The Buffalo Bills have had quite a week. Since the “legal tampering” period opened, fans in Western New York have been bombarded with breaking news.
In his first full offseason as general manager, Brandon Beane quickly addressed glaring holes on defense, acquiring both starters and depth players in the early going. While players like Star Lotulelei and Trent Murphy headlined the first official day of free agency, the most intriguing acquisition came that evening.
With popular “bridge” quarterback options like Teddy Bridgewater, Josh McCown and Sam Bradford off the market, fans began to speculate whether or not the Bills would seriously pursue a veteran signal caller. Though there are quarterbacks in the upcoming draft who will likely be NFL ready right out of the gate, a veteran mentor would still be a useful asset for a developing rookie. With only Nathan Peterman on the current depth chart, a sense of relief cascaded over the Bills Twitterverse when the news broke that the team had reached an agreement with former Cincinnati Bengals backup, A.J. McCarron.
The four-year veteran entered the offseason as an unrestricted free agent who many believed would sign an expensive contract on the open market. It was reported last season that the Cleveland Browns nearly acquired him in exchange for a second and third-round draft pick, but they failed to call the trade into the NFL league office prior to the trade deadline. Bills fans who were originally on the fence about the acquisition quickly came around once the details of the two-year, $10 million deal were released.
Not only did Beane manage to hold his cards long enough to sign a viable backup for pennies on the dollar, he effectively added a player who just months prior, was nearly traded for two high draft picks. Add that to the fact he managed to obtain the first pick of the third round in exchange for Tyrod Taylor, the rookie GM was masterful in executing his plan.
How about that process, huh?
Despite a near perfect start to the offseason, there is one critical piece left to the puzzle. A veteran is a nice addition, but the Bills still need to use the plethora of draft picks in their war chest to move up into the top-five and select a franchise quarterback. McCarron’s role next season will ultimately be determined by who the Bills pick in April.
If the front office decides to climb to the top of the draft and select one of Josh Rosen or Baker Mayfield, then McCarron might never see the field. Both players are incredibly polished. The professional stage won’t be too big for either of them. Say what you will about their respective attitudes, but these young men bring a fire and confidence that the franchise has lacked since the early-90’s.
Should Beane and company set their sights on Josh Allen, Sam Darnold or Lamar Jackson, they might be better suited letting the veteran take the reins for the 2018-19 season. All three players have potential, but there is a great deal of fine-tuning that needs to occur before throwing them into the fire.
In his introductory press conference, McCarron expressed his excitement at the opportunity to compete for playing time in Buffalo. While he certainly won’t concede the starting role, he realizes that the Bills are likely to draft a quarterback of the future, and he’s prepared to serve as a mentor.
“I think you always help a younger guy along,” he said. “I have never been the type to not do that. I think karma is a son of a gun and it can come back to bite you. If I am better than the other guy, then I just trust in my talents and go out and play my game. If it doesn’t work out, then you learn to be a great teammate, be a part of the team.”
At the end of the day, whether you’re a fan of McCarron or not, the Bills bought themselves an inexpensive, reliable insurance policy at the game’s most important position. Even something as mundane and seemingly irrelevant as a depth quarterback signing shows that this regime has a different approach. For the first time in decades, there is a clear direction at One Bills Drive.
Editor’s babble: Very excited to introduce Anthony Sciandra to the BillsMafia-blog family (we’re proud of both of our ‘Anthonys’ :) We look forward to his contributions! You can follow Anthony on Twitter @SciandraSports. Welcome aboard! Oh, and I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that Anthony is another proud University at Buffalo alumnus. Congratulations #UBmenshoops on their stunning victory over Arizona at the NCAA Tournament on Thursday night. #UBhornsUP.
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