With free agency now under way, the NFL’s quarterback landscape is beginning to take shape. The Joe Flacco and Case Keenum trades to the Denver Broncos and Washington Redskins, respectively, can be made official, and Nick Foles has signed a four-year, $88 million contract with the Jacksonville Jaguars.
In addition, as of March 13, Teddy Bridgewater is planning to re-sign with the New Orleans Saints and Tyrod Taylor will be joining the Los Angeles Chargers. Several teams still have an immediate need for a starting signal caller, though, and others lack a long-term solution at the position. These organizations will now turn their focus to the crop of youngsters who will be available in next month’s draft.
This year’s quarterback class has not been particularly highly rated with respect to either quantity or quality, especially when contrasted with the classes in recent years. On the contrary, the 2019 draft class has been noted for its plethora of high-end defensive prospects that are projected to be transcendent players at the next level. Consequently, some teams are expected to wait until the 2020 and 2021 drafts to take a quarterback, when the likes of the University of Oregon’s Justin Herbert, the University of Alabama’s Tua Tagovailoa and Clemson University’s Trevor Lawrence will be on the board. However, several teams will still take their chances with this year’s crop, and given the weight that teams do and should attach to the position, they’ll more than likely draft quarterbacks with exceptionally high picks. Let’s take a look at the teams that will be in the market for one of the top-rated quarterbacks when the draft comes along on April 25.
The first several teams that could be in the mix are those with aging stars at quarterback that will need to be replaced sooner rather than later. The New Orleans Saints and Pittsburgh Steelers would be in this category, but they appear to be ready for whenever Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger, respectively, decide to step away from the game. As mentioned earlier, the Saints are planning to bring back Teddy Bridgewater. The Steelers, meanwhile, selected Joshua Dobbs and Mason Rudolph in the middle rounds of the 2017 and 2018 drafts, respectively.
The Los Angeles Chargers and New England Patriots, on the other hand, could be in the market for a quarterback of the future if either team believes that one of the youngsters available could be groomed as their veteran’s successor. While Tyrod Taylor and Brian Hoyer are solid backups for the Chargers and Pats, respectively, they are not intended to be anything more than that. The top several options in this year’s draft will not be available when these teams make their first picks. Additionally, both teams will likely address more pressing needs with their first picks to bolster their elite rosters while their current quarterbacks are still performing at a high level. However, come the middle rounds of the draft, both may be in play to select who they hope will be heir apparent to 37-year-old Philip Rivers and 41-year-old Tom Brady, respectively.
Next up are the teams that do not have an elite quarterback and are not projected to draft a quarterback, though it would not be earth-shattering news if they did: the Cincinnati Bengals and the Oakland Raiders. For Cincinnati, Andy Dalton is now over 30-years-old and he hasn’t played in a playoff game since the 2014 season (he was injured during the 2015 playoffs). However, while the “Red Rifle” has never performed at an elite level, he is certainly competent, and finding a replacement for him is far from Cincinnati’s most pressing concern. It is likely that new head coach Zac Taylor — who served as the quarterbacks coach for the Los Angeles Rams last season — will see if he can work some Sean McVay/Jared Goff-type magic with the veteran before searching for a replacement. But, on the off chance that he has already decided Dalton is not his guy, he could look to bring in someone new next month.
As for Oakland, its odds of nabbing a quarterback were a lot higher a few days ago than they are now. Throughout the Raiders’ tumultuous first season under Jon Gruden, the coach expressed very little confidence in Derek Carr. Many believed that he was in fact shopping Carr, who had been a Pro Bowler in each of the previous three seasons. However, the acquisition of wide receiver Antonio Brown has changed things. AB has already expressed his excitement to play with Carr, so it would be quite a surprise if the Raiders decided to bring in someone raw and inexperienced to pair with the four-time All-Pro receiver. Oakland does have three first round picks, though. And with Gruden you never know for sure what he’s planning, and oftentimes, the moves he does make are the ones you don’t expect.
We’re now moving into the territory of teams that are not surefire picks to select quarterbacks this year, even though they will need someone new pretty soon: the Denver Broncos and the Miami Dolphins. The Broncos have a talented roster, especially on defense, and if all goes well, they should be a fringe playoff contender next season. While Joe Flacco is not exactly a difference maker, he is also not a liability. Flacco is only a temporary solution, though, and Denver has a team option on his contract after each season of the deal. The Broncos could do something similar to what the Baltimore Ravens did last year: draft a quarterback that could replace Flacco when the opportunity arises.
As for the Dolphins, they seem ready to move on from Ryan Tannehill. Tannehill was drafted in 2012, and if he was going to take this team to the next level, he would have done it by now. Miami has already expressed an interest in waiting to select a quarterback until next year, when Herbert and Tagovailoa will be available, but if the organization is ultimately sold on one of this year’s prospects, their plans could certainly change.
Last but not least are the three teams that would surprise the football world more if they didn’t draft quarterbacks in the first round than if they did: the Arizona Cardinals, the New York Giants and the Washington Redskins. The Jaguars were on this list as well — right up until they made a pricey commitment to Nick Foles. The Cardinals were not expected to be in the quarterback market, especially after they traded up to select Josh Rosen 10th overall last year.
However it is believed that they are all but guaranteed to use the first overall pick this year to select the University of Oklahoma’s Heisman Trophy winner, Kyler Murray. If Murray goes to Arizona, there will immediately be a feverish market for Rosen, who is still widely considered to be a high-end talent, even if he doesn’t fit coach Kliff Kingsbury’s specific vision for the Cardinals’ offense. All of the teams previously mentioned in this article, as well as the Giants and Redskins, will likely be in on the Rosen sweepstakes if Arizona does indeed bring in Murray.
The Giants have the sixth overall pick in the draft and are likely to use the pick to choose Eli Manning’s successor. The team’s decision to move on from wide receiver Odell Beckham Jr., safety Landon Collins and linebacker Olivier Vernon signals its willingness to rebuild. Now is the logical time for New York to fully embrace a rebuild by bringing a new, young quarterback to develop under Manning.
The Redskins are currently slated to make their first selection at 15th overall. Although they acquired Case Keenum to play quarterback following Alex Smith’s devastating leg injury last season, Keenum only has one year remaining on his deal. He is a placeholder, not a long term solution. Ohio State University’s Dwayne Haskins, the University of Missouri’s Drew Lock and Duke University’s Daniel Jones are all expected to be in play when these two teams are drafting. And if either team is really in love with someone in particular, it is certainly possible that it could trade up to guarantee that it gets its man of the future.