Why the Bills aren’t gambling on Tyrod Taylor as much as it might seem

The Buffalo Bills may have finally found a franchise quarterback. Or at least, one they might be comfortable paying as such.

On Friday, the Bills announced they’ve signed Tyrod Taylor to an extension, worth $90 million over six years, according to multiple reports. 

However, it’s reportedly an incentive-laden extension that favors the Bills, and keeps Taylor on a prove-it deal for next season, Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports — a result of his lack of experience. 

After spending four years as Joe Flacco’s backup in Baltimore, Taylor signed a three-year, $3.35 million deal with Buffalo and burst onto the scene as the Bills’ starter in 2015. He put together a spectacular 14-game slate, throwing for 3,035 yards and 20 touchdowns with just six interceptions. His passer rating was just shy of 100 (99.4), and he completed 63.7 percent of his passes.

Taylor added 568 rushing yards with four more scores on the ground, showing off his best asset week in and week out in leading the Bills to an 8-8 finish. His numbers were impressive and would make just about every head coach happy, but there still was some mystery surrounding his game.

Was 2015 just a fluke? Or is Taylor truly a franchise quarterback despite having just one year of starting experience? Those are questions the Bills asked themselves, and the answers led them to the determination that Taylor was worth a new deal.

The Bills didn’t have the luxury of evaluating Taylor for four years like most teams do when drafting a quarterback. If they let him play out this season and next on his base salary — which is a huge bargain — and he put up huge numbers again, his value would have skyrocketed.

Quarterback-needy teams would have lined up to sign Taylor. And when that happens, a bidding war occurs. Look at the Broncos’ situation with Brock Osweiler. He had a few decent games, and the Texans paid him $72 million over four years as a result.

Taylor still has to prove he’s worth paying like a top-flight quarterback. The Bills reportedly protected themselves by including a team option for 2017, and it’s an expensive one. According to Rapoport, it would cost the team $27.5 million next season, which would put Taylor among the highest-paid quarterbacks in the league. 

The Bills gave Taylor a decent raise for this season, but the long-term extension is on their terms. If Taylor plays poorly in 2016, they can decline the option. 

It’s a good deal for both sides, but especially for the Bills, who shielded themselves against the possibility of overpaying now or getting into a bidding war later. For Taylor, if he puts together just a decent season, he very likely will be looking for a new contract next year. Even if that does happen, though, he still could fetch around $18 million per year from a team, which is about what Ryan Tannehill and Colin Kaepernick are making.

Outside of Cleveland, no team is as desperate for a top-flight quarterback as the Bills. They haven’t had one since the days of Jim Kelly, and without Taylor, they’d be on the hunt once again. EJ Manuel’s ship has sailed after failing as a first-round pick, and rookie Cardale Jones is far from an NFL starter at this point.

Remember, the Bills have the longest playoff drought of any team in the four major North American sports. That’s not something fans want to deal with any longer, and Taylor is the closest thing to a franchise quarterback Buffalo has had in more than a decade.

Giving Taylor this deal is not much of a risk, if they structured the deal to give themselves an escape clause. They needed a star at the position and may have found one in Taylor. The Bills just hope he can replicate his 2015 season and prove he’s worth the money.