- A look at the quarterback market heading into free agency in 2019, with best fits for six signal-callers.
If you’re a pass rusher hitting free agency this week, congratulations, you’re about to get paid. If you’re a safety looking for a new home, you may be waiting a while and you probably won’t get the money you’re hoping for.
This year’s market has a high demand but short supply of pass rushers, and a low demand with plenty of supply for safeties. This happens to various position groups each year, but one constant has always been the free-agent quarterback market.
The 2019 free agency period is different for quarterbacks, though. Almost every one of the 32 teams appear to be set at the position for Week 1 of the season, and the teams that aren’t figure to be in the hunt for a quarterback in the draft. With Denver trading for Joe Flacco and Washington getting Case Keenum (both in trades that won’t be official until Wednesday), two of the very few teams that have pressing quarterback needs have already filled them.
To update an exercise from earlier this offseason, here’s a look at a few free-agent (or soon-to-be-available) quarterbacks* and where they could land** this offseason.
*- Colin Kaepernick is available and has been since March 3, 2017. I, personally, do not believe an NFL team will sign him, and I’ve held that belief of a sad reality for nearly two years.
**- The Raiders are a complete wild card so Oakland won’t be considered a “best fit” anywhere here. I don’t know how to anticipate what Jon Gruden does.
Best fit: Jacksonville
This one has been penciled in for some time, and it probably was written in ink at the combine when Howie Roseman confirmed the Eagles wouldn’t tag Foles. Since then Jacksonville has cut several players to get out of cap hell and free itself to sign Foles. It seems, though, that Jacksonville will be competing against itself to sign Foles, seeing as though there are no other teams looking for a capable starter (more on Miami later). So whereas you’d expect a Super Bowl-winning quarterback entering his age 30 season to fetch upwards of $22 million per year, that may be the ceiling for Foles where there’s no other competing teams to raise the price in this auction.
Best fits: Tampa Bay or Seattle
New Bucs coach Bruce Arians has confirmed Jameis Winston is the starter this season, and of course Russell Wilson isn’t going anywhere. Teddy Bridgewater played well enough in the preseason to be considered a top-32 quarterback in the league and spent the season as the Saints’ insurance plan against a Drew Brees injury. We all anticipated a great Bridgewater comeback and a starting job in 2019, but I don’t see where he could go with so few teams in need. The only remaining team with a glaring quarterback need is Miami, which will part ways with Ryan Tannehill any day now. But the Dolphins seem destined to either tank or draft their quarterback of the future (or both), so why would they devote that sort of cap space to a capable starter like Bridgewater? It’s difficult to find the team that will bring him in on a deal of more than $10 million per year while also being somewhere he would voluntarily go to be a clear backup yet again.
Best fits: Baltimore, Cleveland or New York Jets
Taylor will most certainly be No. 2 on someone’s depth chart at the start of training camp. He protects the ball extremely well, almost to a fault by not taking many chances. If the dynamic with Baker Mayfield and Freddie Kitchens works, the Browns could bring him back on a much smaller deal than the $16 million cap hit he cost last season. The most obvious fit would be a reunion in Baltimore, where he spent the first four seasons of his career backing up Joe Flacco. This time around he would back up Lamar Jackson and help the sophomore learn how to protect the ball better. The same could be said about backing up Sam Darnold and the Jets.
Best fits: New York Jets, Detroit or Carolina
The Dolphins are bound to cut ties with Tannehill rather than have him on the roster to count $26.6 million against the cap. He’ll be 31 this season, coming off an unimpressive year and a series of knee issues that make projecting his availability—and viability—difficult for teams. Adam Gase has resurfaced in New York after three seasons in Miami, and the QB could follow his old coach up north. If the Jets don’t re-sign backup Josh McCown, I could see Tannehill ending up there like (like Taylor, mentioned above) with the cap space they have. Detroit could look to bring in some competition to Matt Stafford in what has to be a make-or-break year for him there (though the more likely scenario is they draft a quarterback). The Panthers are bound to roll with Kyle Allen and a draft pick to be Cam Newton’s backup in 2019, but I’d be remiss not to say I disagree with that strategy and believe they should invest in a capable, veteran backup who could keep them competitive should lightning strike again with Newton’s shoulder.
Best fits: Cincinnati or Tennessee
Injuries have been Bradford’s bugaboo his entire career, and last we saw him he was entirely ineffective at quarterback against the Bears when he got pulled for rookie Josh Rosen in Week 3. There’s no way he’ll get a $20 million deal like the one Arizona handed him last year, and teams would be wise to give him an incentive-laced deal that accelerates based on playing time. New Bengals coach Zac Taylor could look to bring in some real competition for Andy Dalton for the first time in his career. And as the Titans face the $100 million decision on Marcus Mariota, a veteran who could actually win them win a Week 17 contest that Mariota misses would be helpful.
Best fit: Miami
If the Dolphins are looking to tank but not looking to make it obvious—and if they want to do it without ruining the confidence of a rookie quarterback—signing Bortles would be the proper step forward. The Jaguars are sure to release Bortles and finally admit that three-year contract extension following the 2018 AFC title game was a mistake. As frustrating as he is, Bortles can be an average quarterback, and he’ll make for a decent backup on a team with an established starter if this Miami fit doesn’t work.
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