Carson Palmer’s retirement, while not surprising, puts the Cardinals on immediate notice for a starting QB. Arizona currently has zero QBs under contract for 2018 with backups Drew Stanton, Blaine Gabbert, & Matt Barkley set for free agency. It’s likely one of these will be signed back to compete, but Arizona will likely be active both in free agency, & early in the draft. The problem? They carry about $23M in cap space, and the #15 overall selection, putting themselves in a tough spot to land a big name.
Sign: Teddy Bridgewater (26, Minnesota), 2 years, $25M ($15M guaranteed)
Draft: Lamar Jackson (Louisville)
Matt Ryan's 5 yr, $103.75M extension will expire after 2018, putting the 32-year-old in the drivers seat to reset the QB market once Cousins & Rodgers pen new contracts. Behind him, the $4.5M cap hit for 36-year-old Matt Schaub in 2018 may be too rich for Atlanta to swallow, with the Falcons boasting around $20M in cap space currently.
Extend: Ryan signs a 4 year, $122M extension, $98M guaranteed ($75M at signing)
Restructure: Matt Schaub
There are plenty in the Baltimore area calling for a change from Flacco in 2018. Contractually though this isn’t even a consideration until next offseason (and even then the dead cap hit will be $16M). With that said, it’s likely time for the Ravens to start forward-thinking here. It’s widely expected that they’ll sign a capable veteran to backup the shaky Flacco, as well as land a prospect in the 3rd-5th round this April.
Sign: Drew Stanton (33, Arizona), 2 years, $7M ($4M guaranteed)
Draft: Kyle Lauletta (Richmond)
The Bills QB position has been a negative talking point since 1997 (not a typo). They’ve been seemingly ready to move on from Tyrod Taylor since February of 2017. 13 months later, it’s still perfectly possible he’s the Week 1 starter for 2018. Buffalo holds around $27M in cap space, and 5 Top 100 picks this April, and are certain to draft a QB in some fashion.
Trade: Tyrod Taylor to the Denver Broncos
Sign: Sam Bradford (1 year, $12M, fully guaranteed)
Draft: Mason Rudolph (Oklahoma State)
While the completion percentage isn’t where the Top QBs in the league should be, Cam Newton rushed for 750 yards and 6 TDs in 2017. He also fumbled 9 times and threw 16 INT. Carolina will need a more efficient Newton going forward to push back into the postseason. They’ll also need a backup QB this summer, as 34-year-old Derek Anderson is set for free agency. Quite frankly, the Panthers have plenty of holes to fill elsewhere.
Sign: Derek Anderson (2 years, $5M, $2M guaranteed)
The Bears made enough noise last offseason at the QB position to carry over another year (or two). Mike Glennon's release leaves a $4.5M dead cap hit for 2018, and a hole in the backup slot behind Mitchell Trubisky, who will enter his first full year as a starter (we think?).
Sign: Mark Sanchez (1 year, $1M)
Many thought Cincy was inline for a coach & roster turnover this winter, but such is not the case. However 27-year old backup QB A.J. McCarron has been granted free agency, and is likely on his way to compete for a starting role elsewhere. Andy Dalton is now 30, and his contract allows for an easy-out at any time from here through 2020, putting the QB position as a whole on notice in Cincinnati.
The relationship might be damaged, and it’s certainly possible (maybe even likely) that another team takes a financial crack at McCarron this offseason, but with high draft picks and a few more-proven veterans likely set to take the available roles across the league, the best landing spot just may be the Bengals. Cincy can offer top backup money to keep him in the fold and hold an insurance plan should Dalton's departure be necessary post 2018.
Sign: A.J. McCarron (27, Cincinnati) 2 years, $12M ($8M guaranteed)
Draft: Logan Woodside (Toledo)
With $110M in cap space, and the #1 & #4 picks in April, the Browns can conceivably do whatever they wish this offseason. Seemingly out of the Kirk Cousins race, the only thing we think we know about the Browns offseason, is that they’re going to draft a top QB with one of their early selections. With money to burn, a veteran signing is no trouble - but Cleveland shouldn’t be quick to turn away from DeShone Kizer, their 2nd round pick last year.
Draft: Josh Allen (Wyoming)
Dak Prescott predictably took a step back in his sophomore campaign, but is in no danger of being supplanted for the upcoming 2018 season. With that said, Dallas did nothing to put a security blanket behind him in 2017, & with limited cap space ($21M) might be reluctant to do so yet again. Toss in a growing likelihood that WR Dez Bryant is on his way out, and a few notable free agents who aren’t likely to be back, and the question marks begin to pile up in Dallas.
