Sep 28, 2014; Houston, TX, USA; Buffalo Bills quarterback EJ Manuel (3) throws during the game against the Houston Texans at NRG Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports
With the first wave of cap casualties and the NFL Combine underway, the NFL off-season is in full swing.
Getting off to a fast start in the off-season can make or break a team by the time the regular season comes around. The Buffalo Bills already got the ball rolling when they signed troubled offensive guard Richie Incognito on Feb. 7, but that’s just the start.
Buffalo will need to answer plenty of questions the next few months concerning their roster, and none are more important than the quarterback position.
Here’s a breakdown of how the Bills can find their next starting quarterback:
On The Roster
With the somewhat surprising retirement of Kyle Orton at the end of the regular season, Buffalo’s left with EJ Manuel and Jeff Tuel on their roster.
You can erase Tuel from the list of possible Week 1 starters. It’s simple, Tuel just doesn’t have enough talent to be a starter in this league. Manuel on the other hand has a lot of potential. However, Manuel’s potential is the exact reason why Buffalo drafted him in the first place, and after 14 games the former Seminole has yet to silence the critics.
With all of that being said, don’t be surprised if Manuel is the starting quarterback come opening day. Manuel has shown glimpses of starter material, but just needs to play more consistently.
With Josh McCown visiting One Bills Drive on Feb. 16, the former Buccaneers quarterback is the best place to start.
While there are less attractive options in the free agent market, McCown is certainly not the best-case scenario for Buffalo. But there’s no problem with bringing McCown in to fight for a roster spot in training camp.
Then, there’s Rex’s guy – Michael Vick. No, Vick is not what he used to be, but does have something left in the tank. Vick had a better season, statistically, than Orton (-21.7 Pro Football Focus grade compared to -22.9) with a lot less around him. Vick is a better option than McCown, but like McCown he isn’t a long-term solution.
That leaves the discussion to Mark Sanchez. Sanchez is an obvious favorite in Buffalo because of his ties with Ryan. Believe it or not, Sanchez might be the best alternative in free agency. While Sanchez struggled down the stretch for Philadelphia this past season, he played beyond expectations. If Sanchez is asked to hand the ball off 35-40 times a game and only throw it 25 times, he can be a successful starting quarterback.
Lastly, keep an eye on Jake Locker. The former Titans quarterback could be a free agency dark horse. If Locker stays healthy, he has the talent to be a full-time starter in the NFL.
The draft is the best place to find your franchise quarterback, but at the same time it’s also very risky – a la Ryan Leaf, J.P. Losman and JaMarcus Russell. Buffalo is without a first round draft pick, and many draft analysts believe that there are no quarterbacks projected to be starters in the NFL available outside of Day 1. That doesn’t mean, the Bills shouldn’t use one of their draft picks on a quarterback anyways.
Two quarterback’s to keep an eye on in May are UCLA’s Brett Hundley and Baylor’s Bryce Petty. The chances of Hundley landing to Buffalo at pick 50 are slim, but if he’s there the Bills must take him. Hundley’s the type of player who comes into the draft with a lot of raw talent. With the way the Bills’ quarterback situation is shaping up, the UCLA quarterback could sit and watch for a year and learn. Petty struggled at the Senior Bowl and could see his draft stock drop because of it, but the quarterback has an arm. Some are a bit wary of Petty coming from Baylor’s system, but if Buffalo can get the most out of the senior he could be worth it.
Projected Depth Chart: EJ Manuel – Jake Locker – Bryce Petty – Jeff Tuel