The Cleveland Browns will once again be spending the off-season searching for a quarterback. Should Tyrod Taylor be on their radar?
The NFL off-season officially began at about 10:30 p.m. on Sunday after the New England Patriots won Super Bowl 51.
Which means that the Cleveland Browns are not only on the clock for the 2017 NFL Draft, but also back on the trail in search of a quarterback.
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While the NFL hype machine spent the past week or so crowning New England Patriots backup quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo the next big thing for quarterback-starved teams, the Browns have other options, one of which could be quarterback Tyrod Taylor, last seen being put on the bench so the Bills could avoid the risk of triggering an injury clause in Taylor’s contract.
Unlike Garoppolo, who has thrown all of 94 passes in his three-year NFL career, spent the past two seasons starting 29 out of a possible 32 games for the Bills.
During that time Taylor threw for more than 6,000 yards and 37 touchdown passes, while tossing 12 interceptions and completing almost 63 percent of his passes. He was also nimble enough to rush for 10 touchdowns and average 4.5 yards per run.
The best part is that, unlike Garoppolo, the Browns may be able to acquire Taylor for nothing more than a small portion of their ample cap space.
The contract that Taylor signed with the Bills earned him a guaranteed $9.5 million, all of which was paid to him this past season. His cap number increases to $15.9 million this fall if the Bills decide to keep him on the roster.
But with yet another regime change taking place in Buffalo, Taylor’s future in western New York is far from certain.
Taylor ended the 2016 regular season with the 10th-best overall grade among all QBs, at 84.7. That’s higher than Alex Smith, Ben Roethlisberger, Jameis Winston, Andy Dalton and—here is the big one—Dak Prescott.
Not only does Taylor’s passer rating decline less than that of most players (14.3 points this season), but he has maintained a consistently-high passer rating when pressured over the past two seasons. This year, he recorded a passer rating of 80.1 when hurried; last season, it was 87.6. Those figures rank seventh and fifth in the league, respectively, and represent a QB that can still function at a high level when hurried and moved off his spot.
Being able to function under pressure, while also not turning the ball over at a high rate, seems like they would be appealing qualities to have in a quarterback.
The problem of course is that no one knows right now what the Bills are thinking. Buffalo’s roster is not exactly robust at the quarterback position behind Taylor, with just E.J. Manuel (a first-round bust) and Cardale Jones (who is not an NFL-caliber quarterback) as the team’s current options.
Similar to the Washington Redskins and quarterback Kirk Cousins – another name that will continue to be tied to the Browns – it is fair to question why the Bills would let Taylor leave with no viable alternatives to replace him.
Plus Taylor is comfortable and would like to remain with the Bills.
“I know the team very well. I know how close we are as a team. I know the talent we have,” he recently told NFL.com. “We can be a very special team with the right leadership, and I believe we have some coaches there that are willing to go out there and make us work and get us turned around. It’s just a sitting-and-waiting game right now.”
For now everything is all just speculation. But if Taylor does hit free agency, it would not be the worst idea for the Browns to give him a look. If they can sign Taylor to a reasonable contract they can then use (rather than trade away) their bounty of high draft picks to build up the rest of the team.