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The past two seasons have seen the debate about Tyrod Taylor shift. What was once discussion about whether Taylor is the Buffalo Bills‘ franchise quarterback has now become conversation about his immediate future with the team.

The downward trend of Taylor’s statistical performance since he won the Bills’ starting job in 2015 has made it increasingly difficult to argue Taylor is worth a long-term deal in Buffalo. However, his strengths relative to other options at quarterback still make Taylor viable as the Bills’ starter in 2018.

Clarity about Taylor’s status seems to be on the horizon. Taylor is due a $6 million roster bonus March 16, which is a checkpoint for Buffalo’s interest in keeping him next season. Free agency begins and trades can be executed the same week, which would be an opportunity for the Bills to find a replacement for Taylor on the veteran quarterback market.

In the almost seven weeks since the Bills’ season ended with a playoff loss to Jacksonville, there has been extensive analysis about the possibilities should Buffalo decide to trade or release Taylor.

But what if the Bills decide to keep Taylor?

Keeping Taylor on the roster March 16 and paying his bonus would not necessarily guarantee he is the starter next season, nor would it preclude Buffalo from swinging a trade to select a quarterback high in April’s draft.

Theoretically, the Bills could pay Taylor his bonus as insurance against not finding another quarterback this offseason, and later trade or release him if a better option is acquired.

Here are some pros and cons to consider under each scenario: the Bills trading or releasing Taylor, the Bills paying Taylor his bonus but later moving on, and the Bills keeping Taylor as their starter.

Trade or release Taylor before March 16

Pros: The Bills would avoid an unnecessary $6 million salary-cap charge (Taylor’s roster bonus) in 2018, when the team is somewhat limited against the cap. Trading or releasing Taylor before the roster bonus would free up $10 million in cap space, and the team could push another $5.6 million into 2019 by designating him as a post-June 1 cut. Doing so would cause Taylor’s entire $18 million cap number to count until June, but the transaction should help Buffalo either use the extra cap space to help fill holes on a thin roster or roll over the cap space into 2019.

After more than a year of uncertainty about his future, Taylor likely would appreciate the opportunity to find another team in March when starting jobs are open as opposed to being traded or released later in the offseason when teams already have set their quarterback plans. Much like the firing of offensive coordinator Rick Dennison last month, the Bills moving on from Taylor would probably receive a positive reception from fans looking for an upgrade from the NFL’s 31st-ranked passing offense last season.

Further, making a move with Taylor now would make the Bills a more attractive landing spot for a veteran free-agent quarterback. It is unlikely Buffalo would pursue Kirk Cousins or Case Keenum, but lower-cost options would see Buffalo as a much better fit if Taylor was not in the mix. Waiting to trade or release Taylor until later in the offseason could leave the Bills without a capable veteran in the quarterback room.

Cons: The Bills risk moving a chess piece without a plan for the next move. Executing a trade of Taylor might be difficult in the 32-hour window between the start of the free-agent signing period and when his roster bonus is due. Teams pursuing free-agent quarterbacks might not be ready to trade for Taylor until they learn whether they can make another signing. That could leave the Bills in a more desperate position to take a lesser deal for Taylor before the roster bonus is due, or could result in them releasing him without anything in return.

In the case of either a trade or release, the Bills would have a need for a veteran quarterback, which will eat into their salary-cap savings from Taylor. Letting Taylor go, not signing a top veteran free agent and missing on a top quarterback prospect in the draft would leave Buffalo in a precarious spot.

Pay Taylor his roster bonus but later trade or release him

Pros: The Bills would be eating $6 million of Taylor’s 2018 salary-cap charge, which could make him more attractive for a trade partner that would then only be inheriting a one-year deal with a $10 million salary and only $1 million guaranteed. While there are several options on the quarterback market this March that could make Taylor less valuable in a trade, there could be fewer players available in August in the event of a training camp injury. Such desperation allowed the Philadelphia Eagles to net a first-round pick from the Minnesota Vikings in September 2016 for Sam Bradford after Teddy Bridgewater‘s knee injury. The Eagles turned the offense over to then-rookie Carson Wentz, and the Bills could theoretically start a rookie if Taylor is traded late in the offseason or preseason.

Taylor also would act as insurance in case the Bills cannot acquire a quarterback they desire in the draft.

