A year ago at this time, NFL general managers and coaches were preparing for what we all knew would be an unprecedented offseason of quarterback movement. It was going to be wild and wacky, and, if you recall, Washington and Kansas City had already agreed to a trade involving a playoff quarterback before the Super Bowl was even played.
The draft, free agency and the trade market were all overflowing with options, and the stage was set for several months of action at the most important position in all of professional sports. There would be multiple trades involving playoff passers (Alex Smith and Tyrod Taylor) and a record, fully-guaranteed contract coming for Kirk Cousins and shuffling around some other high-priced QBs (Sam Bradford), and a signing of — and then, in the summer, a trade of — a recent first-round QB (Teddy Bridgewater) and a record-tying five rookie QBs were selected in the first round of the draft that spring. Oh, and a first-ballot Hall of Fame quarterback (Drew Brees) was also an unrestricted free agent and without a team for a little while, although it was viewed as a near certainty he would re-sign with the Saints (as he did).
So, yeah, it was dizzying and all encompassing and, by its very nature, rendered this upcoming offseason boring by comparison regarding quarterbacks. So many teams invested so much time, money, draft capital, and energy into addressing the position a year ago that it only made sense that far fewer would be willing, able and needing to one year later. Sure, many of the gambles made a year ago won’t pay off (the Jags extending the contract of Blake Bortles, for starters), but very few of those teams will be ready to admit it so soon. And this this time around there may be more veteran quarterbacks available than there are teams ready to embrace acquiring a new starting QB.
A few are going to be left with less-than-desirable landing spots, and there are only so many starting spots to go around. Couple that with a far less intriguing draft crop of passers – and the fact that some teams may prefer to wade into the 2020 draft instead, with quarterbacks potentially going first and second overall – and it makes for a much more tranquil landscape. As it stands now, really only the Jags, Dolphins and Skins would be unable to go into a game today knowing who their starting quarterback would be. Then there is another group of teams looking at the draft as a chance to upgrade on their current bridge quarterback (Denver, N.Y. Giants), and then a few who have elite aging quarterbacks who have done exhaustive work on young QBs for several years and aren’t afraid of using a pick in the top half of the draft to address the QB of the future (New England, New Orleans, L.A. Chargers).
Beyond that, there are a handful of teams who have a backup set to become a free agent – many of those teams will probably simply re-sign that veteran (Ravens with RG III; Rams with Sean Mannion) – leaving us with far fewer possibilities to consider than at this time a year ago. (ONE HUGE CAVEAT HERE BEFORE I START THIS EXERCISE – FREE AGENT QB COLIN KAEPERNICK WOULD BE BETTER THAN MANY OF THESE OPTIONS BUT I AM NOT LISTING HIM HERE BECAUSE ANYONE PAYING ATTENTION BY NOW REALIZES HE IS BEING BLACKBALLED).
So, with that stated, here is an early look at how I could see it all shake out, listing teams that currently lack a starter and/or backup under contract by their draft order:
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Sign Joe Flacco. I don’t see there being much of a trade market here, unless Jacksonville picks Flacco over Nick Foles. But I would see Bruce Arians – who is trying to win rightbleepingnow – loving Flacco’s big arm and unflappable demeanor and wanting someone like that around Jameis Winston. He needs insurance should Winston slip up off the field again (he’s already been suspended) and they need the right kind of veteran around. Bringing Ryan Fitzpatrick back is not advisable, as some on the offense tended to gravitate to him and not Winston in the past, and it is time for a fresh start at the QB2 spot, needing someone else to really push the QB1.
New York Giants
Keep Eli Manning, draft Dwayne Haskins. A year after ignoring the QB position in the first round despite being in place to take several potential franchise QBs, the Giants cannot afford to do so again. Haskins may well be there at the sixth pick, but they should move up to the top three anyway, to be safe. I would have cut or traded Manning after the 2017, but even the Giants now admit nothing lasts forever. Let him start the season and make the transition to the youngster in-season, as they did for Eli all those years ago when Kurt Warner was the aging starter. Bottom line is there would be no real trade market for Manning anyway at this point.
Re-sign Matt Cassel. The coach and GM know him well from their time together in New England. Would expect they bring him back.
Acquire Nick Foles. I have a hard time seeing the Eagles putting the franchise tag on him. If they do, then give them a mid-round pick for him. If they don’t, pay Foles something like $70M for three years and see how it goes. I’d make a very strong case for Flacco here, too, but with the Jags hiring Foles’ old offensive coordinator and installing that offense, and with Foles younger than Flacco, and healthier than him in recent years, I see them going after last year’s Super Bowl MVP. Now, if I am running this team I am gutting it and rebuilding completely ahead of the CBA expiring, because to me the window is slamming shut there. But from owner Shad Khan on down it is clear the Jags are clinging to winning now. Reminds me of the Giants and Broncos from a year ago. How did that turn out?
