Why the Cardinals aren't the only potential losers in the perplexing saga of Josh Rosen
The Dolphins are winners and Cardinals losers when it comes to the Rosen trade, but this isn't strictly binary
A week has passed and still it is difficult to process that Josh Rosen was actually traded for the 62nd pick in the 2019 NFL Draft along with a fifth-round pick in 2020. I'm not surprised, because it has been clear for months that the Arizona Cardinals were woefully mishandling the eventual trade of the 10th overall pick in 2018. I'm not shocked, since by last Friday it was obvious that they were only going to get a Day 2 pick for Rosen.
But it is difficult to look back and not be dismayed by the events that led to this point (alreadylast weekend) where Miami was able to purchase Rosen for pennies on the dollar in terms of salary (Arizona has already given him all of his upfront money) and draft-pick compensation. And that dismay extends well beyond the Cardinals, but to the handful of other teams who once could might a forthright and compelling case for pursuing Rosen as well.
This isn't binary in that Arizona gives away a potential franchise quarterback, and Miami gains from the sequence of bizarre events that resulted in the Cardinals reaching this point 12 months after moving up to select Rosen with the 10th pick. There are corollaries and tangents that should have been more thoroughly explored. When the tales of this just-completed draft are told over time, undoubtedly, the Rosen/Kyler Murray nexus will be a central theme in evaluating and determining the winners and losers. But it also has tentacles – even if unseen in real time – to the Bengals, Broncos, Giants, Buccaneers, Skins and Titans, and, to a lesser degree, the Chargers and Patriots, too.
The reality is, for all intents and purposes, Rosen was the fifth quarterback selected in the 2019 draft, at pick No. 62, by the Dolphins, after fleecing Arizona. And it is also well-established that the Cardinals had been hoping against hope they could fetch a first-round pick for him, all the while refusing to simply do right by Rosen and hold an auction for his services before the start of free agency. You can't have it both ways, which led to a climate last Friday by which, at best, Arizona could land Miami's 48th overall pick (before they traded down with the Saints), with no other teams stepping up to grab Rosen in the second round.
The idea that Rosen, after being thoroughly let down by the Cardinals as a rookie in terms of scheme, coaching, pass protection, balance on offense, surrounding skill players and continuity, was suddenly now the 62nd-best prospect in a draft short on sure-fire QBs and stud skill players overall, will always baffle me. It doesn't add up. He didn't get arrested or fight with coaches or get suspended or act like a fool despite Arizona's gross negligence in how it handled him. So how to explain this fall – other than the Cardinals eroding all leverage and devaluing this asset with ferocious quickness by giving him no chance to succeed and then clearly being all-in on taking Murray with the first pick way back at the combine, if not before then.
So I set about asking some evaluators I know and trust who work for teams that were not in the rookie QB market whatsoever to answer some questions for me. I wanted to know, based on their draft grades from last year and this year, how they would stack Rosen up against the first five quarterbacks in the 2019 draft: Murray, Daniel Jones, Dwayne Haskins, Drew Lock and Ryan Finley. These are teams with no dog in the fight and nothing to gain or lose – especially after the draft – and teams that have done a good job evaluating quarterbacks over time.
Here are three of their lists:
I contacted another evaluator who wasn't in the office but said unequivocally that Rosen was the highest graded of any of these quarterbacks, with Murray second. I had another team tell me Murray, Rosen and Jones were their top three.
Notice a trend here? Rosen is, at worst, viewed as the second-best option available, yet he was traded 61 slots after Murray and after four quarterbacks in total were drafted last weekend. That just doesn't add up. Sure, Rosen may be too smart and too forward thinking and care too much about the environment for the liking of some old-school (backwards?) executives in the NFL, but he handled this entire Cardinals debacle with nothing but class, , and if he is even close to the player many expect this is a masterstroke for the Dolphins.
But we already knew that, even without the lists I just provided to back it up. And I understand that Arizona, already doubling-down on a certain system by hiring Kliff Kingsbury, would then go all-in on a QB he viewed as a perfect fit since Murray was like in middle school. But what about all of the other teams that went in a different direction?
