Bills finally make a move for a quarterback, sign AJ McCarron to two-year deal

The Buffalo Bills finally landed a starting quarterback after agreeing to trade Tyrod Taylor to the Browns last week. On Wednesday, they signed long-time Bengals backup AJ McCarron to a two-year contract.

Financial terms of the deal have yet to be reported.

For McCarron, it’s his first chance to be a starter in the NFL. Selected in the fifth round of the 2014 draft out of Alabama, McCarron spent the first four years of his career backing up Andy Dalton. In that four-year window, he made three regular-season starts and one playoff start in place of Dalton. He played well enough in those outings that he’s often been pegged as a potential starting-caliber quarterback. Including the postseason, McCarron’s gone 109 of 174 (62.6 percent) for 1,132 yards, seven touchdowns, three picks, and an 87.6 passer rating. So, he’s still largely unproven.

At the trade deadline in October, the Browns tried to make a move for him but botched the paperwork, which kept him in Cincinnati. After the season, McCarron won his grievance against the Bengals and as a result, became an unrestricted free agent. But as the top free agent quarterbacks got scooped up on Tuesday — Case Keenum signed with the Broncos, Kirk Cousins picked the Vikings, Sam Bradford landed with the Cardinals, Teddy Bridgewater went to the Jets, and Drew Brees stayed in New Orleans — McCarron remained untouched. Finally, on Wednesday, the one team without a starting quarterback in place made a move for him.

For the Bills, they’re once again taking a chance on a career backup quarterback. Before Taylor became the Bills’ starter for the past three seasons, he spent four years backing up Joe Flacco in Baltimore. Now, Taylor is the bridge quarterback in Cleveland.

The signing of McCarron shouldn’t prohibit the Bills from drafting a quarterback. The Bills hold the 12th and 22nd picks in this year’s draft, plus plenty of ammunition in the second and third rounds, which should help them move up if they’re trying to snag one of the top four quarterback prospects. If they do draft a quarterback, McCarron will either compete for the job or automatically start while the rookie adjusts to the NFL.

If the Bills draft a quarterback and McCarron plays well, they can trade McCarron to a quarterback-needy team. If the Bills draft a quarterback and McCarron plays poorly, they can insert the rookie into the starting lineup. If the Bills don’t draft a quarterback and McCarron plays well, they’ll have found their franchise quarterback. If the Bills don’t draft a quarterback and McCarron plays poorly — well, that’s the outcome the Bills are trying to avoid here.

It’s difficult to look at this any other way besides it being a win-win deal. McCarron gets a chance to prove he’s a starting-caliber quarterback while the Bills get a bridge quarterback who has a chance to become something more than just a placeholder — like, say, the next Tom Brady.

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