INDIANAPOLIS — General Manager Doug Whaley says the Buffalo Bills will be adding a quarterback this offseason be it in the draft or free agency. They're planning on Tyrod Taylor starting in 2015 but such a statement suggests they're ready for a new back-up and, maybe, an arm that can push Taylor a bit into his contract year.
At some point, the Bills must decide whether or not Taylor is the franchise quarterback in Buffalo.
Here are a handful of quarterbacks who could enter the discussion next month in free agency or the following month in the draft:
In the draft...
Connor Cook, Michigan State
2015 stats: 56.1 completion percentage, 3,131 yards, 24 TD, 7 int.
Combine:4.79 in the 40, 33-inch vertical, 7.21-second three-cone drill
Lowdown: Cook started four years at Michigan State and brings prototypical size to the position (6-4, 217). Was comfortable in a pro-style offense, one that required five- and seven-step drops. He was not voted a team captain before his final season, raising questions about his leadership. At Indy, Cook defended himself by saying he was part of the Spartans' 12-man leadership council. Each week a member of the council was voted a captain, which Cook was four times.
The quarterback also said he was out to prove to teams in interviews he isn't "cocky" or "arrogant," saying that "couldn't be further from the truth."
Has experience in big games, showing the ability to stick clutch throws after crushing mistakes. That's what his coach in college points to, first and foremost. If he impresses teams on the board with his football knowledge, possibly Cook gets first-round consideration. In Buffalo? That seems doubtful. They're in win-now mode, in need of an instant contributor on defense.
Quotable: "Yeah, I think (the Big Ten trophy presentation) kind of got blown out of proportion, as well. I was excited. I was a little nervous. I didn’t think I deserved the MVP, first and foremost. I was thinking about what I was going to say once I got the microphone, wanting to give it to my offensive line just for the way that they played throughout the entire game, especially the last drive. But it just happened real quick, I didn’t think anything of it. I remembered just checking my phone after the game and there were a lot of tweets and stuff, people were tagging me and things. I saw it, and it did look pretty bad. The first thing that I did was apologize on live television, on BTN, just saying obviously I didn’t mean to do it, I felt bad about it, and I was sorry. Then I called Archie Griffin that night and talked to him. I remember, he even said that he didn’t even realize what happened until after, when people hit him up. He didn’t think anything of it. Obviously, it did kind of look bad and I felt bad about it. But we won our football conference, we’re Big Ten champs. The last thing that’s going through my mind at that time is to try and disrespect someone, let alone a man like Archie Griffin.”
Dak Prescott, Mississippi State
2015 stats: 66.2 completion percentage, 3,793 passing yards, 29 TD, 5 int.; 588 rushing yards, 10 touchdowns
Combine: 4.79 in the 40, 32.5 vertical, 7.11-second three-cone drill
Lowdown: Delivers the ball with a quick release out of the shotgun and is thick enough to run over defenders on the ground. Physically strong. In a conference loaded with defensive talent, a lot was put on Prescott's shoulders and he usually responded by air and by ground in leading the Bulldogs to records of 9-4 and 10-3. The challenge? He never took snaps from center through high school or college. Even with the shotgun dominating many NFL offenses, this will be an adjustment. Prescott may be a project that takes two, three, four years to fully develop into a starter. However, if the Bills are eyeing a quarterback in the Tyrod Taylor-mold, Prescott could be their guy.
Quotable: "Tyrod, Cam Newton, Russell Wilson they’ve all opened the door for the mobile quarterbacks, guys who are making throws from under center, in the pocket, doing the things they need to within the pocket but as well stretching the defense and using their mobility to really hurt the defense."
Kevin Hogan, Stanford
2015 stats: 67.8 completion percentage, 2,867 yards, 27 TD, 8 int.
Combine: 4.78 in the 40, 32.5-inch vertical, 6.90 seconds in the three-cone drill
Lowdown: If the Bills are eyeing a mid-round quarterback who does have experience under center, calling protections, running a more conventional pro-style offense, then there's Kevin Hogan. He wasn't asked to throw the ball around a ton in Stanford's run-first offense. Stepping into Andrew Luck's shoes isn't easy, but Hogan led his team to a Pac-12 title himself as a senior. Went 36-10 as the starter, also showing the ability to run some zone read. Also had 85 carries for 336 rushing yards and six touchdowns.
Known as a tough, reliable leader who didn't step out of character on the field. Rarely put the ball in harm's way. As he noted, however, his delivery must improve.
