Kicking off our first look at the Bills’ impending 2021 free agents is quarterback Matt “Bitcoin” Barkley. The 31-year-old veteran has been a member of the Bills since 2018 and has provided energy and life into the Bills’ locker room and sideline.
Barkley initially signed a one-year “emergency” deal in October of 2018, started one game against the New York Jets, and threw for 232 yards and two touchdowns. Not bad for someone who hadn’t started a game in over two years.
That game and his leadership earned Barkley a two-year contract extension through 2020. Since then, Barkley has played in a total of seven games (five this season, two in 2019). He did not impress Bills fans that much, but the situations he was put in were towards the end of games when the Bills were up by 20+ points (or down by 20+ points against the Titans), or in nightmare situations where Josh Allen was hurt, when he did a serviceable job.
In his most recent press conference, Bills GM Brandon Beane complimented Barkley and the handling of his role as a backup quarterback:
“Some guys are the backup, and they’re itching to play. Matt’s a competitor. He wants to play, but his first thing every day when he walks through the door is to help Josh Allen be the best version of himself. That’s why it’s been so great to have him,”
With Barkley’s contract set to expire, is it worth it for the Bills to resign him? Have his contributions, primarily on the field, earned him another extension? Let’s take a look.
Barkley’s contract was two years, $4 million, which included a $3.5 million pay raise from his emergency contract in 2018. Typically, an NFL backup quarterback’s contract is worth between $500,000 to $1 million annually. Above-average backups (think Taysom Hill, Marcus Mariota, Jacoby Brissett) can earn anywhere between $3-7 million per season and sometimes more. Barkley falls into the “solid” backup quarterback category: with a franchise QB in charge, he won’t pose any serious competition in camp, but if he makes the final roster, he’ll do his job when his name is called. For that, I see him receiving anywhere between $1 – $4 million.
However, if I’m Beane or Sean McDermott, I would not be spending much energy on this area. First off, there is only so much available cap space; right now, the Bills are projected to have anywhere from $2 million to $6 million to play with. In this league, that is definitely not a whole lot of spending money, so don’t expect Barkley’s replacement to be a free agent. On top of that, Buffalo already has six or seven other guys who are considered priorities over Barkley the backup.
Here’s another thing to keep in mind: there’s another quarterback on the active roster, and his name is Jake Fromm. Fromm has been the Bills’ emergency COVID-19 quarterback all season, not suiting up for a single game this year. However, his “redshirt rookie season” may have helped him learn the game a little bit better, work on his weaknesses such as his arm strength, and mentally prepare himself for a backup role.
Given the tight cap constraints, re-signing Barkley may not be in the Bills’ best interest. With limited available dollars to spend and a seeming capable backup in Fromm already on the roster, I think it’s very unlikely that Barkley suits up in Buffalo next year.
The final decision, however, is likely to come down to whether the front office feels Fromm has sufficiently progressed in his development. If QBs coach Ken Dorsey has done his job, Fromm will take over and be Josh Allen’s backup. But if they don’t feel he has developed enough, expect Barkley back on a one, maybe two-year deal.
Stay or Go: @JudgeMathes may disagree, but for now, Go.
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