Is that it for Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor in Buffalo?
Knee injury leaves future with the team in question
When the Buffalo Bills signed then-Baltimore Ravens backup quarterback Tyrod Taylor in March 2015, Taylor, who had thrown just 35 passes in four seasons, felt like he had finally made it in the NFL. “It’s good to be wanted,” he told reporters at his introductory news conference.
Five months later, despite being brought into Buffalo behind previous starter EJ Manuel and veteran Matt Cassel, the initial front-runner for the job, Taylor was named the starter by then-Bills coach Rex Ryan two weeks before the start of the season. “We brought him in because … he grasps our offense, and then his ability, not just his mobility, but his ability to throw the ball was the overriding thing,” Ryan said at the time.
But after 2½ seasons (and 40 starts), Taylor may have played his last down for Buffalo. He was brought down awkwardly by his knees on the first play of the team’s game against the visiting New England Patriots on Sunday, and in the fourth quarter he was hit in the left knee by a Patriots defender, forcing him to be carted off the field. Taylor missed the rest of the game, which the Bills lost 23-3.
His performance on Sunday aside (9-of-18 for 65 yards, one interception), Taylor was a reliable player for the Bills the previous two seasons, averaging more than 3,000 passing yards and 570 rushing yards and throwing 37 touchdowns to just 12 interceptions. Along the way, the quiet signal-caller also gained detractors. He took off running too quickly. He checked down to his underneath options too much. The offense was too stagnant.
Despite those reasonable criticisms, Buffalo had a top-15 scoring offense in both 2015 (No. 12) and 2016 (No. 10), Taylor’s first two seasons with the team, before seemingly deciding to tank this past offseason, letting go of top receivers (Sammy Watkins, Robert Woods), running backs (Mike Gillislee) and defensive players (Ronald Darby, Marcell Dareus).
After a 5-4 start, Taylor was benched after Week 10 in favor of rookie Nathan Peterman, who subsequently threw five interceptions in one half against the Los Angeles Chargers. Taylor was thrust back into the lineup and won the following week against the Kansas City Chiefs, but the Bills still never seemed sold on a quarterback with the all-time lowest interception rate in league history (1.47 percent). Bills coach Sean McDermott, after Peterman’s pick-a-thon, said he still needed to “evaluate” whether to start the rookie or Taylor.
And with the injury on Sunday, Taylor might have thrown his last pass — or run for his last yard, as he trailed only the Carolina Panthers’ Cam Newton in rushing yards by a quarterback since 2015 — in upstate New York. The Bills will save $14 million if they release Taylor in the offseason, according to ESPN’s Mike Rodak. With a regressing defense, a running back (LeSean McCoy) set to turn 30 in July, and the Bills likely to draft in the top 10 or 15 (i.e., quarterback-of-the-future territory) if they continue their losing ways, Taylor has no apparent role in the team’s future.
So where does that leave Taylor? The Jacksonville Jaguars are likely spoken for after Eli Manning’s benching in New York, but those same Giants, and perhaps the New York Jets, Washington Redskins (Kirk Cousins’ contract pending), Chargers (possible Philip Rivers retirement), Pittsburgh Steelers (same with Ben Roethlisberger), Cincinnati Bengals and Arizona Cardinals could all be in the market for an under-30 quarterback who makes minimal mistakes and can run.
Whatever the case, arguably the best quarterback the Bills have had since their 1990s Super Bowl run is likely headed out the door, letting it hit him on the way out.