- Things are looking up for these franchises, in the short-term and the long run.
Friday’s Morning Huddle featured a list of teams currently looking at a closing window of opportunity. Today, we’re looking at the more optimistic side of things, checking out which teams have clear skies ahead. What we’re looking for? Cheap quarterbacks, young cores and settled coaching situations.
Of course, it’s more complicated than that, but these teams have done a good job of assembling young talent, creating depth and layering with experienced veterans only as they turn the corner. For fans of these teams, it feels like—after periods of various ineptitude—life is getting a little better.
Ourlads’ depth charts lists 13 potential offensive starters for the Bears, and take a look at where they’re coming from: WR Anthony Miller (2018 second-round pick), OL James Daniels (2018 second-round pick), OL Cody Whitehair (2016 second-round pick), TE Adam Shaheen (2017 second-round pick), QB Mitch Trubisky (2017 first-round pick), RB David Montgomery (2019 third-round pick). For a team that dealt draft capital for a generational talent on defense, hitting on these types of players is the way you make up for it. Trubisky has two more seasons on his rookie contract plus a fifth-year option. It wouldn’t be outrageous to see him play through it—he's good enough to win games, but not dominant enough to force their hand on an early extension—an advantageous scenario for the Bears.
Baker Mayfield carries a lot of weight here. He played at an All-Pro level at times during his rookie season, which, as we’ve seen, can rapidly accelerate the rebuild timeline. And while John Dorsey may have microwaved the process a little bit, the team has anchors at the three most important positions in football, all under 25: Mayfield (24), Myles Garrett (23) and Denzel Ward (22).
Andrew Luck is beginning his second act at age 29 (he’s turning 30 at the beginning of the 2019 regular season). The bank-breaking contract he signed back in 2016 doesn’t seem nearly as threatening now—he’s the 10th-highest paid passer, making Joe Flacco/Nick Foles/Eli Manning money with an infinitely higher ceiling. This team was stripped down and rebuilt by general manager Chris Ballard and has the feel of a Jim Harbaugh-era 49ers team, where there is a distinct level of depth across all positions. Few teams manage to capitalize early on a rebuild like the Colts have done, making the playoffs in 2018. Coming in to 2019, they have the eighth-youngest roster in the NFL, and despite additions like Justin Houston this offseason, Indy's trend is still one of a team that will churn through young, sub-age-25 talent regularly over the next few years.
San Francisco 49ers
Like Luck's, the Jimmy Garoppolo contract looks better with time, even though Garoppolo has more legitimizing to do on the field. To the 49ers’ benefit, of the top 10 quarterback contracts in the NFL Garoppolo’s deal has the lowest percentage of total guarantees (53.8%). On paper, their defensive line is how a general manager would draw it up in their wildest dreams: All first-round picks, all under the age of 30. John Lynch spent money in his first two seasons, but in free agency worked on the younger end of the market (LB Kwon Alexander, RB Tevin Coleman, OL Weston Richburg) to add to the roster.
A bit different, as we still may not have seen this team completely bottom out yet. But after years (and years, and years) of aggressive middling, it was absolutely necessary. There’s reason to believe that Brian Flores is not just another Patriots assistant, and seems to be setting up a foundation for the Dolphins to grow. The buy-low rental of Josh Rosen is useful for a franchise that will spend the next year evaluating quarterbacks and preparing the roster for an accelerated climb in the AFC East in the post-Tom Brady era.
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