Who didn’t love playing musical chairs back in grammar school? Well, we’re coming up on the end of the NFL’s regular season. With 2 weeks left its now time for teams to take stock in what they’ve got, and what they need to do to reach where they want to go.
Every off season sees some level of upheaval. This year though could be particularly interesting. The 2019 draft does not have any surefire instant starters, coupled with 5 teams having drafted their quarterback of the future (and present) in the first round last year.
Add in that about 1/3 of the league’s starting quarterbacks will be going into the last year of their deals. I’d expect the vast majority of them to get extensions between now and August. There are a few where it may be time to cut bait though.
With all that in mind, and knowing that the 2020 draft could be led by Tua Tagovailoa and Jake Fromm, you could see more stop gap type moves.
I’ve broken down each team’s quarterback situation into one of four categories; All Set With a Vet, All Set With a Youngin’, Borderline, and Changes Needed.
In the All Set With The Vet category you’re looking at 12 teams. The Patriots, Steelers, Bengals, Colts, Chargers, Vikings, Lions, Packers, Falcons, Panthers, Saints, and Seahawks.
Even with those 12 teams, 5 of them have vets that as of right now will be free agents after the 2019 season. Tom Brady, Ben Roethlisberger, Philip Rivers, Drew Brees, and Russell Wilson. Honestly, of those, all but Wilson will have at least a serious discussion with their wives and agents about retirement.
Then you’ve got the All Set With Youngins’ group. I’m not saying that all these young pups will be in the next wave of great NFL QBs, but at the very least, they’re not deep enough into their development to cut the chord just yet. Drafting a replacement, or bringing in a serious challenger for the starting gig just isn’t in the cards for these teams; The Jets, Bills, Browns, Ravens, Texans, Chiefs, Eagles, Cowgirls, Bears, 49ers, Cardinals, and Rams.
I realize that Dak Prescott will be a free agent (barring him signing an extension that is almost certainly coming) and that Jimmy G has already hit the free agent lottery. But as his starting career is still in its infancy, I’m considering him a youngster.
A few teams could really go either way. Their young quarterbacks haven’t really proven themselves, but they also have shown enough glimpses where its hard to say they won’t make it. Or they have guys that are capable of starting, but would probably be best served as placeholders at this point of their career. The Dolphins, Titans, Broncos, Raiders, Giants, and Buccaneers come to mind when considering these parameters.
The last couple of teams absolutely need a change. The Redskins and Jaguars. The Redskins were put in this position because of the devastating injury to Alex Smith. Following his injury he’s had a few infections. When its all put together his football future is in jeopardy. While Colt McCoy is a decent enough short term option, he is not the Redskins long term answer.
The Jaguars finally benched a healthy Blake Bortles and handed the keys to the car off to Cody Kessler, the former embattled Browns starter. The Redskins and Jaguars will both kick off 2019 with a different signal caller than they started this year off with, the question is how will they go about filling the position.
All that being said, lets take a glimpse into my crystal ball and see what the QB grouping for each squad looks like come next fall:
New York Giants: Starter: Derek Carr
Back up: Kyle Lauletta. The easy thing would be to stick with Eli Manning one more year, letting him play out the final year of his contract and then letting him fade off into the sunset. But when you’ve got a stud running back, wide receiver, tight end, and holes to address on the O-line, its time to be proactive. Sending Eli Manning down south to former Giants boss Tom Coughlin is the move here. If they can get a 4th for Manning they should pounce. They could then turn around and send a 2nd to Oakland for Derek Carr, because in spite of whatever may be coming from Gruden, you know he wants to start from scratch.
Dallas Cowgirls: Starter: Dak Prescott
Back up: Cooper Rush. Now is not the time to rock the boat. As a non-Dallas fan, I’m perfectly fine with keeping Jason Garrett around. At the quarterback position though the key here is continuity. Correction, the key here is assessing what they’ve got correctly. If they can get Prescott locked up long term for $20 million or less a year, then that is what they’ve got to do. Add in a tight end (in what is reportedly a deep tight end draft) and let the chemistry continue to develop between Prescott, Amari Cooper, and Michael Gallup.
Philadelphia Eagles: Starter: Carson Wentz
Back up: Nick Foles. There is a mutual option for 2019 that either side could pick up. Its big bucks at around $20 million, but when you consider that Wentz is on his rookie deal the overall expenditure on the position is not out of whack with the rest of the league. That being said, with Wentz’ history of injuries, the team should want to pick up the option, and considering the dollars on the table, Foles should want to pick up the option as well.
