Josh McCown to Cleveland, Bills Look Elsewhere for a QB

As you scroll through Buffalo sports rosters next season, you may see a last name beginning with “Mc”, but Josh McCown’s name won’t be one of them (pray for 30th place Sabres fans). I can hear the collective sigh of relief in Buffalo.  Many people were not looking forward to the possibility of Josh McCown, a 35 year old journeyman quarterback coming to Buffalo.  It’s no secret that the Bills are looking for competition at the most important position on the football field. 3rd year quarterback E.J. Manuel has shown some signs of upside, but unfortunately his inconsistencies, mainly in the accuracy department, have outweighed his upside. 

NFL Media insider Ian Rapoport explains Buffalo was close to signing McCown-

Last week, the Bills were linked to a possible trade for Sam Bradford from the St. Louis Rams. Bradford was the No. 1 overall pick in the 2010 NFL Draft. He signed the biggest rookie contract in NFL history at 78 million (50 million guaranteed). However, he has an extensive history of injuries, starting with a shoulder injury in his junior year of college at Oklahoma, and two ACL tears in the NFL. Many NFL reporters quickly put these rumors to rest. 

With that being said, the Bills don't have many decent options. They can only create an open competition between EJ Manuel and some free agent and draft options. Here's the list of them:

Free Agent Options:

Mark Sanchez-

  Photo Courtesy: Tom Gannam/AP

  Photo Courtesy: Tom Gannam/AP

 

We all know the link between Rex Ryan and Mark Sanchez. Sanchez started his first four years on the New York Jets with Rex at head coach. Together, with the benefit of solid defensive play and a "ground and pound" type offense, the Jets went to two AFC Championship Games, including an upset of the Patriots in 2010 in the Divisional Round. Eventually, after a couple of years the Jets declining, Sanchez hurt his shoulder in the 2013 preseason. Geno Smith became the starter and Sanchez signed with the Philadelphia Eagles in the offseason. In 2014, Nick Foles was injured in week 9, making Mark Sanchez their starting quarterback. He finished the season with a 4-4 record and a 14-11 TD/INT ratio.

Jake Locker- 

After his Junior year of college, Locker was a projected No. 1 overall pick. He decided to stay in school at Washington and play his Senior season. He was drafted in 2011 by the Tennessee Titans. His career storyline has been full of nothing but nagging injuries. Locker possesses the athleticism that can complement Buffalo's offense nicely. However, his below average 57.5 completion percentage and injuries make it a tough call to target him. 

What do these next three three guys have in common? 

...they all played behind Tom Brady. 

Matt Cassel- 

His situation is different because he's still under contract with the Vikings. The popular belief is that he will be released at some point. After entering the league as a 7th round pick in 2005, Cassel had the opportunity to prove himself in 2008. Tom Brady tore his ACL and MCL in the first game when the "Patriot Killer" himself, Bernard Pollard, hit him low. Matt Cassel impressed, leading the Patriots to an 11-5 record. In 2009 he was traded to the Chiefs. Cassel had a couple of nice statistical seasons in Kansas City, including a playoff berth in 2010. Overall, he was inconsistent and his best years seem to be behind him. His last days with the Chiefs and last two years with the Vikings were nothing to write home about. 

Brian Hoyer-

2014 was the first year where Hoyer had more than 3 starts in the NFL. He played well in 2013 until he tore his ACL in a Thursday night game against the Bills, when rookie Kiko Alonso tackled him awkwardly. He started most of 2014 despite the huge hype about Johnny Manziel being drafted. Overall, he was very inconsistent when it came to accuracy and was eventually replaced by Manziel. I don't see him fitting in in any way, but he's worth mentioning. 

Ryan Mallett-

I have to be honest, I was a fan of drafting Ryan Mallett out of Arkansas. He had some character issues to clean up, but he had the cannon of an arm to play in Buffalo. After sitting behind Tom Brady for a few seasons, he was traded to the Houston Texans. After shaky play from former Buffalo Bill, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Mallett was given the starting role. He played in three games before tearing his pectoral muscle against the Bengals, which ended his season. Just like Hoyer, I don't see this being one of the Bills' higher options. 

*Pending whether Houston tries to resign him by March 10th 

Draft options to look out for:

Although these three guys aren't the only quarterbacks available in the draft, they seem to be the best options in my opinion. Greg Roman, the Bills' offensive coordinator, tried to use Colin Kaepernick's athleticism to the best of his ability in San Francisco. These quarterbacks fit that mold and seem to be the best options for the Bills to look at in the draft. 

  Photo Courtesy: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images, Luis SInco/ LA Times, Mitch Stringer/USA Today  

  Photo Courtesy: Ronald Martinez/Getty Images, Luis SInco/ LA Times, Mitch Stringer/USA Today

 

Bryce Petty (Baylor)-

HT: 6'3"

WT: 230lbs. 

In two years as a starter for the Baylor Bears, Bryce Petty threw only 10 interceptions while racking up 61 touchdowns through the air and 20 touchdowns rushing. Scouts tend to believe he's going to need time on the bench in the NFL to develop instead of playing in a starting role right away. Baylor featured an uptempo offense, mostly from an open look in the shotgun. Just like the knock on Marcus Mariota, NFL teams want to see him take snaps under center. If Rex Ryan and Greg Roman run a "ground and pound" offense like expected, this will be important. 

Brandon Bridge (South Alabama)-

HT: 6'4"

WT: 229lbs.

Brandon Bridge's name has come up many times since the combine. He's an intriguing player. He has a cannon for an arm, but it very shaky in the accuracy department. A 52.1 completion percentage at South Alabama would make most Bill's fans cringe, seeing as that happens to be EJ Manuel's biggest problem. Bridge has shown good athleticism and an ability to escape the pocket. He only started one full season in the Sun Belt Conference at South Alabama. There's no doubt that he has nice upside, but he'll have to prove himself big time. 

Brett Hundley (UCLA)-

HT: 6'3"

WT: 226lbs.

Hundley is another quarterback that rarely ever set up under center in college. He's very athletic, but one of the big concerns with him is that he didn't take shots downfield. 8.05 yards per attempt is conservative to say the least and his numbers weren't much different in years prior.

 

Others worth mentioning are Garrett Grayson (Colorado St.) and Shane Carden (East Carolina). These guys are pocket passers. My gut tells me that Rex and Greg Roman may lean toward an athletic quarterback. Josh McCown is no burner himself, but he has a career 4.7 yards per attempt on the ground.  

As you can see, there are not many great options this offseason, seeing as Josh McCown seemed to be the popular option. It's tough to find a franchise quarterback nowadays, even with highly graded quarterbacks coming out of college. With Marcus Mariota (Oregon) and Jameis Winston (Florida State) being the only first round projected quarterbacks in 2015, the talent level takes a steep drop at the position for the rest of the draft. 

My "ideal" situation (if you want to call it that), would be signing Mark Sanchez and then drafting Petty or Hundley in the late rounds, to bring in a three-way competition for training camp. The Bills can't afford to waste another season of an elite defense. With a more aggressive coaching staff on board, it will be interesting to see what type of approach they take at the quarterback position.