There have been a couple of times in recent years where the Buffalo Bills pulled the trigger far too soon on extending their quarterbacks; signing them to bad deals that the Bills eventually had to wiggle out of. Ryan Fitzpatrick earned a whopping six-year deal worth $59 million in 2011. And in 2016, the Bills handed Tyrod Taylor $90 million over six years. The Bills front office should pump the breaks here on Josh Allen.
Up to this point, general manager Brandon Beane and head coach Sean McDermott have done many things right. They need not be in a hurry to extend Josh Allen and tactfully use the tools they have available before backing up the Brinks truck.
Why the Buffalo Bills Should Exhibit Patience Before Signing Josh Allen to a Mega-Deal
Offensive coordinators receive a lot of credit in the NFL when their quarterbacks perform well. After three years of developing such a raw prospect, Brian Daboll will likely not return to Buffalo in 2021. The Bills could, of course, promote quarterbacks coach Ken Dorsey to offensive coordinator for the sake of continuity, but what does that actually solve? Daboll may even want to promote Dorsey to the offensive coordinator of his new team. Calling plays is far different than focusing on a player’s mechanics. So there’s no reason to assume that Dorsey would successfully fill the void left behind by Daboll if he were to stick around to sustain Allen’s ascend.
What the Bills don’t know is how Allen will perform without Brian Daboll. He may prove, in the long run, to be a competent quarterback. Or not. Through the first four games of 2020, Allen was firmly in the MVP conversation. The next four games, not so much. He may have jumped back into the MVP conversation after outdueling Russell Wilson last Sunday. But the offensive scheme had a lot to do with Allen’s success through the air. Against the Seattle Seahawks, Allen had his pick of the litter. Receivers were running wide open, even when he didn’t go their way. Against the Kansas City Chiefs, Allen had his worse game of the season. He was noticeably inaccurate but the Bills game plan kept them in it.
The point is, we don’t know what Allen is without Brian Daboll. We’ve seen Tyrod Taylor look more than serviceable in Greg Roman‘s run-heavy offense than when he was mismatched with Rick Dennison in 2017. The coordinator matters.
Allen has shown flashes of being a prolific quarterback in the league but what we don’t know is how removing Daboll from the equation will ultimately impact Allen’s performance. Thus, the Bills not rushing into extending Allen could help them further identify what Allen is as a quarterback.
The Bills could easily apply the fifth-year option to Allen before signing him to a long-term deal. Not to mystify their commitment to him but to simply continue adding pieces around him. Without Brian Daboll, the Bills will have a chance to gauge Allen’s performance and growth after losing such an instrumental piece to his success. What Allen does in 2021 and 2022, without Daboll, could go a long way in determining what type of contract the Bills offer Allen’s camp.
The Bills already reworked Stefon Diggs‘ deal by adding more guarantees to 2020. They need to continue building their team to add pieces such as a stud defensive tackle and defensive end in free agency. They could also decide to lure in more weapons on offense like a tight end or even create more flexibility to pay Matt Milano whose absence or minimal presence, has certainly impacted the Bills on passing downs.
Of course, the Bills will pick up Allen’s fifth-year option which will pay him the average of the top-10 highest salaries at the position. They would still have the ability to extend Allen during the 2022 season, but using the option on Allen could save the Bills a few million dollars in the short term and help upgrade at positions on both sides of the ball.
The franchise tag is another reason the Bills should be in no hurry to extend Allen. We’ve seen the Washington Football Team use the franchise tag twice on Kirk Cousins before eventually moving on. Washington was not able to make the playoffs in either 2016 or 2017 which ultimately resulted in them moving on from Cousins. Although the franchise tag pays the average of the five highest salaries at the position, Washington still had $17 million in cap space in 2017 to add additional pieces.
The Dallas Cowboys placed the franchise tag on Dak Prescott in 2020. They looked primed to run away with the NFC East before Prescott’s season ended due to injury. Many analysts will tell you Prescott is a better quarterback compared to Allen. That’s debatable at this point. The biggest difference is Prescott was not a first-round draft pick and therefore, did not have a fifth-year option. However, the Cowboys still decided against committing to Prescott even after he finished 2019 second in passing yards. Although Prescott did not get a new deal, the Cowboys had the flexibility to add pieces in free agency a la safety Ha Ha Clinton-Dix and defensive tackle Gerald McCoy.
Although the franchise tag is not a commitment to Allen, it’s an available business option that the Bills have at their disposal.
The Bills have options in their toolbox that they must use before handing Allen an enormous deal. We’ve seen the Seahawks pay Wilson a lot of money then lose a number of important pieces. We’ve seen teams use the franchise tag and still have the flexibility to add more pieces to their team.
There is no doubt that Josh Allen will be the Bills quarterback for years to come. But the Bills do not need to be in a hurry to back up the Brinks truck for Allen as they have a few options to keep him in Buffalo without the long term commitment if they so chose.