Giants GM Dave Gettleman is getting hammered for taking Jones with the sixth pick, when he would have been there at 17 (despite what he would tell you). But what about taking edge beast Josh Allen at six, sticking with Dexter Lawrence at 17 to totally solidify that defensive line and then just keeping their second-round pick (instead of trading up for Deandre Baker in a watered-down corner draft) and using that on Rosen? I get it -- he isn't Gettleman's cup of tea. But not everyone is raised by the Mannings and coached by David Cutcliffe, and you won't find many GMs who prefer Jones to Rosen. Also, Rosen's college production destroys what Jones accomplished. Don't just view it as Jones vs. Haskins and Jones vs. Sam Darnold (who Gettleman inexplicably passed on a year ago). It's also Jones vs. Rosen, who Gettleman actually passed on twice -- in the first round last year and the second round this year.
How about Washington? The Skins were clearly always all about Haskins, and getting him at 15 is safe and sound and could prove to be tremendous value. Of course, they could have grabbed a potential stud replacement offensive tackle there and still taken Montez Sweat via trade late in the first round and moved up into the second round to trade for Rosen. I like the Haskins pick, personally, but it's all food for thought.
Denver could have traded down from 10 to 20 and landed a tight end and still addressed offensive line and made the move up to pick 42 as they did for Lock, and sent that pick to Arizona for Rosen (or just stay at 52 and trade that pick to the Cardinals). They didn't do that, of course, because Lock embodies everything John Elway loves in a QB and fits his model and has the same look of so many of Elway's QB mistakes from the past -- all the reason, I say, to actually go outside that somewhat insular thinking in this case and try to exact supreme value from Rosen as the guy (temporarily) behind Joe Flacco. Rosen vs. Lock bears monitoring the next few years.
All along I believed Rosen made the most sense for the Bengals, as a system fit and culture fit with 30-something rookie head coach Zac Taylor. Getting to a small city like that on a team loaded with speed and talent at the skill positions for such a cheap salary should have been a slam dunk for owner Mike Brown, who is clearly just renting Andy Dalton at this point. Instead, with the 52nd pick (after trading down with Denver) they took a project tight end and then drafted Finley at the top of the fourth round. I don't get it. This was a no-brainer to me on a lot of levels, and was an almost no-risk gamble at pick 52. Now we'll see how Rosen vs. Dalton/Finley plays out.
The Buccaneers and Titans are both at a precipice with Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota, respectively, who enter their fifth-year option seasons with no contract extensions and their futures in the balance after being the top two picks in the draft not that long ago. Neither has merited an extension and with both teams in purgatory I'd have explored Rosen. Tampa could have dealt the 39th overall pick for Rosen, or traded down in Round 2 to grab him rather than take a corner (they spent three of their first four picks on DBs and traded up for a kicker in the fifth round) and sent that pick for Rosen. The Titans chose speedster A.J. Brown with the 51st pick. Rosen vs. Mariota and Rosen vs. Winston in 2019.
The Chargers and Patriots are clearly set for 2019 at QB, but both have been looking for that next guy for quite some time. I love both of their drafts, but spending a late second-round pick for Rosen could have been extreme value at a position of soon-to-be-need. Rosen played at UCLA, and Philip Rivers would have been perfect to learn from for a year or two (the Chargers took Easton Stick in the fifth round). For the Patriots, if Rosen did have an ego issue or whatever, Bill Belichick could handle that real quick (the Pats took Jarrett Stidham in the fourth round).
Ultimately, any of the 32 teams could have jumped in just for the pure value play, though inserting a quarterback this late in the game under circumstances this unique could certainly create ripples with the guys already in that room. Understandably, after a 2018 to remember for record-setting quarterback transactions via trades, signings and first-round picks, demand was never going to be all that great. But more teams than merely the Cardinals might end up regretting how this all unfolded, and what could have been.
Miami could trade him again in a year, no problem. Or he may have solved their long-term QB problem. Either way, for the 62nd selection, and loaded with additional picks in 2019 to move up or down the board however they like, the Dolphins are already winners here.
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