That $30.75 million in guaranteed money no longer hovers like an anvil about to come crashing down on the Buffalo Bills' marriage to Tyrod Taylor.
It was finally removed Wednesday, allowing the Bills to feel more fiscally comfortable about keeping Taylor as their quarterback. Taylor took care of that by agreeing to a restructured contract, which, for all practical purposes, was the only way the team would keep him.
What would have happened had he chose not to do the deal before Saturday's 4 p.m. deadline when the Bills would have been on the hook for the $30.75 million over the next two years from last August's contract extension?
"I’ll never know that because we didn’t go down that road, so to speak," coach Sean McDermott said in a conference call with reporters. "So this is what we came to and we feel good about it, obviously, in order to get this deal done like we did."
The Bills feel good because they clearly didn't feel better about other quarterbacking options available on the roster or via free agency (which begins Thursday) or trade or the NFL Draft.
Cardale Jones, the Bills' fourth-round draft pick last year from Ohio State, remains extremely raw and is not seen as being ready to move into a starting role. EJ Manuel has never come close to living up to his status as a first-round choice from Florida State in 2013.
Mike Glennon, a backup for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers who has a very limited body of work, is widely viewed as the best quarterback in the open market and is reportedly on the verge of signing with the Chicago Bears for between $14 and $15 million per year. The quarterback class in the draft is generally viewed as lacking high-end talent.
Those factors, ultimately, are what likely helped to settle a reported internal debate between the coaches and General Manager Doug Whaley, managing general partner and president Russ Brandon and senior vice president of football administration Jim Overdorf over what to do with Taylor.
Whaley was known to have been ready to move on from Taylor late last season, which led to Taylor's benching for the regular-season finale against the New York Jets. Rex Ryan, the previous head coach, pushed back, but was fired with one game left.
McDermott has come in with substantially more clout, and the Taylor decision is one obvious example.
"We’ve looked, really, at every option and explored every opportunity, at this time, available to us and we just feel like this was the best move for the Bills at this time," McDermott said.
Taylor presumably feels good about it because it was the best offer he and his agent, Adisa Bakari, believed he could get if they forced the Bills' hand by refusing to restructure and becoming a free agent. Neither he nor Bakari could be reached for comment on the new arrangement, which, The Buffalo News learned:
- Covers 5 years.
- Includes a $7-million signing bonus.
- Reduces his 2017 salary-cap number from $16 million to just under $10 million.
- Runs on a year-to-year basis beginning in 2019.
McDermott did say that Taylor, who did not hide his anger over being benched, made it clear to his new coach that he wanted to remain with the Bills. "We want guys who want to be here and so we got that out of the way very early on in the process," the coach said. "He made it very clear that he was definitely interested in being a Buffalo Bill."
Besides liking what they saw of Taylor while watching videotape of him in action in his past two seasons as the Bills' starter, McDermott, offensive coordinator Rick Dennison and quarterbacks coach David Culley also greatly appreciated Taylor's attitude.
"Well, first and foremost, it’s a credit to Tyrod," McDermott said. "We’ve been in touch, really, since (McDermott's) first day on the job (Jan. 3) and he’s made himself very available in that regard and so I really appreciate that on his end of it. We’ve had some very good, productive, healthy conversations and he’s been first-class the whole way."
When asked about the qualities that made keeping Taylor appealing, McDermott didn't talk about his throwing ability or dynamic running skills. He started with "character."
"I had a chance to get to know Tyrod a little bit and I’ve done my research," the coach said. "So, the character and then secondly, the work ethic. I’ve had a chance to observe him and his rehab a little bit, and the process he’s gone through to get himself healthy, and that’s been very admirable on all ends. And then, the toughness component. When I look at the quarterback position and the toughness that he embodies is very – (they) are great qualities.
"You start there, and you get into his skill set, the number of games that they’ve had a chance to win in the last two years since Tyrod’s been here. That’s really how it progressed and, really, the things that I looked at were the intangibles."
McDermott touched on many topics related to Taylor:
On concern over inconsistency Taylor has shown in his passing: "When you look at all of our players, that’s what we’ve got to do, is we’ve got to put the players in a position to be successful in the systems that we’re going to implore and then after that is developing the players to be the best players that they can possibly be – putting pieces around people as we build this team to give us the best chance to win on Sunday afternoons."
On his history of coaching for teams with mobile quarterbacks and his thoughts on Taylor's mobility impacting his consistency and ability to stay healthy: "Yeah, I’ve been fortunate enough to be around two mobile quarterbacks in my career, one with Donovan McNabb in Philadelphia and then Cam Newton in Carolina. That skill set is a familiar one to me and there is certainly a fine line to using one’s mobility to make plays and escape situations that are not favorable … Again, it comes down to really our system and the system that Rick’s going to use on offense and there’s certainly some movement in that system that’s based in and then Tyrod’s going to be able to do some things in that system. I think it’s a good fit and I feel strongly about that."
On whether keeping Taylor precludes pursuing a quarterback in the draft: "We’re going to look at every position, quarterback no different. We’re always looking to do what’s best for this football team and that’s what we’re doing. We’re building a team. As I mentioned before – last week – we’re going to look to create competition and depth at every position and this [position] is no different."