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Lesson of the Week: The 2018 Veteran QB Market is Shaping Up Nicely

The 2018 NFL veteran quarterback market is shaping up nicely, with names like Drew Brees, Kirk Cousins and Alex Smith potentially available.
Drew Brees is one of several veteran quarterbacks who could be available after the 2017 season ends.

Drew Brees is one of several veteran quarterbacks who could be available after the 2017 season ends.

Remember what we harped on over the summer? That rich 2018 veteran quarterback market is taking shape. And teams are taking notice.

If your team needs a quarterback coming out of this year, your timing might not be so bad. Our lesson for the week: This could well be the closest supply will ever come to matching demand when it comes to that position in this era of the NFL.

And for some teams, because of this bumper crop, going with a veteran may actually make more sense than hitching your wagon to a rookie.

“Fans and media want their guy—the start-from-the-bottom, untainted rookie,” said one AFC exec. “And the Moneyball guys will say it’s cheaper through the draft, which is true. Bu if the point is to have a functional starting quarterback, any football guy will tell you that while everyone wants a Brady or Rodgers, the reality is those are fewer and father between.

“So a Kirk Cousins or a Jimmy Garoppolo? I think football guys are drooling over that. If a guy like that gets out in free agency? You see what K.C. can do with Alex Smith. Put Cousins on a good squad with a good coach, I don’t know many football guys that’ll say that won’t work. And all those guys you named, they all can play at a starting caliber level … You can solve your problem before you get to the draft.”

The exec then added, “The endgame is to have a starting quarterback, and these guys are available and proven. The draft, there are no guarantees these kids will become that.”

2018 NFL Draft Quarterback Stock Watch

OK, so really, the only thing that’s changed since the start of training camp is Matthew Stafford coming off the list, as most of us expected he would, as a result of his five-year, $135 million extension with the Lions. What else is there to watch for? Here we go…

1. Drew Brees turns 39 in January. That said, he’s been lights out through four games, and is on pace to post his best passer rating in six years, having lifted the Saints through a rough start. He’s also a free agent-to-be with a no-franchise-tag provision in his contract. And if there’s any kind of upheaval in the New Orleans brass after the season, it’s worth asking whether there’s a better place for him to chase another ring. He told me last summer he wants to play into his mid-40s.

2. Kirk Cousins was a little up and down in Week 1, but has been outstanding since, lighting up the Raiders in Week 3 and playing plenty good enough to beat the Chiefs in last Sunday night’s loss. Another franchise tag will cost the Skins more than $34 million for 2018, and they might be forced into a corner on that one. Also, this much seems clear: the 49ers, and noted Cousins enthusiast Kyle Shanahan, will be looking for a quarterback in March.

3. Jimmy Garoppolo isn’t playing, and was up and down in the preseason. Ideally, the Patriots would like him to eventually succeed Tom Brady. But so long as Brady wants to keep playing, this situation figures to get a little fiscally (a franchise tag would be worth about $7 million more than Brady is scheduled to make) and socially (see: Garoppolo’s desire to play) awkward in 2018.

4. Neither Sam Bradford nor Teddy Bridgewater is playing right now, and one of the two will almost certainly be in Minnesota as starter in 2018. The other? Well, that’s complicated by Bridgewater’s injury, and whether his contract would toll or not if he sits the whole year. But as it stands now, both are on expiring deals, and whoever isn’t the presumed starter for next year would probably look around.

5. Alex Smith has been off the charts, completing 76.0 (!) percent of his passes for 1,067 yards, eight touchdowns, zero interceptions and a 124.2 rating for the perfect Chiefs. But … he does have the 10th pick in the 2017 draft, Patrick Mahomes, sitting behind him. Based on Smith’s play, and his affordable contract, this could well turn into a mid-2000s Chargers situation—where Brees held off Philip Rivers for two years before bolting for New Orleans. Either way, it’s worth monitoring.

6. The Bengals have been reluctant to deal AJ McCarron because they like him. And his deal is up after this year, and others certainly have taken note of their trepidation to let him go.

7. Tyrod Taylor needs to be accounted for here. But based on how Buffalo’s playing, his $16 million number for 2018 looks like a bargain.

8. Flip side? Jay Cutler was pretty average through two games, then laid an egg against the Saints in London, which would seem to increase the chances he walks away for good after this year—and make Ryan Tannehill, turning 30 next summer, feel a little more secure.

Add all this up, and to the aforementioned bumper crop of quarterbacks expected in next year’s draft, and it should be a fun March and April at the game’s most important spot.

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