Washington Redskins: Starter: Colt McCoy
Back Up: Drew Lock. With Alex Smith’s future in jeopardy the Redskins need to secure another quarterback. With the significant amount of guaranteed money in Smith’s deal, the Redskins are not in a position to drop a big chunk of change on another signal caller. That being said, they have a capable stop gap starter in McCoy. Finding a potential long term starter, while also remaining fiscally reasonable is key. How do you do that? Find a QB on a rookie deal. In a draft not overly strong at the position, the Redskins would be lucky to nab Drew Lock in the first round.
Minnesota Vikings: Starter: Kirk Cousins
Back up: Trevor Siemien. Nothing to see here. The Vikings spent big on Cousins last off season, and if they’re not getting exactly what they expected from him, then they were expecting too much. The only possible move is to draft a QB to back him up in lieu of Siemien.
Chicago Bears: Starter: Mitch (I refuse to call him Mitchell) Trubisky
Back up: Chase Daniels. I’m not completely sold on Trubisky. I think he is an NFL starter, but I don’t know if he is THE guy to lead the Bears to the promised land. With that defense though, anything is possible. Daniels is a solid back up and a nice veteran presence to offset the youth of Trubisky.
Green Bay Packers: Starter: Aaron Rodgers
Back up: DeShone Kizer. Is there a QB in the NFL on more solid footing than Rodgers? The Packers also got good value with their acquisition of Kizer. Only movement here will be with the coaching staff and supporting cast.
Detroit Lions: Starter: Matt Stafford
Back up: Matt Cassel. Matt Stafford is a dark horse candidate to be moved. The former number #1 overall pick has put up numbers, but hasn’t done that thing you’re supposed to do, whats that again? Oh yeah, win football games. A developmental guy in the 2nd or 3rd round to replace Cassel wouldn’t be out of the question.
Atlanta Falcons: Starter: Matt Ryan
Back up: Matt Schaub. Another status quo situation. An entrenched, capable starter and a back up that knows the system and has proven able to step in. A change in leadership at the top could be coming, but not under center.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Starter: Jameis Winston
Back up: Case Keenum. This is probably the most difficult quarterback room to figure out. Winston has shown the physical flashes, but continues to be plagued by immaturity. Fitzpatrick is a free agent, and was fantastic in spurts this season. It is a distinct possibility that they just blow this whole thing up. In the mean time though I think they need to let Fitzpatrick walk to avoid a split locker room, while also bringing in a veteran who CAN step in in case Winston falters in what should be his last chance in Tampa. Case Keenum would be a nice fit and should be available when he gets released by Denver.
New Orleans: Starter Drew Brees
Back up: CJ Beathard. Drew Brees will enter the last year on his deal. Not sure if they’ll take it all the way to free agency like they did last time, or get an extension wrapped up this off season. Considering he is the front runner for league MVP with 2 weeks left, I’d advise on getting the deal done sooner rather than later. The back up position will need to be addressed though. Teddy Bridgewater will be looking for an opportunity to compete for the starting gig, and that isn’t New Orleans. With the emergence of Nick Mullens in the bay area, it wouldn’t be shocking if CJ Beathard could be had for a 5th rounder.
Carolina Panthers: Starter Cam Newton
Back up: Tyrod Taylor. Cam is the unquestioned cog that makes Carolina go, but his back up could use an upgrade. Taylor’s deal in Cleveland is up after this season, and his fit behind Cam would feel pretty natural. Both are capable with their legs, and the offense wouldn’t need too many tweeks if Newton were to fall to an injury.
San Francisco 49ers: Starter Jimmy Garoppolo
Back up: Nick Mullens. Jimmy G will be coming off a major injury, luckily the 49ers have discovered not one, but two solid back ups with short money contracts. Most teams would be pleased to have either CJ Beathard or Nick Mullens as a sideline clipboard holder. As Mullens makes slightly less, and Beathard would seemingly have slightly more trade value, I see Beathard gone (in my best guess, to New Orleans for a 5th round draft pick)
Seattle Seahawks: Starter Russell Wilson
Back up: Brett Hundley. There have been whispers of the Seahawks not wanting to pay Wilson like a top quarterback, and his contract is up after 2019. I think those whispers are from them having witnessed their best years while being run by a quarterback on a rookie deal. Numbers aside, at this point of his career, Russell Wilson is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL. The cross section of age, experience, skill, and anticipated future production makes him a very very valuable player. This will be a big off season where they either extend him, or trade him. At the end of the day, I think the Seahawks pay the man his money.
