By The Hudsonian, Joshua Hudson
The biggest name on the free agent market last year was QB Kirk Cousins. It’s rare when quarterbacks capable of throwing for over 4,000 yards year in and year out find themselves without a contract. Cousins later became the first football player in recent memory to receive a fully guaranteed free agent contract. (I’m excluding franchise tag contracts from this, as they are also guaranteed.)
Fast forward to this offseason. The best free agent quarterback teams will be bidding for is… Teddy Bridgewater? Yeah, slim pickins. Bridgewater and Eagles QB Nick Foles are likely to be the two biggest names on the market. Foles’ situation is interesting as he isn’t actually a free agent. Yet. Allow me to break it down: Foles has a 2019 option that the Eagles can, and reportedly will, pick up. But Foles has a stipulation to where he can choose to buy his way into free agency for two million dollars. Foles will likely do this, which will likely lead the Eagles to franchise him, thus keeping teams from pursuing him. If Foles signs the franchise tender, which he reportedly will if it comes to it, the Eagles then can trade him.
*Update: The Eagles informed Foles on Tuesday they will pick up his option for 2019.
*Update to the update: Foles informed the team late Tuesday that he will pay them $2 million to buy his way into free agency.
You get all that?
Bridgewater is something of an enigma at this point in his career. Still only 26 years old, the former Minnesota Vikings QB is two years removed from being a starting quarterback in the NFL. A devastating knee injury caused the Vikings to pursue other options — first Sam Bradford, then Case Keenum, now Kirk Cousins — leaving Bridgewater with an uphill battle to reclaim a starting job in the league. He signed a free agent deal with the Jets last offseason, who then dealt him to the Saints for a 3rd round pick shortly before the season began. Bridgewater started one game, the Week 17 season finale, and looked, well, rusty is the kind way of phrasing it. He completed 14 of 22 for only 118 yards with one touchdown and one interception. Hardly inspiring, to say the least.
The rest of the quarterbacks are a who’s who of future grocery store clerks, financial advisors, and real estate agents. Possibly backups or 3rd string QBs, if they’re lucky.
FitzMagic, or FitzTragic if you’re a “glass half empty” sort of person, is a backup/spot starter at this point in his career. But for a team looking for a bridge quarterback, he could see an eight-figure-per-year deal in his future.
Tyrod Taylor was awful over two and a half games to start the season before losing his job to rookie Baker Mayfield. Has he declined or is this all Hue Jackson and Todd Haley’s fault? He can void his contract and will likely pursue an opportunity to contend for a starting job versus sticking around to back up Mayfield.
Other names you know that are even less inspiring include Matt Schaub, Robert Griffin III, Tom Savage, Matt Cassell, Geno Smith, Trevor Siemian, Josh McCown, and Brett Hundley.
There are as many as 12 teams that need a competent backup quarterback, competition to light a fire under their incumbent starter, or a bridge as they have plans to search for their franchise guy during the 2019 NFL Draft.
The Dolphins have an awful team. Ryan Tannehill is oft-injured and Brock Osweiler, who may have defeated the Chicago Bears earlier this year, is hardly the answer. They have the 13th pick in the draft and would likely have to trade up to get the rookie they want. They could also seek a bridge like Foles, Bridgewater, or Fitzpatrick to keep them competent. Or they can roll with one of the young guys they had on the team last year, Luke Falk or David Fales, and shoot for the 1st pick in the 2020 draft, which is likely to have a better crop of QB prospects.
After the emergence of rookie QB Lamar Jackson after incumbent Joe Flacco suffered a hip injury, the Ravens are reportedly moving on from Flacco. They are expected to either trade or release him, leaving the Ravens with holes to fill on the depth chart behind the mobile Jackson. (Robert Griffin III is a free agent after spending the year as 3rd on the depth chart.)
The Jaguars are stuck with Blake Bortles. And even if they cut him, his cap hit is immense after the extension the team inked him to last offseason. They brought in former Eagles QB coach and former Vikings OC John DeFilippo to be their offensive coordinator this year. Are they a team to watch in the Nick Foles sweepstakes? Armed with the 7th pick in the draft, maybe they want a shot at one of this year’s top QBs. Regardless, they’ll be in the market for a new quarterback.
The Giants are likely to be looking for their quarterback of the future as Eli Manning gets up there in age. They passed on last year’s QB class to take the reigning Offensive Rookie of the Year, Saquon Barkley, at number two overall. They have the 6th pick this year with no team ahead of them desperate for a quarterback. Will they trade up to get the guy they like? Take someone in the later rounds and give Manning one more year? Or hit free agency for their answer?
The Bengals are bringing in a new coach. While Andy Dalton has had his moments, is the Red Rifle the man to get the Bengals to the playoffs and winning playoff games? Competition could be in the offing.
The Redskins owe Alex Smith a ton of money in 2019, but after his career-threatening leg injury he suffered midway through the 2018 season, the Redskins can’t go into 2019 with Colt McCoy as their starter. Do they look to the draft or free agency? I’d wager both, as there are no long term options in free agency and they have no clue if Smith will come back or that he’ll be as effective if he does.
The Broncos are another team that desperately needs a quarterback of the future. Case Keenum was mediocre at best in 2018 and will likely go into 2019 as the incumbent. Sitting at 10, John Elway will likely need to jump ahead of both the Giants and Jaguars if he wants his pick of college quarterbacks.
I’m won’t be targeting any of these guys for fantasy purposes. If Foles lands with the Jaguars, they’ll want him to be a savvy veteran and control the clock by running the ball well and throwing 3rd down completions to Marqise Lee — assuming Lee is back healthy in 2019 — while playing great defense. I don’t see him as a QB that ends the season higher than QB23. Bridgewater has always been more of a game manager as a QB than anything. If he lands a starting gig, he’s probably QB25 at best, a backup in a 2 QB league.