There is the potential this offseason for a lot of quarterbacks to be on the move, with the starting job for almost half the League being in question. With the QB carousel ready to spin, here are my predictions for who will be under center for each team.
The Obvious Ones
First let’s get the teams out of the way who have established starters not going anywhere:
Atlanta Falcons: Matt Ryan
Baltimore Ravens: Joe Flacco
Carolina Panthers: Cam Newton
Chicago Bears: Mitchell Trubisky
Dallas Cowboys: Dak Prescott
Detroit Lions: Matthew Stafford
Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers
Houston Texans: Deshaun Watson
Los Angeles Chargers: Philip Rivers
Los Angeles Rams: Jared Goff
Miami Dolphins: Ryan Tannehill
New England Patriots: Tom Brady
Raiders: Derek Carr
Philadelphia Eagles: Carson Wentz
Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger
San Francisco 49ers: Jimmy Garoppolo
Seattle Seahawks: Russell Wilson
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jameis Winston
Tennessee Titans: Marcus Mariota
Questions, But No Changes
Cincinnati Bengals: Andy Dalton
Marvin Lewis is staying. Andy Dalton is staying. More or less nothing will change for the Bengals next year. They’ll be mediocre and relying on AJ Green for far too much of their offense. I do think AJ McCarron will play at some point next season, either because Dalton is benched in favor of him or because he’s traded to a team with a QB emergency.
Indianapolis Colts: Andrew Luck
This is an “everybody loses” scenario. The best thing for Andrew Luck would be to get as far away from Indianapolis and their swiss cheese of an offensive line as quickly as possible. In a perfect world, he would end up in Jacksonville. However, there’s no way Jim Irsay will greenlight trading Luck within the division and honestly I don’t think Irsay will let him go anywhere. Luck is in the middle of a six year, $140 million contract, so he’d have to demand a trade to leave and find a team willing to pay up. Looking at the available vacancies, if you look beyond Jacksonville there aren’t many clear contenders, with Denver and Arizona being the only other real options in my mind. Maybe Luck would be content just to be anywhere he thought he’d be less likely to get injured. In the end, I think Luck is still a Colt next year, a product of a stubborn owner and other teams not willing to risk such a large financial investment on a player with serious health concerns. Jacoby Brissett will stay as Luck’s backup and inevitable replacement when Luck gets hurt again.
New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees
It’s getting to the point in Drew Brees career where every offseason the question will be asked if he’ll decide to retire. Much like Ben Roethlisberger, I think Brees’ strong supporting cast and the feeling that the team has a chance to compete for a Super Bowl in the near future will ensure he sticks around next year. He’s also stayed relatively healthy, and unless that changes I think he has a couple years left in New Orleans.
The Rookies and Their Consequences
Cleveland Browns: Josh Allen
Another year, another new Cleveland quarterback. In a shocking turn of events, Deshone Kizer did not save the Browns. Now, while Kizer was not what the Browns hoped he would be I’m not sure there’s any one player out there who could dig the Browns out the crater they’ve created for themselves. Josh Allen “looks” like a quarterback; tall, big hands, etc. I’m sure his measurables at the combine will be great too. He’s got the confidence of a QB too, claiming that he wants to be the savior of the Browns. Good luck, kid.
New York Giants: Josh Rosen
And so begins the continuous confusion between the two rookie Joshes who are both going in the top ten and who you haven’t seen play because their games either weren’t televised or were on at 11 o’clock at night. It’s no secret that the Giants want to move on from Eli Manning. The team is in full rebuild mode and an aging franchise QB doesn’t do a team like the Giants any good. I would imagine the feeling is mutual, as Eli doesn’t want to spend his twilight years slugging it out with a terrible team and listening to OBJ complain about wanting the ball more. There’s been buzz about Rosen all year and a 6-6 record with UCLA doesn’t seem to have scared anyone off. So about Eli…
Jacksonville Jaguars: Eli Manning
The Jaguars just had by far their best season in franchise history led by the League’s best defense and a solid running game. QB Blake Bortles had the best season of his career too, but for him that’s still an underwhelming QBR of 55.5, barely above average. Tom Coughlin was a driving force behind the Jags’ success this season, and if he wants to help get the Jags to a Super Bowl it would make sense to reunite with Manning, a vet who’s been there before. Now, Eli may not be the best QB potentially on the market but he’s still an upgrade. If the Jags can almost beat Tom Brady with Blake Bortles, Eli should do just fine. If this were to happen, I envision Bortles sticking around. Manning is under contract with the Giants until 2020, but has earned more than his contract guaranteed.
Washington Redskins: Sam Darnold
The Redskins have made it clear they don’t want to give Kirk Cousins a long term contract. If they franchise tag him again, it will cost them $34 million dollars, a ridiculous amount and far more than Cousins is worth, particularly on a team like Washington that’s going nowhere. So, Kirk Cousins is going to leave. What will the Redskins do? The most Dan Snyder thing possible: draft a QB who was predicted to be the next coming of Peyton Manning but had a terrible season, saw his draft stock plummet, but will get taken in the first round anyway because a terrible front office is looking for a different quarterback to overpay (but I digress). The good news for Darnold is this means he isn’t going to the Jets. He’ll get an opportunity to succeed in Washington, and we’ll quickly find out how NFL ready he really is. So where will Kirk Cousins go?
