If the Buffalo Bills decide to part ways with quarterback Tyrod Taylor before about $30 million of his contract becomes fully guaranteed on March 11, it would create a sizable void at the team's most important position.
Without Taylor, the Bills would have only two quarterbacks under contract for 2017, Cardale Jones and Josh Woodrum. The Bills selected Jones in the fourth round of the NFL draft last season, while they signed Woodrum in January after the undrafted rookie spent time with three teams last season.
Here would be some of the Bills' options to replace Taylor as the starter this season:
Potential draft selections
Mitch Trubisky: The North Carolina product is the top-rated quarterback by ESPN NFL draft experts Mel Kiper Jr. and Todd McShay, landing at No. 10 (Kiper) and No. 27 (McShay) on their respective big boards. In Kiper's initial mock draft last month, he projected the 49ers to draft Trubisky with the second overall pick, meaning the Bills would need to trade way up from No. 10 in order to have a shot at Trubisky. However, in McShay's mock draft Wednesday, he projected Trubisky to fall to the Browns at No. 12. Scouts Inc. rated Trubisky as No. 28 among all of its draft prospects, best among quarterbacks.
Deshaun Watson: Figuring out Watson's value has been difficult. The national-champion quarterback is ranked 53rd among 2017 prospects by Scouts Inc. and was not included among McShay's top 32 prospects or among Kiper's top 25 prospects. However, Kiper projected Watson to the Bills with the No. 10 overall pick in his mock draft, noting there had been a "bounce" in Watson's stock after leading Clemson to the title. McShay projected Watson to be taken by the 49ers second overall in his mock draft posted Wednesday.
DeShone Kizer: From Notre Dame, Kizer is the second-rated quarterback by Scouts Inc., listed at No. 38 overall. He was not projected to be a first-round pick in either McShay's or Kiper's initial mock drafts, suggesting the Bills could have a shot at Kizer with their second-round pick (No. 43).
Potential trade targets
Tony Romo: The accomplished veteran is due a $24.7 million cap number in 2017, the highest among NFL quarterbacks. The emergence of Dak Prescott has made Romo expendable in Dallas. While the Cowboys would absorb the remaining portion of Romo's signing bonus against their salary cap if they traded him, any team acquiring Romo would inherit his base salaries of $14 million (2017), $19.5 million (2018) and $20.5 million (2019). Those amounts are not guaranteed, so the Bills could theoretically pay Romo $14 million in 2017 (less than the $30.75 million they would commit to Taylor), and then cut him before his salary balloons in 2018. The wild card would be the cost in draft assets to acquire Romo, and if the Cowboys release Romo, whether the veteran decides the Bills are the QB-needy team fit for him. But if the Bills can lure him to Buffalo, he represents the best option to start in Taylor's place next season -- and perhaps the only quarterback with a very realistic shot of getting the team into the playoffs.
Jay Cutler: The Bears appear poised to release Cutler, but until they do, a trade remains a possibility. As with Romo's deal, the Bills would inherit Cutler's non-guaranteed base salaries of $12.5 million (2017), $13.5 million (2018), $17.5 million (2019) and $19.2 million (2020). Cutler is also due $2.5 million roster bonuses, paid per game active, over those years. As a one-year rental, Cutler would come at a discount over Taylor but does not represent the quarterback who would get the Bills over the hump.
Jimmy Garoppolo: The quarterback with the most promise potentially on the trade block is Garoppolo, who completed 71 percent of his passes for four touchdowns, no interceptions and a 119.0 passer rating in two starts for Tom Brady this season. New England will negotiate any trade this offseason from a position of strength because Garoppolo has one year left on his contract and the Patriots could simply keep him at an affordable price. There would also be a premium for the Patriots to trade Garoppolo within the division, making him unlikely to join the Bills next season.
AJ McCarron: There are two main reasons to like a trade for McCarron: He would be significantly more affordable than Taylor next season, and he is young enough (26) to be a candidate as the long-term starter. McCarron is entering the final season of his rookie deal and would be paid $690,000 next season. He did not attempt a pass in 2016 but completed 66 percent of his passes for an average of 7.2 yards per attempt, six touchdowns, two interceptions and a 97.1 passer rating in 2015. McCarron might not get the Bills into the playoffs in 2017, but he could be worth a test drive as the long-term starter if the trade price is right.
Potential free-agent targets
Colin Kaepernick: He is expected to opt out of his contract with the 49ers, putting him on the open market. If Kaepernick is willing to take a one-year, "prove it" deal with the Bills in order to re-establish himself as an NFL starter, maybe he is an option. Given Kaepernick's comments last season about Buffalo, that seems unlikely.
Mike Glennon: There will be competition for Glennon this offseason after he averaged about an 83 quarterback rating in 19 games with the Buccaneers in 2013-14. Yet, unless the Bills believe Glennon can take a big jump and turn into a long-term starter, he's probably not worth the deal he would receive.
Matt McGloin: The most extensive sample size to evaluate McGloin came as a rookie in 2013, when he completed only 55.9 percent of his passes for a 76.1 quarterback rating. Those are hardly numbers that should get the Bills to open up their wallets, but if the price is affordable, he is an option to bridge the gap to a younger quarterback.
Josh McCown: At this point in his career, McCown represents an affordable veteran option to keep the seat warm until the Bills are comfortable starting a younger quarterback -- but nothing more.