Tyrod Taylor's pay cut gives Bills chance to cut ties after 2017

Bills, Taylor played it safe on reunion (1:11)

Adam Schefter examines how the Bills and QB Tyrod Taylor agreed to terms on a restructured contract. (1:11)

If the uncertainty surrounding quarterback Tyrod Taylor this winter was not exhausting enough for some Buffalo Bills fans, here is some bad news: Next offseason could begin with a similar situation, with Taylor's future dangling in the wind.

Under the terms of Taylor's restructured contract he signed last week, the Bills' starter will take a $10 million pay cut from his previous deal. Instead of earning $40.5 million combined in 2017 and 2018, and remaining under the Bills' control through 2021, Taylor will earn $30.5 million and become a free agent in 2019. His fully-guaranteed pay will also be slashed from $30.75 million to $15.5 million.

Not only are the Bills paying Taylor less for his services, but the deal also increases their flexibility to release Taylor after the 2017 season. That is a win for the Bills, who are clearly not sold on Taylor's potential to be their long-term starting quarterback.

If Taylor's play this season does not warrant him remaining with the team, the Bills can cut Taylor next offseason and save $9 million of his $10 million 2018 base salary (the other $1 million is guaranteed). The team would take a $7.64 million dead-money hit (the remaining $5.6 million of his new signing bonus, as well as the remaining $2.04 million of his previous signing bonus), but it would still save about $10 million off his $18.08 million cap number in 2018. It should also have the option of designating Taylor as a post-June 1 cut, which would push $5.56 million of his dead money into 2019.

The math on releasing Taylor assumes Buffalo would cut him before a $6 million roster bonus is due in 2018; the date was not listed in documents filed with the NFLPA (the full details of which are below):


Base salary: $7.5 million (fully guaranteed)

Signing bonus proration (Mar. 10, 2017 deal): $1.4 million

Signing bonus proration (Aug. 12, 2016 deal): $680,000

Signing bonus proration (Mar. 13, 2015 deal): $133,334

Cap number: $9.713 million


Base salary: $10 million ($1 million fully guaranteed)

Signing bonus proration (Mar. 10, 2017 deal): $1.4 million

Signing bonus proration (Aug. 12, 2016 deal): $680,000

Roster bonus: $6 million

Cap number: $18.08 million


Automatically voids on the fifth day after the February 2019 Super Bowl.

Dead money from signing bonus proration (Mar. 10, 2017 deal): $4.2 million

Dead money from signing bonus proration (Aug. 12, 2016 deal): $1.36 million

Taylor taking the pay cut was not an expected outcome throughout January or February. The assumption was that teams flush with salary-cap space -- such as the Cleveland Browns or San Francisco 49ers -- would be ready to pay Taylor as much or more than the Bills if he was released. But that market never materialized.

"There were a few teams out there but, I mean, I’m still under contract," Taylor said of other teams' interest in signing him. "It wasn’t like I was released or anything, so I mean I couldn’t do too much and I wasn’t looking to do that. ... I didn’t physically talk to any other teams. Casual conversation with my agent though. I mean, everyone’s at the combine and stuff like that. No official conversations."

Whether those other teams were the Browns, 49ers, New York Jets, Chicago Bears or other quarterback-needy clubs, it is clear that Taylor and his agent came away from the "casual" conversations with a feeling the Bills' pay cut was their best deal on the table. The decision to accept the restructured contract, Taylor said, was made early last week.

The lack of interest from other teams suggests that Taylor is not viewed as favorably around the league as initially thought. Likewise, the Bills did not view Taylor's value in line with the $30.75 million he would have been guaranteed on March 11 under his previous deal; Buffalo was in the process of lining up Brian Hoyer as a replacement when Taylor took the pay cut.

In taking the new deal, Taylor lowered his 2017 salary-cap number from $15.9 million to $9.7 million, which the quarterback hoped would give the Bills financial wiggle room to build a better team around him.

"Hopefully we can bring in some guys [at receiver]," Taylor told the Bills-produced radio show last Thursday. "We definitely have some guys on the roster, as well, too. But the more talent the better. I put my faith and my trust in the coaches and the management, that they'll bring in some guys that can create some plays for us."

To this point, the Bills' depth at receiver has been weakened through the first days of free agency. No. 2 receiver Robert Woods signed with the Los Angeles Rams, while No. 3 receiver Marquise Goodwin joined the 49ers. The Bills have signed receivers Corey Brown and Jeremy Butler, who were both restricted free agents their old teams did not tender. Overall, the Bills' group of receivers -- headlined by Sammy Watkins and also including Walter Powell, Kolby Listenbee and Dezmin Lewis -- is among the weakest position groups in the league.

The draft will be the best way for the Bills to improve their talent at receiver, but there is no sure bet a rookie will immediately develop chemistry with Taylor and contribute. Ultimately, the Bills' lack of depth at receiver could inhibit Taylor's performance this season and cause the Bills to again consider releasing him next offseason.

Who's ready for Round 2?