By Paul Wanecski
Jerry Jones is currently in control of Tyrod Taylor’s future. I know it is a strange statement to hear but perhaps in a moment, you will understand what exactly I mean. The Buffalo Bills have been the target of criticism following the week 17 benching of starting QB Taylor and rightfully so; Taylor’s performance this season, on paper, appears pretty solid. So what are the Bills really hesitant about and how could Jerry Jones, owner of the Dallas Cowboys, have a hand in controlling Taylor’s fate?
The NY Giants have granted wideout Victor Cruz his release. The slot receiver crashed on to the scene his rookie season in New York. Most know him for his Salsa Dancing in the end zone. Will he bring his dancing shoes to Buffalo?
Cruz is entering his age-30 season, after missing major chunks of the last two years. A once scary opponent out of the slot, Cruz has slowly disappeared in the Giants system. In his last 30 starts (out of 35 games), he has only six touchdowns.
If he were willing to accept $1.5 million per year on a two year contract, it would be worth bringing him in. The Buffalo receiver group could certainly use the help and having a slot receiver with Cruz's success would be well worth the money. Unfortunately, he will likely wait things out. Given his situation, if he is on a NFL team week one, his contract becomes fully guaranteed for the year, which with his injury history is a bit of a concern. The Buffalo Bills worked around that issue with Jerome Felton, who was released prior to week one and brought back afterward, this avoiding any guarantees.
Truth be told, Cruz would be an effective role playing receiver wherever he goes, but don't break the bank. This is a player who didn't get seperation by being a great route-running wideout. He was afforded his receptions through mismatches against linebackers and being able to get to top speed very quickly, meaning his was a terror up the seam, quickly getting above the linebackers and below the safeties before they could come downhill on him. Those days are over. Cruz will need to learn to evolve and not solely depend on his quick step as it slowly diminishes.
By Paul Wanecski
If you are alright with the Buffalo Bills moving on from Tyrod Taylor, then you need to be alright with whoever they bring in to compete for a starting job. Let me tell you, the market – and draft for that matter – is slim picking. Given the current roster, the only quarterback outside of Taylor is Cardale Jones, so if Taylor is going to be released you will need to bring in other options. While certainly not endorsing this idea, it should be discussed. Brace yourself: Nick Foles rumors are coming.
by Mario Granata
Doug Whaley says that the Bills are "close", but he doesn't even know what that means. I have been trying to come up with some way to accurately describe my travels through the Hashtag Vault. I initially couldn't find the words, but then it hit me: Blow this sh*t up already. The Buffalo Bills, for the past 17 years have been treating the symptoms and not the disease, which is the reason for their streak. It is finally time for some changes.
Editor’s Note: Alright, I can’t get past how much Siemian looks like Bobby Boucher from “The Waterboy” in this picture. We here at HashtagSports hope he continues to drink that high quality H2O
Trevor Siemian, the former 250th overall selection (7th round) of the 2015 NFL draft who just completed his second year, has a winning record as a starter. He led his team to an 8-6 record. Now that Mike McCoy has accepted the Offensive Coordinator role in Denver, along with new head coach Vance Joseph, the clear connection between McCoy and Pro-Bowl (and disgruntled) quarterback Phillip Rivers is pretty clear. That would give Denver a recently drafted first round quarterback in Paxton Lynch, current starter Siemian, and Rivers all on the same roster, which is simply too much of a logjam. So would Siemian be a fit for the Buffalo Bills?
At first glance it makes sense:
By Paul Wanecski
t was April 25th, 2016 when Josh Norman signed a $75 million dollar contract with the Washington Redskins, leaving behind a Super Bowl appearance in Carolina. Just to put that date in perspective, it was a week after offseason workouts had already started for the Panthers. Norman had the right to take offers starting March 7th, meaning he was a free agent for 50 days; In the NFL that is an amazingly long time to be a free agent. He left the team 64 days after the NFL Scouting Combine and 3 days before the NFL draft. McDermott’s team responded by using three out of their first four draft selections on cornerbacks (James Bradberry (Alabama) with the 62nd overall, Daryl Worley (West Virginia) with the 77th overall, and Zack Sanchez (Oklahoma) with the 141st overall selections).
So why is that so important? The Buffalo Bills find number one corner Stephon Gilmore is close to leaving via free agency and McDermott finds himself in the same place he was last year when in Carolina. Initial talks having already taken place, it has been rumored that Gilmore is looking for top-5 money and that is hard to argue with; he would be the premier cornerback on the open market. Complicate that with the depth on the roster in current state and it isn’t hard to imagine that McDermott will likely have something to say about losing Gilmore. The highest paid cornerback on the roster is Nickell Robey-Coleman, set to have a $2 million cap number. Next comes Ronald Darby at $1.2 million. After that come all players making league minimum based on their tenure in the league. They are undrafted free agent Marcus Roberson (Florida) and 6thround pick (218 overall from USC) Kevon Seymour. The cupboards are pretty bare at the position. The Bills will have a chance in the NFL Draft picking 10th overall to secure a cornerback if they choose to do so. Unfortunately, the draft comes with no guarantees, which the NY Jets saw when they lost Revis and attempted to replace him with highly touted Dee Millner (which worked out so well that Revis returned to the Jets a few seasaons later). It is a mixed bag of results when drafting a cornerback that early; Jalen Ramsey and Eli Apple both player really strong this year in their rookie campaign, Justin Gilbert for Cleveland has been atrocious, and the only other player drafted in the top 10 since 2013 is the aforementioned Millner. So the question becomes less of “can we afford him” and turns more into “can we afford to let him go”. Can you say that about Tyrod Taylor?
