Whaley: Bills don't regret choosing Manuel over Cassel

HERTFORDSHIRE, England -- On Thursday, Bills coach Rex Ryan told reporters that he would still trade linebacker Kiko Alonso for running back LeSean McCoy in "two seconds." On Friday, Buffalo general manager Doug Whaley showed equal faith in his decision to ship veteran passer Matt Cassel to the Cowboys in late September.

While the move netted the Bills a seventh-round pick, it also forced the team to start EJ Manuel last week against the Bengals -- and again this Sunday against the Jaguars in London -- because of Tyrod Taylor's sprained MCL.

"No, not at all," Whaley said, when asked if he regrets dumping Cassel. "When you look at it, coming out of camp, arguably you could say (Manuel) was the No. 2. So we had the luxury of being able to come back with Cassel at a reduced rate and have three quarterbacks. If you look at the league, maybe a little over half the league have three quarterbacks, so it's a luxury. And then when (safety) Aaron (Williams) went down, we needed a spot -- and then the Cowboys called."

Whaley emphasized that the team valued Manuel more than Cassel because of his "longer shelf life," noting that "arguably you could say (Manuel) has a bigger upside, but that's to debate, so you're taking half of that equation out and then you get a fifth-rounder in '17, which you can jockey in the draft this year, or have two picks in the fifth round in '17. So you're going to get another player with a longer shelf life and a bigger upside."

But would Cassel give the Bills a more trustworthy arm than the up-and-down Manuel?

"I think that's debatable," Whaley said. "What we saw in the preseason, again, we felt comfortable with EJ being our two, and obviously we showed that by (moving) Cassel, but, again, that's something that you guys can debate. We believe that the level -- there was a battle ... we thought it was 2a and 2b."

Whaley dismissed the notion that Manuel was saved from the cutting room floor because of his first-round draft pedigree, arguing that Buffalo doesn't build teams based on where you came from.

"We always say this much: It doesn't matter how you get here, it's what you do when you're here," Whaley said. "So, we had a seventh-round pick in (offensive tackle) Seantrel (Henderson). We started him. Once you're on the team, all of that goes out the way. It's all about how we see you as a player, where you can go and how long you can help us."

Said Whaley: "If (EJ) didn't warrant a roster spot, absolutely. As you can tell, we've cut a lot of people we thought would make our team better."

While Whaley acknowledged that "internal debate" surrounds plenty of roster moves, he emphasized that keeping Manuel came with plenty of support throughout the building.

That's evident after NFL Media Insider Ian Rapoport reported last week that the Bills would have considered reopening the quarterback competition had Manuel played well in Week 6.

He certainly has the backing of offensive coordinator Greg Roman, who told reporters on Thursday that "EJ's got the type of makeup" to follow in the footsteps of the league's "elite quarterbacks."

If anything, Whaley was more guarded in his praise of Manuel than Roman, saying Friday: "We've seen progress, but what we got to get him to do is do that progress consistency. It's still a little inconsistent, but we have seen progress."

Wake up and watch with the world. The NFL is live on Yahoo. For the first time ever the NFL is streaming a live game on Yahoo. Bills vs. Jaguars live from London, Sunday, October 25th, at 9:30 a.m. ET.

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