Sign: E.J. Manuel (27, Oakland), 1 year, $870,000
The Broncos hold the #5 selection, & around $26M in cap space to work with heading into March, not exactly a perfect scenario to upgrade a QB, a left tackle, and re-sign an inside linebacker in his prime (Todd Davis). Denver’s 2018 roster contains Paxton Lynch, Trevor Siemian, & Chad Kelly at the QB position, with Lynch’s contract upside down in terms of a release/trade. The Broncos appear to be a candidate for Kirk Cousins, but will likely burn around 70% of their cap space in 2018 to get him locked in to the type of deal he’s been seeking (shorter term, higher pay). At the end of the day, Denver may need to get more creative to improve next season, & one way to do so may be via trade.
Cousins picks elsewhere, Denver acquires other positional needs via trade, hold their #5 pick & draft Sam Darnold (USC)
Release: Trevor Siemian
Prediction #2 (less likely):
Acquire: QB Tyrod Taylor & OT Cordy Glenn & picks from the Bills on draft day for either #5 or #40 (depending on how things shake out at the top of the draft.
Release: Trevor Siemian
The Lions are locked into Matthew Stafford until at least 2020, and should be more than content with that outlook. The Lions are predictably thin behind him, and are likely to sign exclusive rights free agent Jake Rudock to a tender to hold down the fort.
Re-Sign: Jake Rudock (ERFA), 1 year, $630,000
Aaron Rodgers will become the highest paid NFL player of all-time before the summer is done, signing something along the lines of a 4 year, $120M extension to remain a Packer for life. Behind him, Brett Hundley played admirably in Rodgers’ absence last season, and should be a more than capable backup for the next few years. With a new front-office in town, look for Green Bay to spend a little more than usual at the free agent window, especially on the defensive side of the ball.
Extend: Aaron Rodgers to a 4 year, $120M contract ($100M guaranteed, $80M at signing)
The Texans appear to have struck oil with their #12 selection of Deshaun Watson last May. Assuming he can return to form following a 9-month recovery from ACL surgery, Houston will be a team to watch in what has been a dreadful AFC South for years now. The backup position will be a team need this March, and shouldn’t be taken lightly given the injury history to Watson.
Sign: Matt Moore (33, Miami), 2 years, $4M ($3M guaranteed)
The Colts have been in disarray since signing Andrew Luck to a 5 year, $123M extension a few springs ago, & there’s no concrete proof of stability heading into the current offseason as well. Assuming Luck is back in the fold, he and Jacoby Brissett make for a just fine 1-2 punch for the upcoming season. Lucks’ contract offers a fairly decent out after 2018 ($12.8M dead cap), so it’s conceivable this is a “prove-it” year for plenty of players in Frank Reich’s new regime.
Spend elsewhere for a year.
The Jaguars answered their question early by penning Blake Bortles to a 3 year $54M extension last month. A move that guaranteed him $7.5M in additional salary & lowered his 2018 cap figure by $9M - win/win. If it all goes to hell this year, the Jaguars can (and will) get out of the deal after 1 season, putting their QB situation in immediate dire. For now, a legitimate backup is necessary as 32-year-old Chad Henne's contract is expired. While bringing back Henne is a find solution, Jacksonville will also likely take a mid-round QB this April.
Re-Sign: Chad Henne (1 year, $1M)
Draft: Mike White (Western Kentucky)
The Chiefs put their stamp on the 2018 season last May when they pushed up the draft board to select Patrick Mahomes. An Alex Smith to Washington trade later and KC full-steam ahead with their young arm. Last year’s QB3 Tyler Bray is a free agent this March, and could be re-signed as the backup plan to Mahomes, but KC might look for a little more experience here.
Sign: Chase Daniel (31, Saints), 1 year, $1M
With Philip Rivers now 36-years-old, and just two years left on his current deal, the Chargers need to address the QB sooner rather than later. With around $27M in cap space, and Rivers still producing at a high level, a free agent splash doesn’t yet make a ton of sense, unless the cost for a Teddy Bridgewater drops into their spending-range. The real question here is whether or not the Chargers will use the #17 overall pick to address this need. It’s possible of the top prospects, only Lamar Jackson is available at this point.