Tyrod Taylor is currently set to cost just under $16 million against the salary cap for 2017, according to OvertheCap.com. In scope of the average pay for a quarterback, his contract is quite even in salary across all years and is relatively affordable. So what are the Buffalo Bills to do? You could look at available free agents, look for a trade partner, draft a quarterback, or retain Taylor (we did some of the hard work for you here). If we consider Doug Whaley’s history, he shows that he is pretty tentative to make roster moves at the quarterback position (remember, we had EJ Manuel, Thad Lewis, Jeff Tuel and Dennis Dixon as options in training camp...twice). With that being said, I would have to assume that McDermott has already built his coaching staff so it will be interesting to see what the Bills do moving forward.
Assuming the team is unable to work out a long term contract, the team may use the non-exclusive franchise tag which would cost the Buffalo Bills an estimated $14 million, which essentially offsets the cost of retaining Taylor. The Bills in current state, with Taylor on the roster, have about $25 million in salary cap space. They are currently at 42 players figuring to that number, so they are nine players short of having a real cap figure to work with. The non-exclusive tag allows Gilmore to take offers from other teams and if the Bills decide not to match the offer, they would be compensated by two first round selections.
It is possible to keep both players, but with a coaching change, it is common to see productive players get the axe. Not long ago, leading tackler Nick Barnett was shown the door in Buffalo when Rex Ryan took over. It will happen again, but if Gilmore does walk, it will be because they feel they can find his replacement in the draft (because I promise you, that player is not available in free agency).
To answer any doubts, since 2013 five quarterbacks have been selected in the 1st round, but none with the 10th pick. They have been:
-Jared Goff (2016- 1st Overall)
-Carson Wentz (2016- 2nd Overall)
-Jameis Winston (2015- 1st Overall)
-Marcus Mariota (2015- 2nd Overall)
-Blake Bortles (2014- 3rd Overall)
Quarterbacks taken in the 1st round, outside of the top 10 have been:
-Paxton Lynch (2016- 26th Overall)
-Johnny Manziel (2014- 22nd Overall)
-Teddy Bridgewater (2014- 32nd Overall)
-EJ Manuel (2013- 16th Overall)
Needless to say, teams that rank a quarterback outside of the top 3 players on the board are just simply not worth taking in the first round. With this draft class, the Bills could be aggressive to get to the 2nd overall pick if Mitch Turbisky slips by Cleveland because...well, they are Cleveland. (Editor's Note: for the value, I say the Bills grab a WR in the first then see if Kisler from Notre Dame is available in the second round) Regardless, Taylor will have already been told if he is a free agent or not and the team will really tip their draft-hand if only one of the two players (Taylor or Gilmore) are retained.
By Paul Wanecski
Adam Schefter makes things up for a living. Alright, perhaps that was a little harsh. Adam Schefter takes his opinions, mixes them with “sources” (wouldn’t we all love a job where we can just say whatever you want and then just say you heard it from somewhere else), then spits interviews and flexes his Twitter muscles all in the name of giving you the information first. Remember the Patriots saying they want a first and fourth round pick for Jimmy Garoppolo? They never said that. Schefter admitted, when pressed for detail, that he thinks that is what they will get; he went so far as to say it was a “promise” the Patriots would get at least a 1st round selection for the back-up Quarterback. With as badly as I would like every tweet of his to go unread, he is not wrong in saying the Buffalo Bills will move on from incumbent Quarterback Tyrod Taylor.
Where does that leave Buffalo? Let’s examine trade partners or free agents.
By Paul Wanecski
And it was near 11am Eastern Standard Time that the NFL Mobile App tried to make the city of Buffalo explode, suggesting that the Buffalo Bills would be interested in Tony Romo and Jay Cutler if discarded from their respective teams. Both players come with major concerns and even bigger contracts, making it amazingly unlikely that the Bills would trade to acquire either of these quarterbacks.
Considering the lengthy contracts that will come in tow with Cutler and Romo, no fan should find concern in a trade for either player; that being said, it is still possible.Actually, if it were solely about money, Cutler will be significantly more affordable than Romo. Outside of the dollar figures attached to both, reviewing their respective resumes draws a very definitive line between them.
