
The Buffalo Bills‘ surprise announcement Wednesday that they were benching their starting quarterback and elevating untested rookie Nathan Peterman to the position even though they’re 5-4 and currently occupy an AFC playoff spot (something they haven’t secured in 17 seasons) all but ensures they will move on from Taylor at season’s end. Only $1 million of his $10 million base salary in 2018 is fully guaranteed.
That will put a quarterback who finished the 2015 and 2016 seasons in the top 10 in Total QBR on the market, and given the state of quarterback in the NFL right now you can absolutely bet teams will view him as a potential starter.
So the question, of course, is: Which teams? Where will Taylor play next year? Here, in no particular order, is a partial list of legitimate possibilities.
This is a team that poked around on Taylor when he was a free agent in 2015. He went instead to Buffalo figuring (correctly) that he had a better chance to start right away there, but if he’d gone to Denver he may have won a Super Bowl ring and inherited Peyton Manning’s job in 2016. It’s possible that general manager John Elway has seen something in the two years since to discourage him about Taylor, but it’s also possible he hasn’t. Unless Paxton Lynch has a big second half coming out of nowhere, the Broncos will still be looking for answers at the position next March.
Hey, they know him well. They don’t seem to have any interest in getting a look at Christian Hackenberg. Josh McCown has played quite well but will be 39 next year. Even if the Jets draft their quarterback of the future in April, there’s a chance they could need someone to start while whoever that is gets ready. The Jets are always looking for a quarterback, and a guy they’ve seen up close the past few years could have some appeal.
There’s some buzz in league circles that they could end up franchising Kirk Cousins for a third year in a row, which would cost about $35 million but I guess isn’t out of the question. If they don’t do that, I don’t buy that they’ll turn it right over to Colt McCoy.
The Vikings might have two better options on their roster right now, with the way Case Keenum has been playing and the possibility that Teddy Bridgewater is ready to jump back in soon. But both of those players — as well as Week 1 starter Sam Bradford — are unrestricted free agents at season’s end, and the Vikings have no idea what their quarterback plan will be in 2018 and beyond.
Another “no idea” team, looking at the real possibility of retirements of quarterback Carson Palmer, coach Bruce Arians and top wide receiver Larry Fitzgerald. That means a total clean slate in Arizona, and decisions are hard to predict. But they haven’t addressed the future at the position in any recent drafts, and if Palmer retires the Cardinals will be looking for someone new.
It remains to be seen whether Blake Bortles can show the Jaguars an ability to win games for them down the stretch in a playoff race. And while the Jaguars are leaning hard on the run game and defense, the chances for a big finish in Jacksonville are real. If they were to win a playoff game or two and Bortles were to look good, they might be able to talk themselves into keeping him. But if they don’t, Taylor could be a nice fit on a team that likes to run the ball and play tough defense. He has been at his most successful when he has been asked not to throw too much.
Long shot here, since I don’t think Philip Rivers hangs it up after this season. But if he does — or if Taylor can’t find a starting opportunity he likes somewhere else — don’t underestimate the connection between Taylor and former interim Bills coach Anthony Lynn. Now the coach of the Chargers, Lynn thought highly of Taylor when the two were in Buffalo together. He understands what Taylor needs to be successful, and Taylor would be an option for Lynn if the Chargers did find themselves in need at the position.