Re-Sign: Kellen Clemens (34, Chargers), 1 year $1M
Draft: Luke Falk (Washington State)
After 7 games to forget in his rookie season, Jared Goff broke out in a big way in 2017 (3,800 yards, 28 TD, 7 INT). The already-signed combination of Goff, & Sean Mannion could be enough to move forward with in 2018, but the Rams should at least consider a more stable backup plan, as they appear poised for a postseason push.
Sign: Ryan Fitzpatrick (35, Tampa Bay), 1 year $2.5M ($500,000 guaranteed)
The Dolphins have become a very interesting team over the past month, slapping a franchise tag on WR Jarvis Landry, acquiring Robert Quinn from the Rams, and rumored to be shopping Ndamukong Suh. More importantly, the rumor-mill has Miami pushing up the draft board to select a top QB this April, with hopes of him competing with a recovering Ryan Tannehill this year, & likely to replace him in 2019. With Matt Moore's contract expired, the Dolphins are in need of a backup - so bringing in Tannehill’s understudy does make sense. But does a move up from #11?
Keep: Ryan Tannehill thru 2018
Draft: Riley Ferguson (Memphis)
Arguably the most interesting offseason QB situation of all-time. All we know is that we know nothing. The NFC runner-ups have 3 starting-capable QBs on expiring contracts, & $50M in cap space heading into March.
A logical guess says the Vikings will let Sam Bradford (30) and his degenerative knee test the market. This leaves Teddy Bridgewater (26), & Case Keenum (30). The status of these two in Minnesota likely hinges on their attempt to land free agent prize Kirk Cousins - a signing that makes perfect sense given the roster, & available cap space. If Cousins signs elsewhere, bringing back Bridgewater on a “bridge” deal to ensure he can remain healthy and productive seems the way to go.
Either way, signing back Case Keenum to a backup contract should be a priority for this team. Allowing him to test the market for a starting job/payday is the elegant thing to do. But if/when that doesn’t come to fruition, Minnesota should be willing & happy to lock him in as a well-paid backup, & insurance policy for whomever else is signed.
Sign: Kirk Cousins (29, Washington) 3 years, $90M ($75M guaranteed)
Re-Sign: Case Keenum (29, Minnesota) 3 years, $21M ($12M guaranteed)
It’s about that time to start really discussing life-after-Brady in New England as 40-year-old’s contract offers a fairly safe out after 2018 ($7M dead cap). Factor in the instability of Rob Gronkowski, & head coach Bill Belichick, and at some point soon, this dynasty is destined to collapse. To go one step further, the Patriots structured Brian Hoyer's contract to offer a salary guarantee in 2019, its 3rd and final year. This could reveal an internal plan to hand the keys to the truck over to New England’s 2009 undrafted free agent after the upcoming season.
All said, New England still needs to attack the draft board for a younger short-term competitor.
Draft: Chase Litton (Marshall)
The Saints enter March with only Taysom Hill under contract. That’s 100% certain to change in the next 10 days, as Drew Brees will agree to a new contract to remain in New Orleans. Brees is now 39 though, so the Saints need to address a future starter this offseason. There’s been speculation of acquiring someone via trade (Tyrod Taylor, BUF, Deshone Kizer, CLE), but it’s most likely that New Orleans dips into a deep “second-tier” of quarterbacks this April.
Re-Sign: Drew Brees (39, New Orleans), 3 years, $75M ($50M guaranteed)
Draft: Best-Available 2nd-tier on the board (Rudolph, Jackson, Falk, Ferguson, Lauletta)
The Giants just aren’t as bad as their 3-13 record last year looks. With that said, they can’t expect to be this high in a draft anytime soon, and need to pull the trigger on their next gun-slinger without looking back. Yes, RB Saquon Barkley appears to be a generational - possibly perfect - offensive weapon. But Eli Manning isn’t getting any younger, or any better.
The X-factor here of course is Davis Webb, whom the last Giants’ regime selected in the 3rd round last May. If Webb’s ceiling is considered close to Darnold/Rosen/Allen, look for New York to take Barkley, or trade out.
Draft: Josh Rosen (UCLA)
The Jets began breaking down their team brick-by-brick last offeason, culminating with the release of Mo Wilkerson a week ago. In doing so, they’ve accrued nearly $95M in cap space for 2018, and can add to that by moving on from Christian Hackenberg and/or Bryce Petty as well.
