This offseason’s quarterback carousel will be one of the most eventful in recent memory. With Super Bowl MVPs, Heisman winners and former Pro Bowlers among the quarterbacks potentially on the move, there will be no shortage of headline deals in the coming months.
The Kansas City Chiefs’ trade of Alex Smith to the Washington Redskins was the first domino to fall, but plenty of other teams will also soon be making moves to fill their own needs at the quarterback position. Let’s make some predictions regarding which new faces will end up in which new places prior to the start of next season.
I will begin with the Cleveland Browns, who have been in quarterback limbo longer than any franchise in the league. DeShone Kizer was the team’s latest failed experiment after he was selected in the second round of last year’s draft. This year, the Browns need to go all in and use the first overall pick in the draft to select a quarterback with high upside — either the University of Southern California’s Sam Darnold or the University of Wyoming’s Josh Allen.
Additionally, in order to ease the transition, Cleveland should also look to acquire a veteran quarterback. The best fit seems to be the Cincinnati Bengals’ current backup, AJ McCarron. The Browns already tried to trade for McCarron in the middle of last season, before the deal fell through.
This offseason, they should once again try to acquire McCarron. McCarron’s familiarity with head coach Hue Jackson — who previously served as Cincinnati’s offensive coordinator — will help him quickly adjust to the Browns’ system. Drafting a top-tier prospect and acquiring a veteran seems to be Cleveland’s best potential course of action in trying to finally solve their quarterback issues.
The New York Jets and Buffalo Bills’ multi-year searches for franchise quarterbacks have also been to no avail. I see these two AFC East rivals approaching their offseason searches in very different ways. The Jets figure to spend the big bucks on a proven commodity, due to their lack of success in drafting a quarterback year after year.
Look for them to acquire Kirk Cousins and sign him to the most lucrative contract in NFL history. While it may be a hefty investment, the Jets have the money to make the deal, and they need to find stability at quarterback once and for all. Cousins will be a strong centerpiece in the Jets’ offense, as they look to end their seven-year playoff drought.
The Bills do not have as much money to spend as the Jets do and should resort to bringing in an adequate veteran as a short-term solution. In addition, they should do everything in their power to draft a quarterback in the first round. Buffalo will likely cut ties with Tyrod Taylor in the coming months, due to financial restraints. They also cannot rely on Nathan Peterman moving forward after the rookie’s absolutely abysmal audition in limited action last season.
While the Bills should not give up on Peterman entirely, he is not a viable option in the short term.
The Bills should be aggressive in trying to trade for Nick Foles. However, the Philadelphia Eagles may not trade the reigning Super Bowl MVP until they know that Carson Wentz has fully recovered from his torn ACL.
I see Buffalo trading for an affordable quarterback — possibly the Denver Broncos’ Trevor Siemian — and drafting a quarterback in the middle of the first round. Either the University of Louisville’s Lamar Jackson or the University of Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield could be solid options if they are still available when the Bills are on the clock.
The Bills have two first-round picks — the 21st and 22nd. If they are truly sold on one of these youngsters, they could trade up to guarantee that they get the player they see as the best fit for their franchise.
Unlike the Jets and Bills, the New York Giants’ quarterback situation has been stable for years. However, the “G-Men” are beginning to enter a new era, as the Eli Manning era begins to wind down. After Manning was benched by former coach Ben McAdoo, the two-time Super Bowl champion’s departure from the Giants seemed imminent. However, the organization’s new leadership seems to be leaning toward keeping Manning around — at least in the short term.
I would not be surprised if Manning was dealt at some point, but for now, expect him to remain with the team. The Giants also must prepare for the future, though, as backups Geno Smith and Davis Webb are not viable long-term solutions. Look for New York to draft the University of California, Los Angeles’ Josh Rosen with the second overall pick to be Manning’s eventual successor.
Let’s now examine the Minnesota Vikings’ predicament: deciding which of their three free agent quarterbacks they should bring back for the 2018 season. Sam Bradford, Teddy Bridgewater and Case Keenum could each end up wearing the purple and gold again next season, but it is unlikely that all three return to the defending NFC North champions.
The Vikings will have to weigh the pros and cons of each quarterback as they make their offseason decision. Bradford had a strong 2016 season but was hindered by injuries in 2017. Bridgewater began his career very promisingly, but he has not started a game since he tore his ACL prior to the 2016 season. Finally, Keenum led the Vikings to last season’s NFC Championship Game, but his success as a starter is a relatively small sample size.
In the end, I believe that Minnesota will retain Bridgewater and Keenum. Bridgewater should be a bargain, due to the uncertainty surrounding his health. Keenum deserves the chance to remain the starter, following his immense success last season.
As for Bradford, I see the Arizona Cardinals as his most likely landing destination. The Cardinals are a team ready to contend, and they need a veteran quarterback to replace the recently retired Carson Palmer.
Bradford will not be a long-term solution for Arizona, though. I expect the Cardinals to trade up and draft either Sam Darnold or Josh Allen. This strategy would mirror the Kansas City Chiefs’ decision to move up and take Patrick Mahomes in last year’s draft.
Last but not least are the Denver Broncos, who, like the Cardinals, should both draft a promising young prospect and sign an adequate veteran. I believe the Broncos will not use the fifth pick to take a quarterback but will instead take Lamar Jackson or Baker Mayfield later on in the draft.
In order to address their short-term need, they will sign Tyrod Taylor to a relatively inexpensive deal and rely on him to help Denver contend in 2018. While Taylor may not be thrilled to sign with a team that will only need him in the short run, I see his market being relatively slow to develop. Also, the chance to play for a team that is ready to win will be enticing.
It will be extremely interesting to see how the quarterback market plays out this offseason. While some deals will inevitably backfire, others may lay the foundation for sustainable success moving forward.
A number of teams will take major risks that will determine the success of their franchises for years to come. However, these are risks that have to be taken. After all, you’re not going anywhere fast in the NFL without a solid QB at the helm.