In a typical offseason, quarterback-needy teams are busy scouting the incoming influx of college passers. They measure hand size, football IQ, leadership skills, and all the countless measurables and intagibles that could make a college prospect the next NFL franchise quarterback.
In years past, teams have selected their next “face of the franchise” to varying levels of success. Some pan out, while others burn out. The Cleveland Browns are known for the latter, with a perennial revolving door under center.
But this is not a typical offseason. Instead of relying on unknown, unproven commodities, teams have the option to choose from a variety of proven passers.
Established NFL quarterbacks rarely hit the open market. Aside from a couple of big fish in Drew Brees and Peyton Manning, no free agent class has contained multiple experienced, talented options.
Biggest question circulating around meeting rooms for QB-needy teams over the next month:
Kirk Cousins vs 2018 QB class? #NFLDraft
— Bucky Brooks (@BuckyBrooks) February 11, 2018
The headliner of the class, obviously, is Kirk Cousins. He’s going to be the most sought-after player on the list. That is, unless Drew Brees shocks the world and doesn’t return to the Saints. Aside from these two, though, there are other names that could transform a fringe team into a playoff contender.
There’s Sam Bradford, who will turn 31 next November. Despite a long list of injuries, the former number-one overall pick has put up solid numbers when he’s on the field. While he lacks mobility in the pocket, Bradford is one of the most accurate passers in the league. Unfortunately for him, though, teams will likely only offer a 1-year “prove-it” deal, given his fragility.
Then there’s Case Keenum, who took over Bradford’s starting job this season. Keenum was a revelation for Minnesota, leading the team all the way to the NFC title game. He displayed great leadership and the ability to extend plays with his feet. Keenum will only be 30-years-old next season, so a multi-year deal is not out of the question.
Teddy Bridgewater is perhaps the most intriguing name on the board. Once viewed as the next upcoming franchise quarterback, a brutal knee injury robbed him of two full seasons. Still, Bridgewater is just 25 and, assuming he’s at full strength, has a ton of upside. Teams will want to ensure he’s healthy before handing him a contract, but Bridgewater could make for an excellent pickup.
Likely to be released by Buffalo, Tyrod Taylor does not get the respect he deserves. No, he’ll never be the pocket passer that teams drool over. But as Buffalo’s starter for the better part of 3 seasons, Taylor has logged 23 wins, leading his team to the Wild Card round in 2017. He has a 51:16 touchdown-to-interception ratio, and 14 rushing touchdowns for the Bills.
And if this list wasn’t enough, 27-year-old AJ McCarron could be a part of it soon. He’s currently engaged in a dispute with the Bengals on his free agency status. If the league rules in McCarron’s favor, he will become an unrestricted free agent, free to sign anywhere he pleases.
Looking at it objectively, there are about six or seven teams in need of a quarterback. Typically, these teams would be forced to fight over the best two or three college prospects, engaging in a bidding war and mortgaging their future to trade up in the draft.
This year’s crop of free agent quarterbacks affords these teams some options. No longer are they backed into a corner, vacillating between two or three 21-year-old question marks. The 2018 NFL offseason could turn out to be a game-changer for the league as a whole.
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