Jay Cutler, not that this is worth much, has only been named to one Pro Bowl. At 33 years of age, it is important to note that in the last six seasons he has only thrown for 20 touchdowns twice. He also hasn’t played a full season since 2009. His last (and only playoff appearance) was in 2010. Pro-football-reference humorously compares his career stats to Ken O’Brien, Jon Kitna and Brad Johnson. To be honest, it is hard to determine if it is funny or strangely disturbing. Since 2010, in the seasons where he has played at least twelve games (four times), he has been ranked in the top 10 of most sacked quarterbacks three times, meaning that years that he was actually the starter for the majority of the year, he was among the most sacked quarterbacks in the league 75% of the time. On the opposite side of that, since 2010, Cutler has appeared as a top-10 quarterback in leading comebacks three times. In 2014, he led the league in interceptions. His bounce back season in 2015 saw him throw for seven less interceptions, but also seven less touchdowns. Durability and consistency has been a huge problem over his, at this point, average career. For a player who hasn’t been in the top 10 in passing yards since 2008 (he was ranked third in NFL with 4526 yards, which followed a 2007 campaign when he threw for 3497 yards being ranked 10th in passing yards), he sure is sacked often. Of course his season ending on Injured Reserve this year for a torn labrum in his throwing shoulder can be added to the laundry list of concerns.
Tony Romo has missed very little time since he was named the starter in 2007. Entering his age 37 season and recovering from a cracked vertibre in his neck, Romo has started at least thirteen games seven of the last nine seasons. Career comparisons from Pro-Football-Reference state Carson Palmer, Joe Namath and Roger Staubach. In 2012, Romo threw for 4903 yards, which by comparison is only 434 yards short of Tyrod Taylor’s career passing yardage as a Buffalo Bill as of the date of this article (prior to the Bills vs. Steelers). Romo has appeared in the top-10 sacked quarterbacks three times during his career, the last time being in 2012. Much like Cutler, Romo has appeared in the top-10 comebacks three times. Romo led the league in interceptions the season he threw for over 4900 yards. While he did combine for 19 interceptions the next 30 regular season games, he had an alarming 5.7% interception rate in 2015 (7 ints vs 121 total pass attempts). During his career, Romo would look like a generational player for the Cowboys in one week and then be an absolute disaster the next game. He has also been seen as a choke-artist by the Dallas fan base, where nearly mythical tales of his 2nd half collapses will long outlive his NFL career. To his credit, in the seasons where he has started at least thirteen games (107 games total), Romo has averaged 31.6 touchdowns per full season. It is basically assumed that Romo has lost his job to rookie Dak Prescott.
With all that being said, you may be thinking that if the Bills felt compelled to take on one of these players, the choice may be clear. Unfortunately, trading for either of these players means you will also drag along the contract signed on his previous team. Both Chicago and Dallas will hope to get some return via trade but with little leverage due to the associated dollar figures, it would be a shock to see either player acquired in that fashion. Neither player would be worth what their contract stipulates on the open market, regardless of their respective accomplishments. Long story short, both have at least 3 years remaining on their current deals, however by acquiring the player via trade, Buffalo would have no penalty for releasing them prior to the start of any season. Take in mind that the only thing the Bills would be responsible for against the salary cap would be the salary per year (plus, in Jay Cutler’s case, a roster bonus).
Jay Cutler (credit to OvertheCap.com):
Tony Romo (credit to OvertheCap.com)
As you can see, both are expensive options. Could Buffalo pursue either Cutler or Romo via trade? Extremely unlikely. Would it be more likely they would sign either player on the free agent market? Given the current situation the Buffalo Bills find themselves, the front office and coaches know they need to win immediately. Romo would be your best chance to meet that need but he is just as likely to have a season-ending injury as he is to play 16 games. Romo might be an option to bridge to a drafted quarterback, but we have seen what that looks like before in Buffalo. Have little fear fans of the Buffalo Bills, neither of these players will be riding into town to lead you to the promise land.
By Paul Wanecski
As the Minnesota Vikings scramble to figure out how badly QB Teddy Bridgewater is injured, the phones have to be ringing off the hooks around the league looking for a replacement. Could EJ Manuel be a target? Absolutely.
While Manuel doesn't have an amazing resume, he has shown the flashes that make the chance worth taking, seeing as though the Vikings really don't have many serviceable options elsewhere. With only a little over $6 million in cap space, a moveo bring EJ in would cost only a small portion of that compared to having to sign a QB. The Bills would save about $1.6 million in the deal in cap space. With an offense based on a strong run game and built for a young QB without much need to read coverage, EJ makes a logical fit.
Of course, the real target will be Mark Sanchez. Good luck with that Minnesota.
by Mario Granata and Paul Wanecski
While there was much made of the resigning of Brandon Spikes after the injury bug bit the Buffalo Bills linebacker core, little has been made about the signing of David Hawthorne. Here at Hashtag Sports, we take a look at both signings and see which will be the more productive player and why. Where do you stand?