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Bills likely to look to free agency and draft for quarterback

The easy part is done.

Now comes the real work for the Buffalo Bills.

How do they fill the quarterback opening created by Friday's trade that sent Tyrod Taylor to the Cleveland Browns for a third-round draft pick?

Free agency, which begins Wednesday, looks to be a clear option given that General Manager Brandon Beane vowed after last season that the Bills would have a veteran QB on the roster for 2018.

It would seem the one free agent the Bills won't pursue is Kirk Cousins, who stands to receive upwards of $30 million per year, which would put them right up against the NFL's salary cap.

However, when it comes to getting a quarterback with more experience than the one they have, Nathan Peterman, other free-agent options appear in play.

One that could be the most attractive is Case Keenum, who did an impressive job of leading the Minnesota Vikings to the NFC Championship Game. He's a smart, efficient passer who could give the Bills a steady answer for the foreseeable future, even if they do the expected and bring a rookie on board.

Keenum's price tag doesn't figure to be quite as high as that of Cousins, who is thought to be in line for a massive deal from the Vikings.

Minnesota's other two quarterbacks, Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater, have significant health concerns that would figure to be a turn-off for the Bills, as well as other QB-needy teams.

AJ McCarron, of the Cincinnati Bengals, could be a short-term answer. But his limited body of work limits how attractive he'd be, even for a season.

Other bridge possibilities are Derek Anderson, of the Carolina Panthers (with obvious ties to Bills coach Sean McDermott, the Panthers' former defensive coordinator, and Beane, the Panthers' former assistant GM) and Josh McCown, a well-traveled veteran who had an impressive season with the New York Jets in 2017.

There's a chance — although it doesn't seem like a good one — the Bills would trade for Nick Foles, who returns to a backup role with the Philadelphia Eagles despite his Super Bowl MVP performance against the New England Patriots last month. Yet, the Eagles are likely to ask for at least a first-round draft pick and probably more.

That would figure to be too rich for the Bills, who wouldn't necessarily see Foles as being able to replicate what he did under the exceptional coaching he received from Doug Pederson and former Eagle assistants Frank Reich (now the head coach in Indianapolis) and John DeFillipo (now the offensive coordinator of the Minnesota Vikings).

The Bills figure to almost certainly select a quarterback in the draft. Whether they would give up the "ransom" (to borrow Beane's word) of picks to move from their current 21st and 22nd overall spots into the upper tier to get one of the so-called Big Four (USC's Sam Darnold, UCLA's Josh Rosen, Wyoming's Josh Allen and Oklahoma's Baker Mayfield) is anyone's guess.

To make such a jump, the Bills probably would have to mortgage their future by throwing in a first-round choice in 2019 ... and maybe more.

It's fair to think that they might be more reasonable with their approach and use their two first-round choices on non-quarterbacks, perhaps offensive and defensive linemen, and then wait until the second round to go for a QB.

Beane was known to have spent a great deal of time during the fall scouting Oklahoma State's Mason Rudolph, who is projected to be a second-rounder. Louisville's Lamar Jackson mentioned the Bills first when asked about the teams with which he met at the recent NFL Scouting Combine. He could be a consideration at 21 or 22 if the team stays put in the first round.

Jerry Sullivan's Hot Read: Taylor deal a coup for Beane

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