Will the Bills have the NFL's worst quarterbacks in 2018?

With about three weeks until the draft, this is not the time to believe everything that is said across the NFL.

But if Buffalo Bills owner Terry Pegula was being truthful -- and not necessarily strategic -- last week, then the Bills might have a higher opinion of their current quarterback situation than most do.

"Without tipping our hand at what we're going to do in the draft, we look at all positions," Pegula said at the annual league meetings. "It could be a quarterback. But we're not in as bad of shape as you might think we are at that position right now."

The Bills' trades last month of quarterback Tyrod Taylor, in exchange for a third-round pick, and left tackle Cordy Glenn, moving the Bills from No. 21 to No. 12 in the first round, added fuel to already-rampant speculation Buffalo was maneuvering to trade up further in the first round and acquire one of the draft's top quarterbacks.

Yet within days, the New York Jets made an aggressive trade to move from No. 6 to No. 3, potentially boxing out their division rival from what appeared to be a prime draft slot for a team looking for a franchise quarterback.

In the wake of the Jets' trade, Bills general manager Brandon Beane stressed at the league meetings -- as he did at his combine and post-free agency news conferences -- that it is far from certain he trades up for a quarterback.

That could be viewed as a negotiating tactic from Beane, who might not want to appear too desperate, or simply a way of managing fans' expectations if he is unable to execute a trade up the board.

But Pegula's comment the next day seemed to be more than a smokescreen. His hint that the Bills are happier than most believe with only AJ McCarron and Nathan Peterman on their roster at quarterback suggests Beane keeping his bounty of draft selections and going a different direction than quarterback at No. 12 overall is a real possibility.

Is the Bills' level of comfort with their current quarterbacks justified? Consider the following:

  • Between McCarron (11) and Peterman (4), the Bills' quarterbacks have a combined 15 regular-season appearances. That gives Buffalo the least game experience at quarterback of any NFL team. The Los Angeles Rams (29 regular-season games), San Francisco 49ers (30) and Dallas Cowboys (34) and Houston Texans (42) round out the bottom five. The league average for total regular-season appearances among their quarterbacks is 127, and the median is 107.

  • Both McCarron and Peterman were fifth-round draft picks. Among quarterbacks drafted in the past 15 years, only five picked in the fifth round or later, or who were undrafted, have winning records in the regular season and playoffs: Drew Henson (1-0), Dennis Dixon (2-1), Craig Krenzel (3-2), Trevor Siemian (13-11) and Taylor (22-20). McCarron (2-2) and Peterman (1-1) are among the three quarterbacks, along with Troy Smith (4-4), with .500 records.

  • McCarron (174) and Peterman (49) have attempted a combined 223 passes in the regular season and playoffs since 2015. Among the 79 quarterbacks who have attempted at least 49 passes over that span, McCarron ranks 37th in Total QBR (48.0) and Peterman ranks 78th (10.8). In terms of passer rating, McCarron (87.6) ranks 28th and Peterman ranks 79th (38.4).

If the Bills keep the status quo and do not select a quarterback high in the draft, they would have statistically one of the NFL's worst starters (McCarron) and possibly the league's worst backup (Peterman). Both offer youth and upside, but history among late-round quarterbacks suggests an uphill battle for either to become a viable long-term NFL starter.

Whether or not the Bills draft a quarterback, they almost certainly will have the NFL's least-experienced quarterback room in 2018 and how the situation is framed will be key for management.

If coach Sean McDermott carries over his theme from his successful 2017 in stressing a win-now mentality and avoiding the word "rebuilding," then he and Beane are placing a huge bet that either McCarron or Peterman can meet a bar that was raised when the Bills snapped a 17-year playoff drought last season. If the Bills do not add a top quarterback in the draft, the pressure on Beane and McDermott, as well as McCarron or Peterman, would become even greater with no apparent succession plan at quarterback.

Even if Buffalo is able to swing a trade up in the draft for a top quarterback, it would be placing the weight of the franchise on the rookie by starting him immediately and expecting instant success.

However, if McDermott and Beane continue their messaging from this offseason -- that the Bills are a "long way" from being a complete team -- then there could be a greater public tolerance for growing pains at quarterback. Whether it is McCarron, Peterman or a high draft pick under center, the idea would be to develop in 2018 in hopes of competing in 2019.

Instead of taking a step forward from a playoff appearance in 2017 and potentially advancing deeper into the postseason, the Bills' questions at quarterback could result in a step backward in 2018.