The Bills' regular-season opener is barely a week away, so the populace is getting restless, and a little crazy. After Thursday's stirring preseason win, you can probably guess who was the main topic of discussion in the weekly mail.
Yes, it's Nathan Peterman, the backup quarterback for a rebuilding team and therefore the most popular man in town -- with the possible exception of Celery, who ended its personal drought by winning his final Mascot Race on Wedneday.
Peterman looks good, but making an assertive throw down the seam against backups doesn't make him the next Tom Brady. And yes, some people are already comparing him with Brady. As I said, it's getting weird out there.
Let's open this week's Mailbag.
Jim Sperduti asks: Why isn't Peterman ready to play against NFL starters? I'm not saying he's the 2nd coming, but shouldn't we see what we have if this is a rebuilding year and Tyrod is gone after the season?
Thomas Durlak asks: At what point does the coaching staff give serious consideration to Nathan Peterman becoming the starter?
Dustin Winger asks: Is there any way in your mind that the Bills shouldn't start Peterman this year at QB?
Sully: Hold your Clydesdales there, people! How about a little perspective here? I understand the clamor for Peterman to be the No. 1 job. He's the new flavor, the people's choice. I'd be pushing for him, too, if the new regime had sent Tyrod Taylor on his way and committed to a full rebuild instead of middling it.
But Sean McDermott decided to keep Taylor because Tyrod gave him his best chance to win in his debut as an NFL head coach. Look, I'm not much of a Taylor fan and I suspect he'll be gone next season. Still, McDermott is committed to Taylor as his starter, and he's not going to change any time soon.
McDermott made his choice. He has to worry about the guys in his locker room, who trust him and believe he's out to win this season. How would he look to veterans like LeSean McCoy, Jerry Hughes and Kyle Williams if he bailed on Taylor after swearing his allegiance and made an unproven rookie the starting quarterback?
Peterman looked good in Thursday's game. He shows some of the quick decision-making in the pocket that Taylor lacks. But he's a rookie. He's been facing mostly backups. He was average in the first two games. He hasn't completed a significant throw down the field.
Why wouldn't he start right now? Because it's Taylor job, assuming he's out of concussion protocol for the Jets game. I don't think Tyrod is a franchise QB. But the Bills scored 399 points with him last season, which was the most they scored since Doug Flutie's big year in 1998 and more than the last two Super Bowl teams with Jim Kelly.
Peterman will likely get his chance soon enough. It's hard to imagine Taylor staying healthy for 16 games behind this offensive line and with this marginal receiving corps. Teams know he tends to give up too soon against a hard pass rush. They'll know he lacks weapons to test them deep. They'll come after him and he's bound to take a pounding.
The Bills could fall quickly out of the playoff race, too. At some point, if Taylor isn't progressing, it'll make sense to give Peterman his shot and see how he fares against starting defenses with mayhem in their hearts.
He reminds me of Trent Edwards, who completed 75 percent of his passes in the 2007 preseason, leading fans to call for him to replace J.P. Losman. It was warranted. Edwards eventually won the job and had some good moments in Buffalo. But he wasn't the franchise quarterback the fans were hoping for.
Peterman deserves a shot. He might be the next Brady, or Kirk Cousins, though the odds say he's more likely to be a backup. Remember, the plan is to draft a quarterback high in the next draft. If fans get this giddy about a fifth-rounder, I can only imagine what it could be like a year from now.
Bill Herman asks: I’ve seen “cap hit” numbers but I’m confused. If they cut Dareus today, how much will they have to pay him for doing nothing? I know I'm going to be disgusted by the answer!
Sully: Your disgust is justified. According to Spotrac.com, if the Bills cut Dareus today, it would cost them more than $38 million in dead cap space --$24.4 million this year and $14.2 million next season.
It would cost the Bills more over the next two years ($32.7 million on the salary cap) to release Dareus than to cut him. Any team that wanted to trade for the miscreant defensive tackle would have to assume his $16.4 million cap hit next season. That's highly unlikely, especially when you consider that Dareus is one positive drug test from a 10-game NFL suspension.
Even if they traded Dareus, the Bills would have more than $20 million in dead cap space over the next two seasons. That's because he was given $60 million in guaranteed money when the Bills unwisely extended him two years ago. Those bonuses are pro-rated but roll up if the players leaves the team.
Suffice it to say, it would have been a lot cheaper to cut him when I suggested it three years ago.
@TonyPBuffalo asks: Not sure why Reggie McKenzie isn't on Wall of Fame? Team leader that spanned OJ & Knox years with the Bills. No brainer to me.
Sully: There's a case to be made for McKenzie, a solid guard whom O.J. Simpson called his "main man" when he ran for 2,003 yards behind the Electric Company in 1973. But McKenzie, who played 11 seasons in Buffalo, never made first-team all-NFL after '73.
McKenzie wasn't even the best guard on the Bills during his prime years. Joe DeLameilleure, who was a rookie in '73, made six straight all-Pro teams from 1975-80 (the last with Cleveland) and eventually made the Pro Football Hall of Fame.
A more suitable comparison is Jim Ritcher, a standout guard on the Super Bowl teams who started every game for 10 years and was a two-time Pro Bowl choice. The feeling among veteran Bills writers is that Ritcher, who is on the Wall, was better.
The late Larry Felser, who covered McKenzie during his prime, didn't push for him to make the Wall of Fame.
Matt Dabrowski asks: Even though Colin Kaepernick opted out of his 49ers contract in March, I've heard he has a big cap number that a team would have to eat in order to sign him this year. Is there any truth to this?
Sully: No. When a player opts out of his deal, the ramifications from his previous contract bonuses do not transfer to his future team. Kaepernick is a free agent. Teams are free to pay him anything they choose.
Some critics say Kaepernick has no quarrel with NFL teams who choose not to sign him, because he opted out of his previous deal. Why should that matter? Players opt out and become free agents all the time. Will NBA teams snub LeBron James if he opts out of the Cavs?
@lostnascarfan asks: How many points will the Sabres need to make a playoff spot and which teams are their main competition for that spot?
Sully: It took 95 points to make it in the East last season and 93 the year before, so I'll split the difference and say 94. I'm on record that the Sabres will finish with 88 points, 10 more than last season, and fall short of the Cup playoffs.
The East is deep and competitive and it should go to the wire again. The Sabres are improved, but other teams are getting better, too. I don't believe the Maple Leafs, who slipped in with 95 points. will regress. I think they'll be better. I expect the Flyers to contend for a spot with second overall pick Nolan Patrick. The Lightning and Islanders should bounce back after barely missing the playoffs a year ago.