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Jay Skurski's Mailbag: How much should Buffalo give up to draft a franchise QB?

It's become a December tradition in Buffalo.

Looking forward to the NFL Draft and who the next quarterback of the Bills might be. Even though this year's team is still alive in the playoff race at 6-6 entering Sunday's home game against the Indianapolis Colts, based on this week's mailbag, plenty of fans are focused on next spring and the NFL Draft.

Let's get to it:

Joe Doherty asks: How much would you give up to draft a potential franchise QB in the upcoming draft?

Jay: I’d stop short of pulling a Mike Ditka and trading my entire draft class, but I’d be willing to pay a significant price. I’m convinced General Manager Brandon Beane and coach Sean McDermott set about acquiring as much draft ammunition as they have for that very reason. Of course, it depends on how far the Bills are trying to move up.

Let’s look at some recent history:

In 2016, the Titans traded the No. 1 overall pick to the Los Angeles Rams for the Rams’ first-, second- and third-round draft picks that year, as well as first- and third-round picks in 2017. The Rams’ first-round pick in 2016 was No. 15 overall.

Also in 2016, the Browns traded the No. 2 overall pick to the Philadelphia Eagles for the Eagles’ first-, third- and fourth-round picks, a 2017 first-round pick and a 2018 second-round pick. The Eagles also got a fourth-round pick in 2017 from Cleveland. Philadelphia’s first-round pick in 2016 was No. 8 overall.

The Rams took Cal’s Jared Goff and the Eagles took North Dakota’s Carson Wentz first and second, respectively. Both of those deals look pretty good right now, as Goff has rebounded from a terrible rookie season to have the Rams in first place in the NFC West under the tutelage of first-year coach Sean McVay, while Wentz might be the MVP in leading the Eagles to what could be the NFC’s top seed in the postseason.

Of course, it doesn’t always work out. Back in 2012, Washington traded three first-round draft picks, one each in 2012, ’13 and ’14, along with a 2012-second round pick, to the St. Louis Rams to move up from the No. 6 spot to draft quarterback Robert Griffin III – whoops!

So the price to move up into the top two spots in the draft will likely include at least four or five draft picks, of which at least two of them will be first-rounders. The others figure to be in the top three rounds. The Bills possess five of those picks in 2018. Would they trade all of them to get into the top two spots?

That’s a huge question for Beane, who will be leading his first draft in the spring. There will be an immense amount of pressure on him to get that pick right. We still need to know which quarterbacks declare for the draft and where the Bills will be picking in the first round. In that regard, rooting against the Chiefs will be huge for Buffalo, which owns Kansas City’s first-round pick, the last four weeks. If they miss the postseason, that pick will be much better.

As an aside, think about that Saints trade for a moment. Ditka traded eight draft picks – eight! – just for the right to move up seven spots and draft a running back. Social media wasn’t around in 1999 when that happened, which is probably a good thing because it would have melted. Has a “30 for 30” on this trade happened yet? It needs to.

Taylor DeGeorge asks: How good/bad was the new organization's trade to start season? Miss Sammy but at 2.6 catches 44 yds and .5 TDs per game not missing him that much.

Jay: Right now, it looks like a fair trade, but that has as much to do with the play of cornerback E.J. Gaines as it does the second-round pick the Bills acquired. A pending unrestricted free agent, I’d make re-signing Gaines a top priority, as he has been a good fit in McDermott’s defense. As the Sabres have shown in recent years, accumulating draft picks is all well and good, but it’s what you do with them that truly matters.

I agree that Watkins has not had the season statistically that many thought he would, but that’s a cross-country view of things. I haven’t watched the Rams closely enough to know whether his presence is opening things up for other receivers like Robert Woods and Cooper Kupp. Nevertheless, receivers get paid based on their numbers, and Watkins’ aren’t great – 31 catches, 528 yards and six touchdowns. It will be interesting to see what kind of contract he gets. He’ll need to find a team with a need for a deep threat. Hey, I know one of those!

Adam asks: Do you think the Bills bring back Jordan Matthews next year?