The light at the end of the tunnel here is Kirk Cousins, whom has identified the Jets as a possible landing spot. New York can front load a Garoppolo-type contract for Cousins in a way that the Broncos can’t, and the Vikings might be reluctant to do. Should they miss out on Cousins, the Jets’ #6 selection might be no man’s land for their next QB, with at least 3 of the Top 5 picks slotted to a QB-needy team.
Sign: Josh McCown (38, New York) 1 year, $6M (fully guaranteed)
Draft: Baker Mayfield (Oklahoma)
Release: Christian Hackenberg
The Jon Gruden era begins with a few question marks on the offensive side of the ball (WR Crabtree, RB Lynch), and a 26-year-old QB in Derek Carr coming off a career worst year. The “good” news? If Carr puts forth another dud season in 2018, the Raiders can cut him loose for just $7.5M in dead cap. Currently signed Connor Cook has a chance to stick around with Gruden, but with the important of a legitimate backup QB growing by the month, Oakland could be in for a free agent signing here.
Hold tight, use picks/cap space to fill other needs.
The Super Bowl champs have both their young QB1 & MVP backup under contract for a combined $14.8M in cap. At this stage, with Carson Wentz recovering from ACL surgery, it’s hard to imagine another team prying Nick Foles away from the Eagles, but stranger things have happened. Their X-Factor appears to be QB3 Nate Sudfeld, whom they reportedly like plenty. If the right offer for Foles comes in, & Sudfeld is a legitimate backup option, the Super Bowl MVP might just be on the move.
3 good, cheap QBs who know the system is better than 2, or 1.
Ben’s lack of desire to play last February doesn’t appear to have carried over into this offseason. That said, the 36-year-old is clearly on a year-to-year outlook with 2 years remaining on his deal. The current trio of Ben, Landry Jones, & Joshua Dobbs is likely good enough for 2018, and the latter may be the long-term future as well.
Re-sign Le’Veon Bell in some fashion, win the Super Bowl, break it down, and start fresh.
The only downfall to the Niners trading for and eventually starting Jimmy Garoppolo in the middle of 2017, is that he won 5 games for them, dropping their draft placement to 9th. $41.7M guaranteed later, plus a decent showing from C.J. Beathard in 2017, it’s safe to say the 49ers won’t be using any of their notable draft picks on a QB this April.
Garoppolo wins 9 games
Yankees pinch hitter Russell Wilson should find time this fall to start his 8th season in Seattle. The 29-year-old has 2 years left on his deal, and could see plenty of new faces when he looks down the bench in 2018. Last year’s backup Austin Davis should be a cheap re-sign if Seattle is comfortable with that duo for another year. The Seahawks have too many needs (O-Line, RB, WR, TE, Defense) to address the QB position with any girth this free agency/draft.
Run Russell Run.
Many had Tampa as a team to watch in 2017, but they largely disappointed in almost all areas of the roster. To be fair, a healthy Jameis Winston was on pace for a career-high in years, and his near 64% completion percentage was his best to date. But TDs were down, fumbles were way up, and he missed 3 games to boot. The Bucs should still elect to exercise his 5th year option for 2019, putting him under contract for 2 more seasons, giving them flexibility to build up the roster elsewhere (especially after a few notable roster cuts already).
Exercise: Jameis Winston's 5th-year option.
Consider: Mike Glennon (28, Chicago) 1 year, $870,000
The Titans appear to have their QB depth for the offseason already on the roster. Marcus Mariota ($7.7M), Matt Cassel ($2.5M), Alex Tanney ($555k), & Tyler Ferguson ($480k) combine for $11.2M in cap dollars. Tennessee boasts almost $52M to work with heading toward free agency, and are attempting to land a new weapon for Mariota in WR Jarvis Landry.
Exercise: Marcus Mariota's 5th-year option, spend cap dollars elsewhere.
The Redskins did their damage early, breaking up with Kirk Cousins before he could even put his spikes away after the 2017 season. In comes Alex Smith from KC on what is reported to be 4 years at $23.5M per. Behind Smith currently sits Colt McCoy at a slightly his $3.6M cap figure, and Stephen Morris, likely nothing more than a camp body.
So when should they draft the QB of the future? Not yet. Smith’s deal likely includes at least 2 new fully guaranteed years tacked on to his current 2018, meaning three years at minimum. With the current rookie wage scale structure that’s too long to draft and sit a QB with any value.
Nothing to see here, yet.