The Chicago Bears’ quarterback search will continue to be the main offseason focus, even if the team has other positions of need to fill in order to avoid a third straight losing season.
With the importance of the position being what it is at this point in the league, there will be plenty of names on the table as perceived fits, including ones we haven’t discussed all that much.
Enter ESPN’s John Clayton and Mike Sando, who predict Tyrod Taylor will be the Bears’ starting quarterback when the 2017 season begins. That comes as part of a fun exercise to predict the starting quarterbacks for all 32 NFL teams (you’ll have to read the Insider article if you want to see them all).
Taylor has been an infrequently-discussed player around these parts, mostly because it’s still not yet clear whether he’ll actually be made available.
Toward the end of the 2016 season, Taylor, 27, didn’t seem to be in Buffalo’s future after being sat in the final game of the season, after head coach Rex Ryan was fired. Further, Taylor’s contract features an option for 2017 that, if picked up, locks in nearly $30 million in guaranteed money, and also ensures that Taylor will count $15.9 million against the cap in 2017. It’s a significant financial decision, and the Bills have until March 11 to make it. For his part, Taylor is reportedly unwilling to restructure the contract to make the decision easier on the Bills.
Clayton and Sando describe the Bills as “reluctant” to pay Taylor what’s coming due on his contract, and, if he’s made a free agent, that’s when the Bears will pounce.
Taylor has thrown for more than 3,000 yards and rushed for more than 550 yards in each of his two seasons as the Bills’ starter. And for all the consternation in Buffalo about what to do with Taylor, he was a top ten quarterback by Total QBR in each of those seasons. He was also top ten by passer rating in 2015, though he slipped in 2016 to 18th, just ahead of Phillip Rivers and Carson Palmer. (For what it’s worth, even that diminished rating – 89.6 – topped Jay Cutler’s annual mark with the Bears in every single season except 2015.)
For the Bears, adding Taylor in the offseason would offer at least a short-term fix and potentially a certifiable long-term solution if enough goes well. And Taylor’s signing with the Bears wouldn’t preclude the team from also finding a developmental quarterback in the draft (while also using high-round picks to help bolster a more competitive club around Taylor).
It’s the kind of best-of-both-worlds scenario that would lessen some of the risk in going all-in on one direction when trying to find a quarterback. Of course, the Bears wouldn’t be the only team that could see Taylor as a fit, and now there’s even more uncertainty about what the wide receiver corps will look like for the team next year.
To that end, it’ll be worth watching what the Bills elect to do with Taylor and his contract before March 11.
Luis Medina contributed to this post.