Draft Drew Lock. This is what John Elway does. It may not work out to any degree, but this is who he is and what he does. I have a hard time seeing him taking a 5-9 QB like Kyler Murray. He likes these big, strapping kids, like Brock Osweiler and Paxton Lynch (gulp). And the Broncos did a ton of work on college QBs and Justin Herbert staying at Oregon probably caused a few tear drops to fall there. I don’t see them adding a veteran, given how much they still owe Case Keenum and how few trade possibilities are out there. This just seems like them.
Green Bay Packers
Sign Ryan Fitzpatrick. It’s time to spend some money on a backup at this stage of Aaron Rodgers‘ career. I get and agree with the desire to always have a developmental QB or two, but it’s time to start winning again, and DeShone Kizer is not any real insurance behind him.
Draft Kyler Murray. They haven’t had any pop or sizzle at the QB position in forever. Ownership is looking for guys who can be the face of the franchise. They need excitement and a reason to make people get off the beach to watch them win between six-to-nine games every year, seemingly. They are tearing that thing down and going young at coach and GM and everywhere else. Roll the dice on the Heisman Trophy candidate and entrust him to Jim Caldwell’s capable hands.
Sign Teddy Bridgewater. Alex Smith might never play again, and expecting him to contribute at all in 2019 would be unwise. They need to find a younger guy with upside for the future. In this year’s market, this is it. I would expect them to perhaps sniff around on Colts back-up Jacoby Brissett as well, though that price could be very steep in terms of draft picks. They need to save picks, they need a starting QB, and unless they are willing to move up the options are limited in this draft. Perhaps they fall in love with Duke’s Daniel Jones, but with so many jobs on the line in Washington this season, nabbing a 26-year old who already has a playoff win to his resume makes too much sense to ignore.
Sign Tyrod Taylor. I hear nothing but positive things about Cam Newton‘s early recovery from shoulder surgery. He might be starting throw during OTAs. But it was still a major procedure to his moneymaker and he has absorbed so many big hits — at some point everyone hits the wall. This team needs to bounce back from a brutal second half of the 2018 season. If Cam is 100 percent come training camp, Taylor could become an intriguing trade chip. Or you hold on to him like the Eagles did Nick Foles a year ago.
Sign Josh McCown. Maybe he just wants to ride off into the sunset at age 40 after overcoming the odds of reinventing himself in the NFL after becoming a high school coach. And maybe not. He was awesome in this role in Cleveland a few years back, before Hue Jackson intervened in one of 1,000 mistakes he made as head coach. You don’t want too much going to Baker Mayfield‘s head. You want the right people around him. A year after working with Sam Darnold, how cool would it be for McCown to back up Mayfield as the Browns finally return to the playoffs?
Sign Trevor Siemian. He’s been around Gary Kubiak and that style of ball as a former Broncos draft pick. Perfect fit. He has won games in this league and, while limited physically, is super smart. Good fit for Kirk Cousins’ No. 2.
Re-sign RG III. He knows the system and was a humble and effective mentor to Lamar Jackson a year ago. I would explore bringing Tyrod Taylor back – another former Ravens backup – but I see greener pastures in his future. RG III is a fit.
Sign Geno Smith. Deshaun Watson takes too many hits, Brandon Weeden is 35 and a sitting target. Time to try something different at backup QB. I would be trying to woo Taylor if at all possible, but he is going to have options.
Sign Sam Bradford (on the cheap). He may not want to play on the cheap, and retirement wouldn’t shock me, after continually getting $20M a year for heaven’s knows why. But I suspect the Eagles want someone experienced in the role Foles once was in. They really like restricted free agent Nick Sudfeld and may just go with him behind the starter, too.
Los Angeles Chargers
Draft a Day 2 QB. I don’t know which one, yet, but they continue to do heavy work on them and, much like the Steelers moving up to nab Mason Rudolph in the third round a year ago, I can see the Chargers going that route and putting him behind Philip Rivers.
New Orleans Saints
Sign Josh Johnson. Bridgewater was a luxury a year ago, and a smart move, but I don’t see them doing something like that again (although I would think Brissett is someone Sean Payton would like). Johnson did some nice stuff under extreme duress late last season with Washington. I can’t believe it goes unnoticed.
Los Angeles Rams
Re-sign Sean Mannion. Knows the system very well by now and Sean McVay is comfortable with him. That’s all you need. The coach can put them in position to execute.