Arizona Cardinals: Starter Josh Rosen
Back up: Blake Bortles. I like Josh Rosen, I think they need to build around him better. Their skill position players aside from David Johnson leave a lot to be desired. Only a decent tight end, an aged (although all time great) wide receiver in Larry Fitzgerald, and a sleeper in my 2019 fantasy leagues Christian Kirk. For Bortles this represents a place in his mind where he can enjoy the weather, and will be given the illusion of competing following his imminent release from the Jaguars. He will not find a place to land in the league where he will be given the keys to the car again, not on purpose anyways.
Los Angeles Rams: Starter Jared Goff
Back up: Sean Mannion. The Rams have stars all over their starting line up. That is made possible by having a poor “middle class” on their roster, and a quarterback on a rookie contract. Essentially they’re a pretty wedding cake with great frosting, and just eh for the actual cake. Under Sean McVay, Goff has proven to be capable, if not potentially a very good quarterback. The way they team build means Mannion should be the back up until such a time that his service years price him out of the gig.
New England Patriots: Starter Tom Brady
Back up: Brian Hoyer. The 2018 draft saw the Pats draft a project QB out of LSU, Danny Etling. He is not the long term solution for the Patriots, and I suspect everyone except Etling’s immediate family knows that. Hoyer is under contract for another year. Both he and Brady will be free agents after the 2019 season. I expect that Brady will get another extension after this season, and their heir apparent will be taken in the 2020 draft, one expected to be much deeper at the QB position than the 2019 draft will be.
New York Jets: Starter Sam Darnold
Back up Josh McCown. Darnold has flashed enough for Jets fans to believe that he is their guy for the next decade or so. McCown is a free agent at the end of this season, but seemingly has bonded with Darnold and would be willing to serve another season as a mentor to the former Trojan. I do not expect him to land another $10 million a year pay day though.
Miami Dolphins: Starter Ryan Tannehill
Back up: Brock Oswieler. The Dolphins are stuck in QB purgatory. Tannehill isn’t a BAD starter, but he’s not a very good one either though. I would cut bait and look to move forward with a stop gap guy, saving money on the position. No sense paying premium prices for a marginal product. That being said, I suspect the Dolphins continue to roll with their guy. Oswieler did enough for his guy Adam Gase to warrant being re-signed in the off season. No $72 million deal, but a 2 year $8 million deal wouldn’t be crazy.
Buffalo Bills: Starter: Josh Allen
Back up: Ryan Fitzpatrick. The Joshes of the rookie class are seemingly the most overlooked. In all fairness, they’ve been the least productive. But Josh Allen (and Rosen) have both shown enough flashes to give hope to their respective fan bases. They’ve already released Nathan Peterman, and AJ McCarron was sent away following training camp. Ryan Fitzpatrick is a free agent following good year in Tampa. Allen could use a solid veteran mentor, and I don’t know that any fanbase would appreciate the magnificence of Fitzpatrick’s beard as much as the Bills Mafia would.
Cleveland Browns: Starter Baker Mayfield
Back up: Drew Stanton. It may have taken 20 years, but the Browns have seemingly gotten it right. Baker is not what would have been considered the conventional QB prospect, but convention has been thrown aside in favor of production. Stanton has another year on his deal, and Cleveland hopes to not have to use their back up anyways.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Starter Ben Roethlisberger
Back up: Mason Rudolph. Big Ben enters the last year on his deal. Last off season there were whispers of an impending retirement. He hasn’t shown many signs of a drop off, but he has also taken a beating over his years in the league. The Steelers may take a hard line on paying a whole bunch of money for a bunch of years. With Ben’s injury history, and after having used a 2nd round pick on Mason Rudolph in 2018, they may be justified in doing so. At the end of the day though, I don’t the changes come next year.
Baltimore Ravens: Lamar Jackson
Back up: Robert Griffin III. Jackson has been electric for a stagnant Ravens offense. Barring a crippling injury to Jackson these last 2 weeks (knock on wood) there is no way Joe Flacco is back in 2019. I’ve had a feeling all season, with no solid justification other than a gut feeling, is that Flacco will be a Bronco next season. In all fairness, I’ve got a very large gut. The Broncos will likely have to cough up a 2nd rounder, but I see that getting done.
