Five years ago, before the Cincinnati Bengals extended Andy Dalton's rookie contract, I wrote a column questioning whether NFL teams should pay upper-tier money for middle-tier quarterbacks. That discussion endures today as the league heads into another potentially wacky offseason at the position.
Joe Flacco, Nick Foles, Teddy Bridgewater, Ryan Tannehill and Eli Manning are among the veterans who could reach the market. They are current or former starting quarterbacks in a league with more teams than truly exciting options at the position. The picture will evolve as teams hire head coaches, evaluate college prospects and figure out how they want to allocate resources, but there will always be demand.
I've separated the most relevant veteran and draft-eligible quarterback options into categories, laying out which teams are most likely to seek their services.
Two team contract negotiators thought the Minnesota Vikings' experience with Kirk Cousins -- paying $84 million fully guaranteed, then firing their offensive coordinator during the season and missing the playoffs -- could hurt veteran free agents this offseason even though Cousins put up good numbers (30 touchdowns, 10 interceptions, 62.0 Total QBR). Both negotiators said one lesson was that it can take years for a quarterback to become a leader in a new environment.
Of course, the Jacksonville Jaguars brought back Blake Bortles in the interests of team chemistry and stability last offseason -- his QBR was actually higher than Cousins' in 2017 -- and it backfired (not that they were obligated to extend his contract, which they did).
The Vikings' choice was between Case Keenum, who had built strong chemistry with teammates during a storybook 13-3 season, and an outsider perceived to be an upgrade. Teams in the market for quarterbacks this offseason typically do not have beloved in-house options coming off breakout seasons. Their choices are detailed below.
Teams most likely to seek new starting QBs
These are ranked in order of most likely to change starters this offseason:
They have not funneled resources into developing alternatives to Bortles. That could change this offseason after Bortles lost his job.
"They have got to do something," an evaluator said. "I would assume that means moving on from Bortles."
Enter Flacco? Manning? Bridgewater? Foles?
It's too early to have much of a feel. Jacksonville doesn't even have an offensive coordinator yet. The team will presumably pursue the formula for winning that executive vice president Tom Coughlin has outlined in the past: solid defense and a run-oriented offense with a play-action passing game designed to provide explosive plays.
Alex Smith's career-threatening leg injury will force the team to line up alternatives.
"The Redskins might be one of the most quarterback-needy teams out there just because of Alex Smith's injury," an evaluator said. "You almost have to plan as though he is not coming back, worst-case scenario."