Denver Broncos: Kirk Cousins
What do you do when you have an elite defense whose window is closing and all of the QBs you hand-picked turn out to be terrible? Pay a bunch of money to a veteran! John Elway is under serious pressure after Paxton Lynch and Trevor Siemian haven’t panned out, and Von Miller and the Broncos defense can’t quite win games by themselves like they used to. Giving a big contract to Cousins may be a bit of a Hail Mary, but the clock isn’t on Elway’s side and it may be the only option he’s got. Cousins is once again a free-agent this offseason.
Kansas City Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes
Yep, Andy Reid is going to go Full Reid and mismanage his quarterback situation like he mismanages the clock late in games. For some reason the Chiefs don’t seem to value Alex Smith and think Mahomes is finally going to be the guy who ran an air-raid offense against terrible defenses in college but succeeds in the NFL (how’s Bryce Petty doing in New York?). Alex Smith’s most likely ally to keep him around, offensive coordinator Matt Nagy, has left for Chicago and Andy Reid has said he intends to call plays next season. For that reason, if I’m Alex Smith, I’m getting the heck out of Kansas City. The Chiefs are going to get what they deserve.
Arizona Cardinals: Alex Smith
With the retirements of Carson Palmer and head coach Bruce Arians there’s going to be a lot of change for the Cardinals next season. Now former Panthers defensive coordinator Steve Wilks has been hired as the new coach and will be looking to significantly improve what was the League’s 27th ranked defense this past season. Meanwhile, they won’t want to waste their offensive talents on Drew Stanton and Blaine Gabbert. David Johnson should be back to one of the League’s top offensive weapons after recovering from the wrist injury that kept him out of this season, and Larry Fitzgerald is defying age with the numbers he’s still putting up. This is a great opportunity for someone like Alex Smith to come in and try to help Arizona get back to the playoffs. Smith has one year remaining on his current contract in Kansas City and has earned more than the contract guaranteed.
Minnesota Vikings: Teddy Bridgewater
This isn’t a “change” per say, but it’s important for its implications. I believe that the Vikings will take a good long look at their options and decide to stay the course with Teddy Bridgewater as their quarterback going forward. They will embrace “selling high” as much as you can with a free agent by simply letting someone else give him the big contract his play this season will have earned him. Sam Bradford will stay on at least initially, potentially moving to a team with a QB emergency but happy to mentor a young starter on a Super Bowl contender if not.
Buffalo Bills: Case Keenum
So it’s no secret that the Bills don’t like Tyrod Taylor. In 2016 they benched him for the final game of the year out of fear he might get hurt and they’d have to pay out the remainder of his contract. Then, this year, they benched him in favor of Nathan Peterman because LeSean McCoy and the Buffalo defense had two terrible games, because logic (that went well). Anyway, I can’t imagine either wants anything to do with the other anymore. Thus, Buffalo will be searching for a new QB. There’s no reason they can’t make a playoff push again next season, and with Denver and Arizona off the table Buffalo is probably as good as it gets for Keenum who will be searching for playing time. Keenum is currently a free agent.
New York Jets: Tyrod Taylor
This is the football equivalent of a political marriage. The Jets have a bunch of bad quarterbacks. Tyrod Taylor wants to get out of Buffalo and show them what they’re missing. This match is thus useful for both parties. The Jets would be lucky to have Taylor, given that their terrible drafting of QBs should mean nothing but losing teams for years to come. Now, will they still draft Sam Darnold? Maybe, who knows. However, perhaps the Jets will finally realize they are terrible at developing QBs and do the smart thing and take advantage of the market this offseason and use their 6th overall pick to improve other aspects of the team. Taylor has one year remaining on his currently deal, but that deal only includes $250,000 in guaranteed money more than he has already been paid.
Who Does That Leave?
Nick Foles has a chance to become the first man ever to lead a team to a Super Bowl with no chance of earning the team’s starting job. He’s in the same category for me as Bradford and McCarron, along with Blake Bortles should he be replaced. A quarterback will get hurt and leave a team scrambling, and Foles is a great candidate to fill in. If he stays in Philly I think he’ll be ok with it. They revived his football career, and if they win the Super Bowl he’ll be a god in that city the rest of his life.
Jay Cutler will re-retire and and, as previously planned, follow in Tony Romo’s footsteps and become a broadcaster. Cutler’s mediocre play this past season isn’t going to attract many teams and there are simply too many other backups who are better bets than him.
I don’t see Kaepernick’s circumstances changing much. The go-to response for why he isn’t on a team will become “well he hasn’t played in a while…”. It’s also anyone’s guess if he’s even interested in coming back into the League. Whether it’s his decision or not, I don’t see him on a team at the start of next season.
Now, as far as how accurate I think these predictions will be, I do believe most of the quarterbacks I predicted to move will end up moving. In that regard I feel the least confident about Manning and Taylor who could both end up stuck in bad situations next season. As for how many I’ll get spot-on, that’s anyone’s guess. The one thing that gives me confidence is none of these guys have contract issues lingering over them. While a team would certainly prefer to trade a quarterback under contract, there’s minimal leverage when other teams know you could cut them for nothing, so none of these predictions require any draft-day blockbuster trades.
Wherever different QBs end up next season, let’s just hope they’re collectively healthier than they were this season.
Feel free to comment below with what you agree/disagree with as far as my predictions and what predictions of your own you have for the offseason ahead.