And Brady is just going to play forever, so the Patriots really have nothing to worry about. Right?
By Jared Dubin
(CBS Sports) — As usual, the quarterback position has drawn a ton of attention throughout this offseason.
We saw teams trade their starter to move on to a recently drafted successor, like the Chiefs, who shipped out Alex Smith to move on to Patrick Mahomes. We saw teams lose a starter in free agency, only to make a move for a replacement, like Washington, which traded for Smith when it became clear Kirk Cousins was leaving. We saw teams shell out big money for upgrades, like the Vikings, who signed Cousins away from Washington. We saw teams go all-in to give their young quarterbacks new weaponry, like the Rams, who brought in Brandin Cooks to help out Jared Goff.
We also saw several teams draft quarterbacks early in order to secure their long-term future at the position. The Browns tabbed Baker Mayfield at No. 1 overall. The Jets took Sam Darnold at No. 3. The Bills traded up for Josh Allen at No. 7, and the Cardinals did the same for Josh Rosen at No. 10. The Ravens, after trading back initially, moved up to snag Lamar Jackson at No. 32.
With all the maneuvering, it’s clear at this point that most of the teams in the league have a very good idea of who their starting quarterback will be not just in 2018, but in 2019 and beyond. They either have a veteran locked in for the foreseeable future, a young quarterback still being developed, or a rookie waiting in the wings. Some teams, though, have either a clear present and a cloudy future, or a cloudy quarterback picture altogether. They have an unreliable starter or an aging legend nearing the end of his run.
Below, we’ll look into the nine teams with unsettled quarterback-of-the-future situations, and when they might need to look into figuring out who the “next” guy will be.
Yes, the Jaguars went to the AFC title game a year ago despite employing Blake Bortles as their quarterback. But also, they did not get to the Super Bowl, despite having one of the best defenses in recent memory. Bortles has not shown us much during his four NFL seasons to prove he should be Jacksonville’s long-term starter, and the extension the team gave him this offseason was clearly motivated more by finances than by a significant amount of faith in his play.
The Jags don’t necessarily seem like a team that wants to draft a quarterback and wait for him to get ready to win because, well, their defense is ready to win right now. They were a rumored landing spot for players like Tyrod Taylor last year and could become a hot destination for a player like Nick Foles during this year’s camp. But with the financial commitment they just made to Bortles, it seems unlikely that they’ll be changing things this year.
Next offseason, though, change could come. At least in the form of some sort of competition for Bortles, who will still be due $10 million in guarantees in 2019.
The Dolphins still have Ryan Tannehill under contract for three more years after restructuring his contract this offseason. But they reportedly took a hard look at the top quarterbacks in this year’s draft, and they can still save close to $19 million against the cap if they designate Tannehill a post-June 1 release next year. Adam Gase is not part of the regime that drafted Tannehill and neither is Mike Tannenbaum, so it’s possible they could decide they want to get their own guy under center if Tannehill doesn’t show major progress this season. He’s shown himself to be an adequate starting quarterback in five seasons at the helm but not necessarily one worth cap hits over $25 million in 2019 and 2020.
The Dolphins may be in a more realistic position than the Jaguars to draft a quarterback and let him grow with their roster, but that has pretty much never been Tannenbaum’s style, so it’s hard to predict what this team might do at the position in the future.
Speaking of adequate veteran starters whose teams can get out of their contracts with major cap savings after this season… come on down, Andy Dalton! Dalton has zero guaranteed money left on his deal after the 2018 campaign, meaning the Bengals can get out of his cap hits of $16.2 million for 2019 and $17.7 million for 2020 if they so choose without taking any dead money onto their books.
