As always with the Cleveland Browns, the topic of identifying a franchise quarterback is at the forefront of fan thought; and hopefully the front office. Last week, we discussed the possibility of signing the Washington Redskins current quarterback, who will be a free agent. However, Kirk Cousins is not the only potential available current starter on the market. The Buffalo Bills have found themselves wanting to go in a new direction so bad that they supplanted Tyrod Taylor with mid-round rookie Nathan Peterman. The arrangement lasted less than a game though as Peterman threw five quick interceptions. The question now is if the Bills will continue to look for greener pasture.
Bode: Jake, roughly where would you have Taylor in terms of a ranking of NFL quarterbacks? What would you expect from him on the Browns? Is he worth making an attempt at acquiring?
Jake: That’s a tricky question, and if you poll 15 fans, you might get 15 different responses. Tyrod is, by nearly every metric, a top 20 NFL quarterback. He will never be a guy who can single-handily carry a team to a playoff run, but you know what you’re getting with him: consistent low risk decision-making, 60% completion percentage, ability to extend plays with his legs, quality leadership. He is in that muddled section of quarterbacks who has a fan base that can’t take much more of his play style, and opposing teams who would love to have him – see Andy Dalton and Joe Flacco.
When it comes to a fit with the Browns, so much will depend on if Hue Jackson is here. IF Hue is here, I could see a solid fit in the Browns system with his decision making, accuracy, and ability to extend plays with his feet. He has real value for a franchise like Cleveland who is likely to take another young quarterback in the draft and will likely need some veteran leadership around that drafted quarterback and DeShone Kizer. The problem that will have to weighed is that he is under contract and is he worth making a run at if Buffalo doesn’t cut him.
Bode, speaking of which, what does Tyrod’s Buffalo contract look like currently? What is the likelihood they just cut ties with him, and if they don’t, what is he worth to you in terms of a trade?
Bode: If the Browns want Taylor, then there is no reason to risk better teams with cap money on the open market as we discussed last week with Kirk Cousins, so they need to make a trade. Tyrod Taylor is in a weird spot with his contract for the Bills. He signed a new two-year deal last offseason that makes his 2018 cap number for them to be $18 million (10% of the cap!). However, his actual salary is $10 million with only $1 million guaranteed. The Bills would save $9 million on their cap (and have $9 million in dead money) if they were to release him. A team picking up Taylor in a trade would assume the $10 million salary as their cap number (the Bills would wind up with $8 million as their dead money cap).
So, there isn’t a huge financial reason for the Bills to trade Taylor rather than release him (if that was their motivation), which means that a somewhat decent asset might need to be used to pry him away. Considering the bounty the Patriots received for Jimmy Garropolo and the Bengals were set to receive for A.J. McCarron, the Bills could demand a second-round pick without flinching. The Browns would do everything they could to ensure that pick was the Eagles pick to make it close to being a third-round selection. The Bills have now benched Taylor twice and have shown a propensity to desire a new quarterback, so I could see them agreeing to this deal.
I agree with you that Hue Jackson’s system seems custom-fit for a player such as Taylor. His low turnover rate is certainly one component given Jackson’s penchant for benching DeShone Kizer for throwing interceptions, but Taylor’s deep ball ability might be even more important given how much Jackson loves running his receivers downfield.
That gets us to another point though. Even the Bills fanbase is split on Taylor– though I doubt any still want Peterman– with many citing a bunch of negatives that might or might not have components of truth to them: too small to stay healthy, captain checkdown quarterback, a runner only who flees the pocket too quickly, poor mechanics, and cannot read the defense / throw over the middle.
So, what parts of these myths have some truth and what parts are pure bunk?
Jake: When I watch Tyrod, the issue I notice more than any else is the inability to take chances down field. I think most Bills fans would agree that his propensity to drop it off for shorter completions is something they would like to see change. Every smaller quarterback will struggle without solid play from his interior lineman, and I’m not sure Buffalo does enough to help create the schematic advantage that is needed up front to open passing windows for him. Watch what New Orleans guard, center, guard do to help funnel the rush for Brees, it’s mind-blowing at times how well they work it. The Bills also don’t get Taylor in the gun enough, as he takes way too many snaps from under-center.
Injuries will always be a risk for Taylor, as his 6-foot-1 frame is slight, and most shorter quarterbacks will always have a propensity to leave the pocket too quickly, but it’s about keeping those things in check and helping him as best you can. The dynamic that Taylor has to work on is his ability to drive the ball downfield in the deep intermediate game. He can throw the deep ball, and he excels in the short passing game, but the difference in NFL quarterbacks at the top from those at the bottom is taking and making those shots from 15 to 25 yards downfield. Taylor does not enjoy making those throws. But, again, for me the good with Taylor far outweighs the bad.
Bode: OK. There remains the most important question then if the Browns do manage to make a trade for Taylor. Would his acquisition change the equation for what the Browns do with the No. 1 overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft?
Jake: I lean toward that being a no. Given the play of Kizer, and despite his flashes, the Browns still know they need a quarterback of the future. They need someone they know they can build around long-term. Given that Taylor’s contract would only be for one year, the Browns can use Taylor to be a one-year bridge. The beautiful part is that Taylor can bring stability to the position and provide the chance for the Browns to compete while their young quarterbacks learn. I envision a quarterback room consisting of Taylor, Rosen/Mayfield, and Kizer to be beneficial for the franchise and one that the Browns can feel good about in both the immediate and future.