With the draft looking weak for quarterbacks, the veteran market could include at least two passers with Super Bowl victories on their resumes.
Common wisdom around the NFL says this isn’t the winter to need a starting quarterback.
The draft has an uncertain crop, with Dwayne Haskins, Kyler Murray, Drew Lock and Will Grier the biggest names. Justin Herbert of Oregon could join that crew, but none are seen as surefire stars at the next level.
In free agency, quantity will be there. Quality? That’s another story.
Of the unrestricted free agents, there are five notable names. Teddy Bridgewater, Josh McCown, Brock Osweiler, Tyrod Taylor and Ryan Fitzpatrick lead the class. Only Bridgewater and Taylor have any potential to start, and both would be viewed as placeholders over answers.
Then there are the potential free agents, cut for performance or cap reasons.
Joe Flacco will be available. Some believe Jameis Winston will be jettisoned by the Buccaneers should they clean house, but that’s incredibly unlikely. Tampa Bay should be strongly leaning toward honoring Winston’s fifth-year option with the hope he improves as a 25-year-old.
Blake Bortles will probably hit the market, but who wants to sign him after the mess he leaves behind in Jacksonville? Eli Manning, Derek Carr, Ryan Tannehill and Andy Dalton will also get mentioned as potential cuts, but all four teams would have a tough time doing better for 2019.
Of all those names, Carr is the most intriguing. He was an MVP candidate in 2016 before breaking his leg. While he hasn’t replicated that success since, Carr is 27 years old (28 in March) and has played better down the stretch. Again, it’s likely Oakland retains him and plays the situation out, but with Jon Gruden, all options remain open.
Finally, there are Sean Mannion and Nick Foles. Mannion is scheduled to hit free agency while Foles has a $20 million base salary in 2019, making it nearly impossible for Philadelphia to keep him on that contract. Teams are quietly bullish on Mannion’s talent, while Foles has currency built up from his Super Bowl LII run.
Looking around the league, it will be a buyer’s market. Assuming the Dolphins, Raiders, Bengals and Giants all retain their current starters, who needs to fill the top of their depth chart? Jacksonville, Denver and Washington are all logical candidates, although Case Keenum is due $18 million in 2019.
With Alex Smith’s injury and Bortles’ disastrous campaign, the Redskins and Jaguars are the neediest franchises. Jacksonville has the luxury of a top-10 pick, while Washington will be in the top half of the first round. Perhaps the group of Lock, Haskins, Grier, Murray or Herbert fits the bill for both. We’ll know more as the Senior Bowl, combine and pro days pass.
If those teams want to go the veteran route while waiting to make their big push towards the future, there will be ample options. Bridgewater is still young and a former first-round pick who showed plenty in Minnesota. Flacco is no longer a quarterback capable of being elite, but he’s still a top-20 quarterback who can win games. If Carr hits the market, a full-fledged bidding war would break out.
With the offseason rapidly approaching for most teams, one thing is clear. The quarterback carousel is going to be moving rapidly.