Cincinnati Bengals: Starter Andy Dalton
Back up: Jeff Driskel. Any sane person would look to blow this up, the Dalton, Lewis, everything situation. But if the Bengals didn’t fire Marvin Lewis 5 years ago, then I see no reason why they’d do anything to rock the boat now. Driskel has shown himself to be a decent enough back up this season in Dalton’s absence. The end result, Dalton will be back in 2019, and the Bengals are poised for a last place finish.
Tennessee Titans: Starter Marcus Mariota
Back up: Blaine Gabbert. This is the next to last year of Mariota’s deal, and the Titans face some big questions on his impending free agency after picking up his 5th year option. The team has been in solid playoff contention the last couple of years, so its hard to fault Mariota. But he hasn’t really shone as bright as you’d like a #2 overall pick to do. If he can be extended at a reasonable price, he’ll be back. My concern for the sake of the Titans is if he is extended at an unreasonable cost. Best guess here, everyone is back, and the Titans hope Watson and Luck get hurt again.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Starter Eli Manning
Back up: Justin Hebert. The Jaguars still have the pieces in place on defense. A solid running back in place, and a decent offensive line. What they don’t have is a quarterback. Clearly Blake Bortles and Cody Kessler are not going to cut it. Not willing to waste the window their defense has I could see team president Tom Coughlin reaching out to grab old friend Eli Manning from the Giants. With his age, production, and contract he could probably be had for a 4th rounder. A reasonable price to grab a playoff capable place holder while your 2019 1st rounder Justin Herbert grows accustomed to the pros.
Indianapolis Colts: Starter Andrew Luck
Back up: Jacoby Brissett. Jacoby remains a valuable commodity following solid performances off the bench for both the Patriots and the Colts (for my money, the trade of Brissett for Philip Dorset is more egregious than sending out Jimmy G, when you consider future contract implications). Andrew Luck has re-asserted that when healthy he is in the upper tier of quarterbacks. The Colts also appear to be more well run. The 2018 draft was a slam dunk. Nelson is a stud on the O-Line, and Leonard could very well be the defensive rookie of the year. The goal here is to continue ascending, not tearing down.
Denver Broncos: Starter Joe Flacco
Back up: Cody Kessler. Clearly the Broncos need to address the quarterback position. I don’t know how they thought they did last year. In all fairness, quarterback contracts were being thrown around left and right in the spring of 2018, and Elway was smart enough to only give Keenum a 2 year deal. I think Flacco will be the next Denver reclamation project. Sending out a 2nd to Baltimore and a 6th to Jacksonville would net an improved 2019 position grouping.
Los Angeles Chargers: Starter Philip Rivers
Back up: Geno Smith. Rivers is on the last year of his deal, but is coming off one of, if not the, best year of his career. With not a whole lot out there to draft and replace Rivers with this season, I see no reason that the Chargers would make a move here. Smith luckily hasn’t been needed.
Kansas City Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes
Back up: Chad Henne. Obviously the 2nd year Mahomes is the short and long term starter. A dynamic play maker with both his arm and legs Mahomes has been fantastic for Andy Reid. Chad Henne hasn’t been called on, and honestly, if Andy Reid could get some decent BBQ for Henne, he’d be gone.
Oakland Raiders: Teddy Bridgewater
Back up: AJ McCarron. The shockwave move of the 2019 off season belonging to Jon Gruden? Yup, I’m blown away too. After sending out Amari Cooper and Khalil Mack for future first rounders it is pretty obvious Gruden is looking to strip this thing to its bare bones. While all sound bites indicate he is intent on building around Derek Carr, I don’t believe that for a split second. I think Oakland will try to get a 1st out of the Giants for Carr, but will settle for a 2019 2nd and a 2020 4th. With an opening ripe for someone to step right in, I think Bridgewater will be attracted to the Raiders gig.
So to wrap it up the major moves to look out for are the Ravens and Broncos striking a deal for Joe Flacco. Derek Carr moving cross country via trade to the Giants. Eli Manning moving south to Jacksonville for one last hurrah, and Teddy Bridgewater joining Jon Gruden as they both seek NFL redemption. It’ll be intriguing to watch as it seems everyone is due an extension this off season. If those extensions doesn’t happen, there will be several hall of fame quarterbacks out there as free agents with Tua Tagovailoa and Jake Fromm tearing up the NFL combine in the spring of 2020, and that will be loads of fun.
- Written by Jason Sullivan
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