By Nick Shook
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But even as potential free agency looms, the former darling quarterback in western New York says he isn’t dwelling on it.
“My focus is not on the contract situation or what’s gonna happen. It’s more just being healthy,” Taylor said Friday on WGR 550-AM. “The thing that keeps my mind off of it is rehabbing [from January groin surgery]. If I didn’t have to rehab, I’d probably be thinking about [the contract situation] all the time.”
Taylor played under a contract that had him set up to be paid handsomely in 2017 and beyond, but with somewhat of a prove-it season coming first in 2016. The quarterback was guaranteed $9.5 million during the term of his contract (which runs through 2021), but all of that money was due in 2016, leaving Buffalo free to cut ties after one season, conveniently before his cap hit jumps to $15.9 million. Judging by how the Bills decided to close the season — by benching Taylor in favor of seeing what EJ Manuel could do (and potentially to avoid an injury that would activate a $27.5 million injury guarantee in his contract) — Taylor would be justified if he felt uncertain about his future in Buffalo.
Taylor was the apple of Buffalo’s eye in the immediate weeks after the end of the short-lived Kyle Orton era. Taylor was Rex Ryan’s guy, a pairing that produced a 15-16 record, but also had local columnists calling for both of their heads and cost Ryan his job near the end of another disappointing season. The lucrative deal’s escape clause has now risen to the forefront, and as the quarterback rehabs his repaired groin, he awaits any word from Bills leadership. So far, he hasn’t gotten any, though he reiterated he’d like to stay in Buffalo.
“Of course,” he said. “I know the team very well. I know how close we are as a team. I know the talent we have. 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.”
Quick Taylor stat dump: 269 of 436, 3,023 yards passing, 17 touchdowns, six interceptions, 580 yards rushing, six rushing touchdowns, three fumbles. At least six other teams in the NFL would take those numbers right now.
But logic says, considering Buffalo’s less-than-concrete conviction in the quarterback situation, it’s more likely than not that the Bills will cut ties with Taylor and save the hefty cap space to invest elsewhere. The problem for Buffalo, though, is there isn’t a clear guy to give the keys. EJ Manuel was as we’d expect in Week 17 (9 of 20, 86 yards passing in a forgettable loss to the Jets), which doesn’t inspire confidence in Buffalo’s future with him under center.
As Taylor continues to heal and wait, he might be wise to consider a home outside of western New York. It’s likely he already is doing so.