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5 NFL teams that must draft or sign a quarterback

Jay Cutler, Browns fans
Left: Greg M. Cooper/USA TODAY Sports; Right: USA TODAY Sports

An organization can do everything else right, but if they don’t have a premier quarterback, it’s difficult to win in the National Football League. Finding that elusive gem can become a lifelong odyssey for coaches and executives. Great coaches need great players to win, especially under center.

Per usual, there are a number of NFL teams in search of a franchise quarterback as we approach the offseason. Many of them have been looking for years, hoping to strike gold by drafting a guy who can carry them to perennial success.

If only it was that simple. Many young signal callers have provided optimism to long-suffering fan bases on draft day, but unfortunately, the vast majority fail to live up to what really are unrealistic expectations.

Still, when the situation is dire, trying to find a solution is the only thing left to do. After DeShaun Watson‘s amazing performance against Alabama last night, can you really blame the NFL’s bottom feeders for being hopeful that he can turn things around for them?

Let’s look at five teams in the most need of a new quarterback, whether it be from the draft or the free agent market.

San Francisco 49ers

When Chip Kelly went to San Francisco last offseason, many analysts believed he was the perfect coach to get production from Colin Kaepernick. He had a decent season with limited talent around him, but a 2-14 record probably marks the end of his tenure as the starting QB by the Bay.

Quarterback isn’t the only position the Niners need to address in the draft and free agency, but building around a solid signal caller is the first step. With the second pick in the draft, there’s a solid chance Watson will be available.

With both head coach and general manager kicked out the door, the 49ers are about to undergo an organizational rebuild from the top down. Often, that process starts with the drafting of a new QB. Finding the right guy will be vital to the rebuilding process not dragging on for years and years.

Buffalo Bills

As recently as September, the belief within the Bills’ organization was that Tyrod Taylor was their quarterback not only of the present, but of the future as well. His numbers have been solid, but there are big concerns about his consistency and his inability to deliver a playoff appearance to a franchise that hasn’t been since 1999.

After Rex Ryan was fired, Taylor was benched in favor of E.J. Manuel in Week 17. Manuel was abysmal, but the Bills still chose not to put Taylor in the game. With an option north of $30 million guaranteed on the horizon, the Bills’ actions appear to indicate that they’ll let Taylor go.

So far, Manuel has done nothing to inspire confidence in Buffalo’s front office, and Cardale Jones doesn’t appear ready just yet. When the new coach comes in, their first order of business will likely be finding the team’s next quarterback, whether it be in the draft (they have the 10th overall pick), via free agency, or possibly a trade.

New York Jets

I’m so sorry, Jets fans.

Momentum was on Gang Green’s side heading into this season. In their first year under Todd Bowles, the Jets managed to go 10-6, just narrowly missing out on the playoffs. Ryan Fitzpatrick did just enough to carry New York, who seemed to have all of the other right pieces around him in place. Eventually, they’d need a new QB, but for the short-term, Fitz was the answer.

Then, it all fell apart. Fitzpatrick was terrible in the early-going, and neither of the young signal callers they brought in (Bryce Petty and Christian Hackenberg) inspired much confidence with their play. The drafting of Hackenberg in the second round the year before was scrutinized at the time, and now it’s drawing even more ire.

Unfortunately for their future, the Jets played just well enough to get the sixth pick in the upcoming draft, making Watson an unlikely target. As some NFL pundits have pointed out, the Jets could turn to free agency or try to trade for Tony Romo, or even Jay Cutler (more on him later). The former would provide a much-needed boost for a team downcast from this sorry season. The cap will be a problem though, with so much money wrapped up in guys not providing nearly enough production (sorry, Darrelle).

Chicago Bears

The Jay Cutler-era in Chicago finally appears to be coming to a close. During his tenure with the Bears, they made the postseason just once (they did go 10-6 in 2012, just barely missing a spot). The lasting image of playoff Cutler is him standing on the sideline with a questionable MCL sprain against the Green Bay Packers in the NFC title game. Chicago lost to their bitter rival, and the pain of that defeat has lingered ever since.

Cutler was never consistent, but he did have some solid outings throughout his time in the Windy City. But, over the last couple of years, his production really deteriorated. They eventually turned to Matt Barkley this season, and early on, his play was promising.

It didn’t last, though, which actually might be a good thing for an organization that needs to act now in finding a new QB. Barkley will allow the Bears to bring a rookie along slowly, meaning they can pick somebody who’s less NFL-ready at the moment but provides optimism down the road.

They currently hold the third overall pick in the upcoming draft.

Cleveland Browns

Finally, we’ve reached the organization that’s been searching for a franchise QB since its reincarnation in 1999.

The Browns have started over 20 signal callers during that time, including three this season. Rookie Cody Kessler got eight starts, and while he had little talent around him to work with, his play won’t deter Cleveland from drafting another quarterback in April. If they really believed in him, they would not have started Robert Griffin III when he came back at the tail end of the year.

The Browns hold the upcoming first and 12th overall picks. If they want Clemson’s DeShaun Watson, he’s all theirs. They’ve put their faith in young QBs at the top of the draft before though, and it hasn’t panned out.

They passed on Carson Wentz last spring. If they do the same with Watson and he succeeds else where, it will haunt them for years to come.

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