2019 NFL QB market won't be the same as 2018, will be slim pickings for needy teams
2019 NFL Draft won't have the same level of QB prospects and free-agent class doesn't measure up to 2018
It's going to be a long time before we see another offseason of unbridled quarterback activity like we did in 2018. In fact, we might never see it again, when you account for all of the trades and signings (including a bevy of recent playoff starting QBs), and then the record-tying five passers who were selected in the first round as well.
And, well, 2019 ain't gonna be close.
Not by a long-shot. For one thing, the flurry of quarterback transactions, in and of itself, mitigates much of the short-term QB need. And this draft is sizing up to be anything but a boom for quarterbacks, particularly if potential top-overall pick Justin Herbert stays at Oregon as expected. Nevertheless, there will still be roughly a half-dozen teams that will be searching for a veteran stop-gap starter, and/or a potential franchise arm, in the draft.
It's also becoming clear, now more than halfway through the season, which teams are likely to move on from their current starter for one reason or another, whether it be age, ineffectiveness, contract, presence of a young upstart QB, or all of the above. In talks with agents and personnel executives in recent weeks, a blueprint of the quarterback market is starting to take shape.
There are four places where a very cogent argument could be made that the team lacks a viable quarterback of the present and/or future, and where a change would frankly seem likely at this point. The Dolphins are enduring another injury-plagued, lost season with Ryan Tannehill, and I have a hard time seeing ownership going down this road in 2019 whether he makes sweeping staff changes or not. Tampa recommitting to Jameis Winston, with very likely a new coach and GM taking over, seems like a stretch right now, though I do continue to hear Winston will get a long look before the season ends. The Jaguars sticking with Blake Bortles in 2019 would be beyond the pale. And the Giants are getting ready to look at rookie Kyle Lauletta and will need at the very least a veteran to mentor and push him in 2019, if not an outright starter to replace Eli Manning.
The Broncos have a decision to make with Case Keenum, and whether or not it is time to draft a QB with a top pick. Keenum is set to make $18M in 2019 with $7M of it guaranteed; regardless, Denver is going to be adding a quarterback or two this offseason. If the Bengals finally make a coaching change this season, and Marvin Lewis is gone, might the new regime kickstart a rebuild by shopping Andy Dalton and go in a different direction? He carries no guaranteed money and no dead cap hit if dealt, and with salaries of $16M and $17.5M left on his deal that would be a very trade-friendly contract, indeed. And, if this ends up being the year the Tom Brady retires, well, then, duh, New England needs a quarterback, too.
The free-agent crop is nothing like last year's, with there being just one potential young cornerstone of the group – and he was available last year, too. Teddy Bridgewater would be the obvious starter in a lot of NFL quarterback rooms right now, and while the Saints would love to keep him as Drew Brees insurance, the market for him could be robust in 2019. Beyond that, Tyrod Taylor, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Josh McCown (who could retire) and, gulp, Sam Bradford are probably the three most intriguing options of the guys currently set to be UFAs (with aged vets like Manning and Nick Foles, after they are released, set to join them).
There is another a group of quarterbacks who fall into the category of potential trade, or cap-space casualty. Joe Flacco was always facing an uphill climb to stay in Baltimore beyond 2018, due to production and a $27M cap figure, and the Ravens can save $18.5M in cash and $10.5M in cap if they are able to trade him (or they simply cut him). Would Jon Gruden go full-throttle on his rebuild and see if he could fetch two very high picks for Derek Carr?
(I discussed the impending QB carousel on today's Pick 6 Podcast with Will Brinson. You can listen below [it'll fire up right when the convo gets good] and subscribe to get more daily NFL news, analysis, picks and fantasy advice EVERY DAY).
Could the Dolphins get anything for Tannehill with that $18.75M salary (and $27M cap hit)? If not, a June 1 cut designation could be the best way out. I figure that same designation would be coming for Blake Bortles in Jacksonville as well. How about Winston? One would think his baggage, and poor play this season, make him impossible to trade on a fifth-year option, though maybe he finishes strong to boost his stock. It would take significant value to lure Jacoby Brissett out of Indy … but if I'm the Giants I'd deal my high second-round pick for the chance to see what he can do. How about Nick Mullens and the way he is shining with the 49ers? Could he launch himself into a starting conversation elsewhere via trade with Jimmy G coming back to the Bay in 2019?
It will be fascinating to see if the limited draft pool, coupled with some less-than-appealing free-agent options, will lead to a vibrant trade market. I will be very interested to see how the market responds to some of the hefty price tags on these veteran quarterbacks. The more I size up the available options, the more I would take my chances with Brissett in the final year of that rookie contract making less than $1M. The Colts could be sitting in an envious spot with him.
What about Brissett, or Keenum (who head coach Pat Shurmur shined with in Minnesota in 2017) to the Giants? What about Brissett back to the Pats if Brady actually did call it a Hall of Fame career? How about Carr (whose contract of $20M/year the next four years is essentially a swap with what Tannehill would have made) in Miami, where ownership needs to do something to get people's attention? Flacco to the Jaguars, if they think they can still contend? Bridgewater to the Bucs?
The moves will lack the star-power and magnitude from a year ago – quantity and quality, overall – but expect there to be plenty of quarterback trade chatter by the time we get to the combine in February. And at least a handful of actual trades after that.
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