Jay: I do not. The acquisition of Kelvin Benjamin closed the door on Matthews returning next year, in my mind. There is also the matter of his knee injury, which landed him on injured reserve this week. The Bills have been short on details about the exact nature of the injury, but that could factor into his free agency if it’s something long term.

If you’re Matthews, why would you want to come back? He had easily the worst season of his four-year career before landing on IR. In the process, he likely cost himself millions of dollars. His best bet is to get healthy and find a team with a need for a slot receiver.

With Benjamin and Zay Jones, the Bills have two receivers to build around. After that, they’ll need to add to the position. Andre Holmes could stick around as a fourth or fifth receiver who plays special teams, but there is a big need for a serious deep threat, as mentioned above. Veterans Deonte Thompson and Brandon Tate also are scheduled to be free agents, and are both replaceable.

Joshua Weaver asks: What is the coach's future outlook for Tyrod Taylor as a starting quarterback?

Jay: If you’re referring to McDermott, he answered that when he benched Taylor before the game against the Chargers. Sure, he might play again this season – McDermott did say Taylor remains his starter when healthy – but it’s hard to see the Bills paying him $18 million next season. It’s equally as hard to make the case that they should after Taylor’s last two home starts.

At this point, we know what Taylor is – an average quarterback in a league with several starters at the position who don’t even meet that meager standard. He’ll find a job somewhere next season, and in the right situation (read: with a good running game and defense) might lead a team to the postseason. But I don’t feel like he’s ever getting to a Super Bowl. McDermott’s decision to bench him earlier this year indicates he agrees.

Rick McGuire asks: Do you think Shaq Lawson will be wearing Bills blue next year or will he be traded or maybe released? He's another Whaley guy (bust) who hasn't performed, especially considering he was a first-round pick.

Jay: You hit the nail on the head there when you referenced Whaley. The Bills have systematically purged their roster of the former GM’s draft picks, even if they say that isn’t their intent. I wouldn’t give up on Lawson yet.

With his statistical output this season – 33 tackles, four sacks, two passes defensed, one forced fumble – there isn’t any harm in seeing if he can improve in the offseason as a pass rusher. By all accounts, his run defense was pretty solid.

Simply releasing Lawson would only create another hole in the starting lineup for a team that already has too many of those. He doesn’t cost a lot of money, so I’d bring him back.

Regarding a trade, Beane has shown never to say never. So in that sense, it depends on what the Bills would get back. The possibility can’t be ruled out, but I wouldn’t expect the return to be overwhelming given Lawson’s production in his first two years.

“716” asks: Is Peterman the guy for the rest of the year or is Tyrod guaranteed his spot when he’s healthy? Even though chances are slim, if Bills make it to postseason, do you trust Tyrod or Peterman to lead the team?

Jay: To the first part of that, we can only go on what McDermott has said, which is that Taylor is his starter when healthy. That could mean as soon as this week, as the team is calling the starting quarterback a “game-time decision.” Now, if Peterman lights up the Colts, I wouldn’t be shocked at all if McDermott comes out next week and says he’s sticking with the rookie against Miami in Week 15.

To the second part of that, I’d ride whoever it is that got me into the playoffs. If Peterman gets the start Sunday, does well and hangs onto the job, I’d stick with him. Or if Taylor gets back into the lineup and leads the Bills to the win that ends a 17-year playoff drought, he would earn the right to start.

PJ asks: How do the Bills keep getting us fans to come back every year?

Jay: Russ Brandon’s marketing genius? Kidding.

I’ve wondered that myself from time to time. It’s a testament to the loyalty of fans in Western New York that they continue to support what has so often been an inferior product. That support extends to the Sabres, too, although signs recently are showing that could be waning. Tickets are available to Sunday’s Bills game on the secondary market for less than $5. That’s not a shock given the opponent and weather forecast.

Sabres tickets, too, are available for most every game for well below face value. It’s hard to blame people who choose to stay home. Factor in the cost to park and have a beer, and the cost to spend a day or night at New Era Field or KeyBank Center adds up quickly. At some point, fans will ask themselves whether it’s really worth it.

Thanks for the questions this week!

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