Bills roster in-depth: Quarterbacks

75756A5E-120A-4932-810C-2FD980DB785E
By WGR 550 SportsRadio
Way back in January, I took a look at each of the Buffalo Bills' positions in a "State of the Bills" series. That was before free agency and the NFL Draft, and all that has passed. The Bills have made several additions and lost some players, as well.

With training camp finally upon us, let's revisit each position, in-depth, starting with quarterback:

Under contract:

  • Josh Allen
  • Matt Barkley
  • Davis Webb
  • Jake Fromm

 

Josh Allen

Allen took some major steps forward in his second year, but he’s still got plenty to improve on and needs to take another big step in Year 3 for the Bills' offense to get where the want to go.

After a disastrous first four weeks of turning the ball over in 2019, he did a great job of learning to protect it and not giving it away as the season went on. That included a stretch of five straight games with no interceptions, and only two over the final 11 games. However, his fumbling was an issue all season, with 14 of them. And while his decision-making improved after those four weeks, the “try to make a play even when it’s not there” Allen showed up again in the playoffs with some horrible decisions and a couple fumbles.

Overall for the regular season, Allen threw for 20 touchdowns and ran for another nine more, totaling 29 touchdowns and nine interceptions. His play was enough to earn the respect of his peers by being chosen No. 87 overall on the NFL’s Top-100, voted on exclusively by players.

The Bills traded assets and made Allen the No. 7 overall pick just two years ago. They have major investment and incentive in him to succeed, and he’ll get every chance to do that for one more year, at least. He’s the clear-cut starter with no questions. 

After this season, the Bills have to make a call on whether to pick up his fifth-year option or not. How he performs this season will certainly have an impact on that thought process. If he continues to take the kind of leaps he did from Year 1 to Year 2, it will be a no-brainer. The Bills will believe they have their franchise quarterback, but if he falters or even stagnates, they may not want to guarantee him that fifth year at the salary it will cost. 

General manager Brandon Beane even went out and got Allen a bona fide No. 1 wideout in Stefon Diggs. With Diggs, John Brown, and Cole Beasley as his top-three receivers, as well as emerging young tight end Dawson Knox, Allen will have every chance to succeed and no excuses not to. And the Bills should have a much better handle on how to proceed going forward, but they are certainly all-in on him in 2020.

 

Matt Barkley

Barkley’s value is two-fold. He’s a veteran who they believe can get them through a few games if he needs to start, but has also been a good mentor and example for Allen.

At the end of 2018, Barkley and Derek Anderson were both set to be a part of the team headed into training camp, surrounding Allen with two veterans he could continue to watch and learn from. With Anderson’s retirement, that role fell squarely on Barkley and he embraced it, while also being ready to play if needed. Barkley is clearly right now the No. 2 quarterback, and although the further Allen goes on his career the less he needs that veteran backup behind him, the fact there was no offseason, there will be no preseason, and teams will have to get on the same page a lot quicker starting this week, Barkley is an even more valuable asset to have.

 

Davis Webb

Webb was signed to a future/reserve deal after spending the entire season on the Bills' practice squad. He also played a key role in the Bills’ offensive skill players getting together in Florida for private workouts, and was even reported to be running the practices, like a coach. 

Teams will reportedly be allowed to keep 16 players on their practice squads this season. Given the circumstances of the COVID-19 pandemic, most teams will probably keep at least three and maybe even four quarterbacks between their active roster and practice squads. Webb would be an ideal candidate to be on the practice squad.

 

Jake Fromm

The Bills selected Fromm in the fifth round, after many believed the quarterback would have been taken already. In three seasons at Georgia, Fromm threw for 8,236 yards, 78 touchdowns and 18 interceptions. As a freshmen, he led the Bulldogs to an appearance in the College Football National Championship Game in 2017. 

Fromm was also the buzz of social media in early June after some text messages of his from over a year ago were leaked via Twitter, in which he wrote the words “elite white people” when discussing gun ownership. He since apologized to the team, but Bills head coach Sean McDermott and offensive coordinator Brian Daboll both acknowledged that the rookie quarterback still had work to do to regain his teammates’ trust, and that would only happen after he was able to be with them face-to-face and they could get to know who he is. So, that will be happening as the team reports for camp this week.

On the field, Fromm will be competing with Barkley and Webb for a backup job. The Bills would probably love to keep and develop Fromm, but since McDermott has been the team’s head coach, they’ve never kept more than two quarterbacks on the active roster, except for the stretch of time both Allen and Anderson were injured and Barkley started one game. So that would normally mean one open spot for three quarterbacks. However, the Bills may want to keep three signal-callers on the active roster due to the unpredictability of the pandemic.

A report from Mark Maske of The Washington Post says that in addition to the 16-man practice squad expansion, each team will be able to protect four practice squad players each week from being signed to other clubs (normally all practice squad players are free agents and free to sign elsewhere). That situation would seem perfectly suited for Fromm. 

The Bills could still have him at practice every day, allow him to develop, yet still have Barkley as their main backup. However, anyone released after training camp is subject to waivers and available to be claimed by another club before they can be signed to a practice squad. If that rule remains in place - and there’s no indication it will be changed - that would make it a lot more difficult for the Bills to stash Fromm on the practice squad since he’d be subject to waivers in order to get there.

 

The solution here could be that Fromm is kept on the final 53-man roster out of camp, while Barkley is the one to get released, then re-signed to the practice squad, as well as Webb if they want to keep four quarterbacks incase of emergency.