Cons: Buffalo might eventually be able to trade Taylor later in the offseason, but they would be essentially paying $6 million for a potentially higher return on the trade, which might not be worth it. Trading or releasing Taylor after June 1 would ensure that $5.6 million of his dead money hits the salary cap in 2019 and not 2018, but overall the Bills would still be paying $6 million more in dead money. With needs across the roster, that could be viewed as a waste.

Waiting until later in the offseason to make a move with Taylor also could preclude the Bills from adding a veteran in the spring. That means, without Taylor by September, the Bills could be left with only a rookie and Nathan Peterman under center — or be searching for another option.

Keep Taylor as the starter in 2018

Pros: This is what the Bills opted to do after exploring their options last offseason. It was the safe route, and whether Buffalo would have been better off transitioning to a younger quarterback is still up for debate. But the decision to keep Taylor steadied the Bills’ ship under first-year coach Sean McDermott and contributed to a playoff berth.

Because of Taylor’s restructured contract, the Bills have no commitment to him beyond 2018. That could make him an attractive bridge option who starts this season and eventually yields the job to a draft pick. The Bills might be able to find a cheaper quarterback to fill that role on the free-agent market, but that might either cost more or result in a less talented player. Taylor’s cost is still aligned with his value.

Cons: Fan sentiment can be hard to measure, but keeping Taylor for a fourth season as the starter could be a hard sell for a fan base that generally seemed anxious for change by the end of last season. Taylor has not shown he can help the Bills take the next step, and after seven seasons in the NFL, it is fair to question whether Taylor will get any better. McDermott and general manager Brandon Beane helped create a sense of progress around the Bills last season, but keeping Taylor could cause stagnation to creep in.

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Tony Jones, two-time Super Bowl champion with Denver Broncos, dies at 54

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ENGLEWOOD, Colo. — Tony Jones, a starting tackle on two of the Denver Broncos‘ championship teams, has died, the team announced Friday. He was 54.

Jones, who started at right tackle in the Broncos’ win in Super Bowl XXXII and started at left tackle when the team won Super Bowl XXXIII the following year, played 13 seasons in the NFL with the Cleveland Browns, Baltimore Ravens and Broncos after he entered the league as an undrafted rookie in 1988.

Known as “T-Bone” to his Broncos teammates, he spent the last four years of his career with the Broncos, retiring after he started 16 games in the 2000 season at age 34.

“We lost a great man,” former teammate Rod Smith posted on Twitter. “Just happened to be a hell of a ball playa. We love you and miss you Bone. One of the Broncos’ all time best tackles. Greatest dresser of ALL TIME!”

Ed McCaffrey, another former teammate on the Broncos, called Jones “a great teammate and a wonderful man,” and Hall of Famer Steve Atwater, who also played on those two Super Bowl teams, said Jones was “a great teammate” with “just the most beautiful kids.”

Atwater also said Friday night that many of the players on those Broncos teams have continued to stay in contact with one another and that “everybody is hurting in this.”

The Broncos, believing they were poised to rebound from a playoff loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars to end the 1996 season, traded a second-round pick to the Ravens in 1997 to acquire Jones.

In Super Bowl XXXII, at right tackle, he held Hall of Famer Reggie White without a sack and to one tackle overall as the Broncos rushed for 179 yards and Hall of Famer Terrell Davis was named the game’s MVP.

After Gary Zimmerman, also a Hall of Famer, retired before the 1998 season, Jones moved to left tackle and started every game on the way to a Pro Bowl selection as the Broncos went on to win a second consecutive title.

Jones was named to the Broncos’ Top 100 team in 2019.

In a social media post, former Bengals tackle Willie Anderson called Jones “a great dad, friend, offensive tackle, trainer and coach.”

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Panthers GM Scott Fitterer doesn’t commit to Teddy Bridgewater – Carolina Panthers Blog

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CHARLOTTE, N.C. — Scott Fitterer looked the part of general manager, dressed in the dark blue suit he bought 12 days ago in Charlotte because the clothes he brought from Seattle for his interview with the Carolina Panthers were tight after nearly a year in a pandemic.

He sounded like a GM, not discussing specific players or plans until he gets to meet, and learn more about, everybody in the organization.

