BUFFALO, NY (AP) – Leading the Bills to their first playoff appearance in 18 years wasn’t enough for Tyrod Taylor to secure his long-term future in Buffalo.
The Bills are starting over at quarterback after agreeing to trade their three-year starter to the Cleveland Browns on Friday, according to two people with direct knowledge of the trade. Cleveland is sending its first pick in the third round to Buffalo.
They spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity because NFL rules prohibit trades from being announced until next week when free agency opens and the league’s new calendar year begins.
The Browns added a proven starter in Taylor a year after going 0-16 on a day they also traded quarterback DeShone Kizer to the Green Bay Packers.
The Bills, by comparison, elected to move on from a quarterback who didn’t fit their long-term plans.
The Bills were preparing to release Taylor a year ago, before he agreed to restructure his contract by reducing it from a five-year to a two-year term.
General manager Brandon Beane and coach Sean McDermott provided no assurances over the past two months that Taylor would remain the team’s starter entering next season.
The trade was made a week before the Bills were due to pay Taylor a $6 million roster bonus.
Taylor’s departure leaves the Bills with a significant hole at the position with Nathan Peterman – a fifth-round draft pick last year – the only quarterback left on their roster.
One option is adding one of the many experienced quarterbacks expected to be available once the free agency period opens.
And then there’s the growing possibility of the Bills selecting one in the draft in April. With the addition of Cleveland’s third-round selection, Buffalo now has two picks in each of the first three rounds, including the 21st and 22nd overall.
The large haul of draft picks provides Beane plenty of assets to use in trades in the event he elects to move up higher in the draft order.
Beane said at the NFL’s rookie combine in Indianapolis 10 days ago that he planned to meet with every quarterback prospect available to be drafted.
The Browns were expected to target a quarterback in free agency, but instead have landed the dynamic Taylor. Cleveland is still expected to take a quarterback with the No. 1 overall pick in this year’s draft.
Earlier, the Browns worked out a trade with Miami for three-time Pro Bowl wide receiver Jarvis Landry.
Though noted for his mobility, Taylor was never able to overcome questions about his deficiencies as a passer and performing in the clutch in posting a 23-21 record in Buffalo.
Following two consecutive losses that dropped Buffalo’s record to 5-4 last season, McDermott made what he called a “calculated risk” to bench Taylor in favor of the raw and untested Peterman. The decision backfired immediately after Peterman threw five interceptions in the first half of a 54-24 loss at the Los Angeles Chargers.
Taylor regained the starting job the following week and finished the season winning three of his final five starts, with both losses coming against New England. He then went 17 of 37 for 134 yards passing and an interception before being sidelined by a concussion in the final minutes of Buffalo’s 10-3 loss to Jacksonville in an AFC wild-card playoff game.
As recently as the rookie combine, McDermott hedged when asked to provide Taylor a vote of confidence.
McDermott said that while cutting Taylor was not part of the team’s current plans, he wouldn’t rule out trading the quarterback.
Taylor’s mobility was his strength. He set Bills records for yards rushing among quarterbacks in each of his first two seasons.
He was, however, inconsistent in the passing attack in drawing criticism for being hesitant in the pocket and failing to find open receivers downfield. Including his one playoff start, Taylor was 2-14 when attempting 30 or more passes.
Taylor was at least an efficient quarterback by throwing 51 touchdowns versus just 14 interceptions in 44 games with Buffalo.
The Bills finished last season 29th in total yards and 31st in yards passing.
Not all of Buffalo’s offensive struggles could be blamed entirely on Taylor given the Bills’ patchwork and injury-depleted group of receivers. Jordan Matthews and Kelvin Benjamin, both acquired in trades, missed significant stretches because of injuries.
The quarterback change comes at a time McDermott has shuffled his offensive coaching staff. Rick Dennison was fired after just one season as coordinator and replaced by Brian Daboll, who spent last season overseeing national champion Alabama’s offense. Daboll also has extensive NFL experience, including offensive coordinator jobs with the Browns, Kansas City Chiefs and Miami Dolphins.
Taylor signed with Buffalo as a free agent in 2015 after spending his first four NFL seasons serving as Joe Flacco’s backup in Baltimore. He then emerged as the Bills season-opening starter after winning a three-way competition between Matt Cassel and returning starter EJ Manuel.