Quotable: “I feel like I’ve put a lot of good things on tape. I know all of these coaches are going to watch my tape and that’s who I am. I just trying to improve where I can. I’m trying to make strides with my base in the pocket and really tighten up my base and have a more compact delivery. And I feel once I put it all together, I’ll be good to go.”
Cardale Jones, Ohio State
2015 stats: 62.5 completion percentage, 1,460 passing yards, 8 TD, 5 int.
Combine: 4.81 in the 40, 36-inch vertical
Lowdown: The No. 3 QB saved Ohio State's season when both Braxton Miller and J.T. Barrett went down in 2014. Led the Buckeyes to a national title with a flurry of deep bombs downfield and bruising runs. His heroics won him the job for the 2015 season but, midway through, Jones was benched for Barrett. And with Barrett returning in 2016, Jones chose to enter the NFL Draft.
Thus, he's a mystery.
Jones possesses great size at 6-5, 253. He has the ability to stand sturdy in the pocket and sling it downfield with a powerful arm. Above-average athleticism and can turn into a fullback between the tackles. But Jones proved too inaccurate, too late on throws. He has a very, very limited body of work for NFL scouts to read and will require a lot of coaching.
The Bills' current offense is one that takes advantage of a quarterback's running ability and the deep ball, two of Jones' greatest strengths.
Quotable: "I don’t get a lot of credit for my knowledge of the game. I don’t think OSU gets a lot of credit for the things and the responsibilities they put on a quarterback. I can’t wait to shock them. I think anyone who knows me and has been around me knows I’m a pretty smart young man, but the nature of the offense, everybody thinks it’s zone read, running quarterback (offense). It’s definitely not that at all."
In free agency...
He wants to start and might finally get that shot somewhere. If Sam Bradford signs somewhere else, Daniel would make sense in Philadelphia with his former coordinator Doug Pederson. Chiefs GM John Dorsey indicated Daniel is aiming for a starting job and Pederson said he sees himself in Daniel. You may recall that Pederson was the starting quarterback when the Eagles drafted Donovan McNabb. Then again, he has thrown only 77 career passes in seven seasons and is likely more of a stopgap solution. Kirk Cousins is likely to stay in Washington, Bradford could cost too much for Buffalo and Brock Osweiler probably will draw a decent market if he hits free agency. For teams seeking a veteran arm, Daniel might be the next best thing. Buffalo probably won't have the excess money to spend here.
If the Bills want to add a veteran back-up who won't threaten Taylor's job, Jackson is a logical option. A familiar face, too. Jackson spent the 2012 season in Buffalo, received a one-year, $2.25 million deal in February 2013 and then was released in June. The former Minnesota starter then returned to Seattle and served as Russell Wilson's No. 2 quarterback the last two seasons. The two were known to have a strong, productive relationship in Seattle with Jackson always willing to lend a hand. He'd sure have a lot of knowledge to share with Taylor and has a skill-set that'd fit the offense in place.
Veteran has played for three teams in six seasons. And while it never worked out for him in Cleveland — has it for any quarterback since the Browns returned in 1999? — McCoy had enough moments in Washington to suggest he's worth signing somewhere as a solid No. 2. If something were to happen to Taylor, the Bills need someone with a proven track record who can step in. EJ Manuel could not in 2015 and those two losses to Cincinnati and Jacksonville proved costly. Does McCoy lose both of those games? Maybe Buffalo's best course of action is to sign a veteran and draft a wild card like Cardale Jones late to develop. McCoy wouldn't need much of a crash course on Greg Roman's offense. He spent the 2013 season in the coordinator's scheme with the San Francisco 49ers.
Most probably remember Tolzien for his brief run as the starter in Green Bay when Aaron Rodgers broke his collarbone. There were highs (339 yards at New York) and lows (five interceptions in three games) before Tolzien was eventually benched in favor of Matt Flynn. He has developed since then and could be looking for a fresh start with a new team. In his last two preseasons, Tolzien completed 66 of 102 passes for 727 yards with five touchdowns and one pick and a 98.0 passer rating. No other back-up in the building worked longer hours behind the scenes than Tolzien, who once slept over at the San Francisco 49ers' facility to learn the offense. If the Bills wanted to take a chance on someone that has been in the NFL but still has a higher ceiling, Tolzien could be a lower-cost option. Last year, Green Bay drafted UCLA's Brett Hundley, who was impressive himself last August.