What kind of general manager Seattle’s former vice president of football operations will be for Carolina remains to be seen.

Here’s what we learned from Friday’s made-for-Zoom introductory news conference:

Noncommittal on quarterback Teddy Bridgewater: Fitterer began by saying he wouldn’t talk about specific players. He mentioned only two, linebacker/safety Jeremy Chinn and running back Christian McCaffrey. He mentioned Chinn because they have a mutual friend/agent. McCaffrey came up at the end when Fitterer said he wanted to talk to “Christian and other leaders on the team.’’ Bridgewater never got a mention despite several questions referring to him. Make of that what you want.

However, when asked for his definition of a franchise quarterback, second on Fitterer’s short list of criteria was “someone who can win when the game is on the line in the fourth quarter.’’ Bridgewater was 0-8 this past season when he had a chance on his final possession to win or tie the game.

Deshaun Watson interest: The Panthers have been linked in multiple reports to interest in trading for the disgruntled Houston Texans quarterback if he becomes available. Fitterer didn’t mention Watson by name. When reminded that Seattle lived by the mantra that it wanted to be in on every big deal in the NFL, even if it didn’t realistically have a shot, Fitterer said, “We will be in on every deal.’’ This was a big part of Seattle’s culture, because it helped the organization learn about others. It also allowed officials to reduce second-guessing.

Roster philosophy: Fitterer made it clear it starts with the quarterback. A former college quarterback himself, Fitterer helped Seattle find a pretty good one in Russell Wilson. Again, read into his silence on Bridgewater as you please. After quarterback, Fitterer plans to build inside out with offensive and defensive linemen.

Draft philosophy: Fitterer called having the No. 8 pick in this year’s draft a “new adventure,’’ and with good reason. The last time he had a pick higher than 27th was 2012, when the Seahawks picked 15th. He has made a living hitting on second- to middle-round picks. Wilson was a third-rounder in 2012. Fitterer found in Seattle that the top-tier players usually stopped between 16 and 18, and that in general there wasn’t a huge difference in players between 25 and 40. Seattle often traded down to acquire more picks. One instance was last year, when it gave Carolina the 64th pick (second round) for picks No. 69 and 148. The Panthers used that on Chinn, who became a strong candidate for NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year. Fitterer said the eighth pick was great because it gave him flexibility to trade up or down. So don’t get comfortable at No. 8.

Who’s in charge? You’ve read here for a while that coach Matt Rhule will have the final say over the roster. Rhule reinforced that by saying, “In terms of on the contract, a lot of those things probably rest with me.’’ He also said that that’s a formality and that he welcomes a GM who will argue with him. He ultimately wants this to be a collaborative effort the way it was in Seattle.

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Source — Matt Patricia returning to New England Patriots to assist Bill Belichick’s staff

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FOXBOROUGH, Mass. — Matt Patricia, who was fired as Detroit Lions head coach in November before the completion of his third year on the job, is returning to the New England Patriots‘ coaching staff in 2021, a source confirmed.

Patricia had been an assistant on Bill Belichick’s staff from 2004 to 2017 before landing the Lions job. In Detroit, he posted a 13-29-1 record, with one of those victories coming over Belichick’s Patriots early in his first season.

It was a turbulent tenure in Detroit for Patricia, and a return to New England — where he is expected to assist Belichick’s staff in a variety of roles — provides him a safe and familiar haven in which to continue his coaching career in the NFL.

Patricia, 46, had most recently served as the Patriots’ defensive coordinator from 2012 to 2017, and in his absence, Belichick hasn’t given that title to another coach. But Belichick referenced this past season that his son Steve, the outside linebackers coach, was calling the defense.

Also, inside linebackers coach Jerod Mayo has a significant role. Mayo, 34, is considered a coach on the rise, as evidenced by his recent interview with the Philadelphia Eagles for their head-coaching opening that went to Indianapolis Colts offensive coordinator Nick Sirianni.

Patricia’s return mirrors, in part, what came in 2014, when Belichick hired Michael Lombardi — his former director of player personnel with the Cleveland Browns (1991-95) — as an assistant to the head coach.

The familiarity that Lombardi had with Belichick, and the team’s overall system, made his transition into the organization rather seamless.

The Boston Globe first reported Patricia’s return.

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