The Buffalo Bills were eliminated from the playoffs in Sunday's 10-3 loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars. Here are the five biggest questions facing the team in the offseason:
1. What do they do at quarterback?
Ready for another round of Should the Bills Bring Back Tyrod Taylor? The Bills have another decision to make this offseason regarding their quarterback, who led the team to the playoffs for the first time since 1999 but did so while ranking 30th in passing yards per game and 23rd in yards per attempt. Taylor will carry a cap hit of $18.08 million next season, which would be far and away the most on the team but in the middle of the pack among quarterbacks. He's also owed a $6 million roster bonus on the third day of the league year (March 16), which will force a decision by that time.
If the team doesn't want to bring Taylor back — some felt benching Taylor for Nathan Peterman earlier this year was a sure sign he wouldn't return — the options would be drafting a rookie or going after a veteran. Cutting Taylor would result in $8.64 million of dead cap space, but he may have some value in the trade market.
2. How do the Bills attack the draft?
The Bills did well in Sean McDermott's first draft, and Brandon Beane did well to unload several holdovers, especially Marcell Dareus. Their next major decision, which goes in concert with item No. 1 on this list, will be plotting a strategy for the first round of the draft. The Bills own picks 21 and 22 in the first round, plus two second-rounders that could be used for ammunition to trade up.
The thought is the Bills will target a quarterback in the first round, but how high will they be able to move up? Will the top quarterbacks be gone by the spots the Bills could trade up to? Say, hypothetically, the Colts decide they're comfortable with Andrew Luck and they make the third pick available. Even if the Bills can offer enough to trade that high, would it be worth it if the Browns and Giants take the top two quarterbacks before then? Beane & Co. will have to make those decisions this offseason. Their other draft needs, which could be impacted by free agency, are expected to be defensive line, linebacker, cornerback, running back, offensive line and wide receiver.
3. Was this the last of Kyle Williams and others?
Next year's depth chart could look very different, especially on offense. Some memorable faces could depart from the team this offseason. First and foremost is Kyle Williams, the team's 12-year defensive tackle who could be ready to retire after ending the drought. The same goes for linebacker Lorenzo Alexander, who is the oldest player on the team. But retirements are voluntary — after cleaning house from several holdovers in their first season, do Beane and McDermott have more large-scale changes on the way?
Preston Brown, E.J. Gaines, Jordan Matthews, Leonard Johnson and Mike Tolbert are all free agents. After Taylor, Cordy Glenn and Jerry Hughes will have the next-highest cap hits; what does Beane think of their performance relative to their pay? You'd think Shaq Lawson, Eric Wood and Charles Clay would be safe ... right? And here's a big one: Should LeSean McCoy be worried? After Sammy Watkins and Dareus were traded, the message was sent that no one's untouchable. McCoy is the team's best offensive player, but he turns 30 in July. He seems to have juice left in the tank, but moving on from him too early would be preferable to too late. How much value does he have in the trade market? The Bills may draft another running back even with McCoy on the roster.
4. Is Rick Dennison on the hot seat? There's no way around the fact that the Bills' offense struggled this season. The players are certainly at fault for much of that, but some of the blame certainly falls on offensive coordinator Rick Dennison, too. Dennision was not McDermott's first choice as OC, and it's possible he could be replaced in the offseason — especially if McDermott and others want someone else to develop a rookie quarterback.
5. What's the plan at wide receiver? With Kelvin Benjamin and Zay Jones in the fold, Jordan Matthews seems unlikely to return. Andre Holmes is also under contract, but will that receiving corps be good enough? Wide receiver has been a hot topic for the last two years, and a rookie quarterback will need all the help he can get. Adding another sturdy receiver in free agency would go a long way, and it would take some of the burden off of Jones, who had a tough rookie season.