Last week, as the New England Patriots and Atlanta Falcons went through the final days of preparation for Super Bowl LI, the Buffalo Bills coaches and player-personnel staff began a series of meetings to figure out what's needed to build a championship-caliber roster of their own.
They have been going over each player, position-by-position, to determine who should stay and who should go, and where and what kind of help is needed to make the Bills a contender.
The biggest question they're addressing, of course, is what to do with quarterback Tyrod Taylor. Pick up the option on his contract extension for $30.75 million guaranteed? Cut him loose? Keep him, but at a reduced salary via a renegotiated deal?
The Bills have until March 11 to decide.
Those close to the situation say that General Manager Doug Whaley was of the opinion during the 2016 season that Taylor was not the Bills' long-term answer at quarterback and, through the final games, was ready to move on from him.
In fact, there was a push for rookie quarterback Cardale Jones to supplant Taylor as the starter for the final three or four games of the season, even though the Bills had yet to be mathematically eliminated from the playoffs. Coach Rex Ryan and offensive coordinator Anthony Lynn were said to have pushed back hard enough for Taylor to remain in the No. 1 role.
After Ryan was fired and Lynn became interim coach, Taylor was benched for the meaningless regular-season finale against the New York Jets, seemingly to avoid the possibility of him being injured and the Bills being on the hook for at least $27.5 million of guaranteed money because of an injury-protection clause in the contract. EJ Manuel started and Jones also played.
Strangely, the Bills were concerned about the risk even though they had purchased an insurance policy protecting against that.
Meanwhile, it was revealed that Taylor, despite being angry that he was benched, had been dealing with a groin injury that would require surgery that he underwent shortly after the Bills' loss to the Jets. This week, Taylor posted videos to his Instagram account showing how he is moving while dropping back and running on a treadmill.
The great unknown in the quarterback equation is where new coach Sean McDermott stands with Taylor, along with new offensive coordinator Rick Dennison and new quarterbacks coach David Culley.
Their opinions are expected to carry considerable weight.
For McDermott – who is entering the first year of a five-year contract but who also saw his predecessor fired after only the second year of a five-year deal – the decision is going to be influenced by whether he sees a viable younger option in Jones or a rookie.
If so, he could be inclined for the Bills to retain Taylor as, at a minimum, a bridge to another long-term answer or, perhaps, look elsewhere for that bridge.