ORCHARD PARK, N.Y. (AP) — Tyrod Taylor will remain the Buffalo Bills starter after the team announced it restructured the player’s five-year contract extension on Wednesday.
The move was made a day before the NFL’s free-agency period began, and before the Bills faced a deadline on Saturday to determine whether to pick up the extension Taylor signed in August or part ways with the two-year starter.
Taylor’s long-term future in Buffalo had otherwise been in question since the season ended, when general manager Doug Whaley declined to say whether the team was committed to keeping the player. Newly hired coach Sean McDermott also declined to discuss Taylor’s future after he took over in January after Rex Ryan’s dismissal.
“We are excited about the opportunity to keep Tyrod with the Bills,” McDermott said in a release issued by the team. “I’ve gotten a chance to know Tyrod and study him over the past several weeks and he is both a great person and competitor.”
In referring to Whaley, McDermott added: “Doug and I are confident this was the best move for the Bills at this time.”
Under the initial contract extension, Taylor was due to be paid just under $31 million in salary and bonuses during the first year of the deal, and count nearly $16 million against Buffalo’s salary cap.
That’s a pricey amount for a team that was set to begin free agency with about $22 million in salary cap space and with numerous needs to address including holes at receiver and defensive back.
The Bills were testing their options at quarterback, including having preliminary talks with eight-year journeyman Brian Hoyer. It’s unclear if Hoyer will now fit in Buffalo’s plans with Taylor now returning.
Taylor had surgery in January to repair a sports hernia, but has since been cleared for practice.
Taylor has a 15-14 record in two seasons with Buffalo. He signed with the Bills two years ago after spending his first four NFL seasons serving as Joe Flacco’s backup in Baltimore.
He’s coming off an inconsistent season in going 7-8 last year, and missed the final game when he was benched in favor of backup EJ Manuel.
Taylor went 269 of 436 for 3,023 yards passing, with 17 touchdowns passing versus just six interceptions. He continued to be a dual threat as a runner in finishing with 580 yards rushing to break the franchise record for quarterbacks he set a year earlier.
Critics of Taylor say he hesitates in the pocket, can’t win games with his arm and struggles in rallying the Bills when trailing.
In two seasons, Taylor had a 1-10 record when attempting 30 or more passes. He was also 2-14 in games Buffalo trailed by 4 points or more at any juncture of a game.
In Taylor’s defense last season, the Bills were plagued by injuries at receiver with starter Sammy Watkins limited to playing just eight games after aggravated an injury to his surgically repaired left foot. Robert Woods and Marquise Goodwin missed a handful of games due to an assortment of injuries, while Greg Salas, Walt Powell and Percy Harvin finished the year on injured reserve.
The quarterback position has been unsettled in Buffalo since Hall of Famer Jim Kelly retired following the 1996 season.
Since then, Buffalo has had 12 players start at least eight games. And only one, Drew Bledsoe from 2002-04, has held the starting job through three consecutive seasons.
The Bills are also in the midst of a 17-year playoff drought, the NFL’s longest active streak.