By The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson
The 2017 NFL season is officially over. Congratulations to the Philadelphia Eagles on capturing their first Super Bowl title — and first championship since 1960 (!!) — by knocking off the defending Super Bowl champions, the New England Patriots. What. A. Game. This Eagles fan could barely contain himself.
But you don’t want to hear about my love for the Eagles. You’re here for a preview of what the free agency market will look like, and we’ve got you covered with the quarterbacks who could make splashes with new teams in 2018. The NFL offseason kicked off just before the Super Bowl when the Kansas City Chiefs traded starting QB Alex Smith to the Washington Redskins for a third round pick in the upcoming NFL Draft and young CB Kendall Fuller. This marks the end of the Kirk Cousins era in Washington. The Broncos, Cardinals, Jets, Vikings, Dolphins, Bills, Browns, and Jaguars could all be in the market for a new starting QB come March when the league year officially opens, and Cousins will have plenty of suitors.
Over the last three seasons, Cousins ranks 3rd in the NFL in completion percentage, 4th in passing yards, and 8th in TD passes. He also ranks as QB5 in terms of total fantasy points with 1,011.30. The names ahead of him? Russell Wilson, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, and Cam Newton. Some names behind him? Aaron Rodgers, Matthew Stafford, Ben Roethlisberger, and Matt Ryan, to name a few. A QB of his caliber hitting unrestricted free agency is almost unheard of and he’ll have his pick of where he wants to play. Open up those checkbooks!
Cousins is the headliner, but there are other options for teams and fantasy owners alike to pay attention to. While they’re less likely to switch teams this offseason, technically 49ers QB Jimmy Garoppolo and Saints QB Drew Brees are free agents as well. The 49ers are likely to place the franchise tag on Jimmy G(Q) if a long term agreement can not be reached. By all accounts, both sides want to get a deal done. From Weeks 13-16, Jimmy G(Q) ranked as QB11 while leading the 49ers to a 4-0 record — he also picked up a win for them in Week 17, bringing him to 5-0 for the 49ers on the season. Safe to say, he’s not going anywhere and I look for him to challenge top 10 status in 2018 if the 49ers can get him a number one wide receiver to compliment the returning Pierre Garçon and 2017 breakout Marquise Goodwin.
Brees is a little trickier. While he’s come out and said he doesn’t want to leave, the Saints will have to work out a deal with him as they don’t have the franchise tag as a safety blanket. (There’s a clause in Brees’ contract that prevents him from being tagged.) Will Brees hold the team hostage for an upper echelon deal this late in his career? Or will he go the Brady route: sign for less and allow the Saints to build a better team around him? Time will tell, but I don’t foresee him leaving the bayou.
What about Josh McCown? At 38 years old, McCown did something no one thought possible at the outset of the season — made the New York Jets competitive. Yes, they only won five games, but they looked a lot better than their record indicated. Before his season-ending injury in Week 14, McCown was QB9. Let me say that again — QB nine! He’s clearly a stop gap, if he doesn’t retire, for a team looking to groom a rookie, but his situation reminds me a lot of Ryan Fitzpatrick’s in 2015. A career backup has a breakout year and then falls off the proverbial cliff the following year. Buyer beware.
And then there’s the trio of Vikings’ signal callers. Yes, trio. How many times in league history has not one, not two, but three quarterbacks from the same team hit free agency at the same time? The original starter, Teddy Bridgewater, made his way back from a catastrophic knee injury in 2016 to be deemed healthy enough to suit up for the Vikings late in the season. The starter at the beginning of 2017, Sam Bradford, developed a knee injury in his twice surgically repaired knee to miss the bulk of the season. The third stringer turned 2017 savior, Case Keenum, also finds himself hitting free agency at arguably the best time possible. Keenum was finally given an opportunity and did he ever show he deserves a chance to start in this league. Who will the Vikings bring back? My guess is Bridgewater lands somewhere as a backup with an opportunity to hold off a young QB, while Keenum or Bradford will end up in Arizona with the other staying in Minnesota. The Vikings have to bring back at least one of them. The question is, who do they trust most with a new offensive coordinator coming in?
And then there’s the quarterbacks that could see free agency after teams do some evaluating. Tyrod Taylor has been at the epicenter of rumors since he usurped the starting job from 1st round pick E.J. Manuel some time ago. It looks like this will finally be the year the Bills sever ties. Add another name to the market. How about Blake Bortles? He’s been up and down throughout his career, but as long as the Jaguars keep that defense together, Bortles can keep the Jaguars competitive. Do they decline his 5th year option if, say, Eli Manning becomes available? The Dolphins could choose to part with Ryan Tannehill, as he’s coming back from a knee injury and has no guaranteed money left on his contract. The aforementioned Giants could choose to trade Eli as they have the number 2 pick in the draft and will be in prime position to take their new decade long starter. What about Nick Foles? He just won Super Bowl MVP and with Carson Wentz set to return at the outset of 2018, the Eagles may look to move him and his salary for a draft pick or two. Lots of moving parts still to be determined.
The remaining free agent QBs reads as a who’s who of washout starters and retread backups. Names like Jay Cutler, Matt Moore, Blaine Gabbert, Fitzpatrick, Geno Smith, Tom Savage, Drew Stanton, and Brock Osweiler will land somewhere, even if it is on their couch. Let the QB carousel spin!