We’ve likely already seen Dalton’s upside, and it wasn’t all that high. He was probably something like a borderline top-10 QB at the height of his play, and with the Bengals having changed over a lot of their skill position players these last few seasons, it’s possible they could just choose to move on if Dalton doesn’t take a step forward this year. Then again, the Bengals are a famously change-averse organization (see: Lewis, Marvin), so maybe they just run it back with Dalton no matter what happens this year. If they don’t, though, they seem like a good candidate to wade into the market for a veteran starter while drafting a QB to develop behind him.
For more on that idea, let’s talk about the…
There were 33 quarterbacks who threw at least 500 passes between the 2016 and 2017 seasons combined. Among that group of 33, Eli Manning ranked 21st in completion percentage, 29th in touchdown rate, 18th in interception rate, 31st in yards per attempt, and 28th in passer rating. In 2017 he ranked 20th among 32 qualified passers in completion percentage, 30th in yards per attempt, 26th in passer rating, 23rd in Football Outsiders’ DVOA and DYAR, and 24th in ESPN’s QBR. In other words, he is a clearly well below-average starting quarterback. And he’s 37 years old. He’s not getting any better.
All the Giants have behind him as the “future” at the position is 2017 third-round pick Davis Webb and 2018 fourth-round pick Kyle Lauletta. Here is the complete list of quarterbacks since 2000 who were drafted after the second round, started one game or fewer during their rookie season, and eventually became their drafted team’s full-time starter: David Garrard, Josh McCown, Trevor Siemian, Tom Brady. That’s it. That’s the whole list. It’s not a viable option.
And so, the Giants need to be thinking about who will take over for Manning, whether it’s a year from now or sometime after that. It’s unlikely to be Webb or Lauletta, and since they’re not looking for a replacement starter right now, it’s probably going to be someone they get in a future draft.
Case Keenum is basically the definition of a bridge QB. Trevor Siemian was not the answer and has been shipped out. Brock Osweiler is gone as well. If Paxton Lynch was the answer, Siemian wouldn’t have been the starter last year. Maybe you’re a Chad Kelly believer, but as we explored in the Giants section, the odds are extremely low.
John Elway has yet to find success with drafting QBs and seems to prefer the veteran route, so if Keenum doesn’t work as expected this season, maybe the Broncos just try to run it back with another similar type of player next year. The guys on the defense were clearly not in favor of the team drafting a quarterback this year, and it doesn’t seem like that’ll change by this time next year. Elway may need to value the future of the franchise over present contention for the first time in a while, though, if that defense can’t get them back to the playoffs this year.
Now, we’re getting into the teams who have established starters still playing at a high level but who seemingly have no real plan at the position beyond the end of that starter’s career.
The Steelers come the closest to have such a plan, given that they drafted Mason Rudolph this year. Rudolph is apparently getting absolutely zero help from Ben Roethlisberger, but it’s never really been proven that mentorship has a realized effect on quarterbacks’ performance anyway. (How many backups to Peyton Manning and Tom Brady went on to have success elsewhere over the years?) Roethlisberger seemingly misses a few games a year, so Rudolph could have a chance to get himself some experience before eventually taking over as a full-time starter down the line. That could give him a leg up on other mid-to-late round QBs who don’t get that chance and generally don’t have much success in the league.
The Chargers, Saints, and Patriots really don’t have much of anything behind Philip Rivers, Drew Brees, and Brady. They were all rumored to be interested in quarterbacks early in this year’s draft, but none of them pulled the trigger. It looked like the Saints were going to do it when they traded next year’s first-round pick to move up to No. 14, but they took pass-rusher Marcus Davenport instead. They are clearly trying to maximize the Brees window, and they’ll worry about who the next quarterback will be whenever the time comes.
Rivers isn’t necessarily playing at as high a level anymore as Ben, Brees, or Brady, but he’s still above-average with upside for more than that, and he’s got a nice crop of weapons around him as well. He’s getting up there in age, though, and the Chargers can get out of his contract with minimal cap damage after this season. With their young defensive core locked in and some intriguing skill guys to help the transition, it’s possible they could make a change as soon as next season.