Past tense used to specify quarterback for the Dallas Cowboys (in following the footsteps of Roger Staubach), for example, but when it comes to this prestigious American job, we’re forced to include all 32 squads due to NFL gunslinger rules fit to rule the aerial world.
Never have quarterbacks enjoyed such freedom to throw the 9-route against the single-high safety, take advantage of excessive rub patterns, or dink-and-dunk their way down the football field. Matchups featuring pass-catching running backs and vertical-threat tight ends further this unfair and unforeseen advantage for the American football field general.
Meet the NFL free agent QB class of 2018, a loaded group of leaders set to not only take advantage of today’s rule, but crush the financial market.
Today, we allow you into our phenomenal crystal ball and provide that jump into where each of these fortunate free agents will land this coming March.
Kirk Cousins, Denver Broncos
The big fish. Kirk Cousins, the man set to put pen-to-paper on the richest NFL contract of all-time is the most sought-after quarterback in the business.
Cousins, 29, represents a rarity in today’s game: an available franchise quarterback in the prime of his career. Eclipsing 4,000 yards and 25 touchdowns each of the last three seasons has also placed him in that definite class of “franchise QB.”
But where does he land, exactly?
Top 10? Top eight, perhaps? The teams after his services will have to commit about 15 percent of the total salary cap for the right to call Cousins their quarterback. That’s the issue. He’ll be paid as the best player in the league yet, in reality, isn’t close to deserving that label.
The early favorites are the Denver Broncos and the New York Jets, two quarterback-hungry teams looking for that guy to lean on. Due to John Elway’s stature as one of the greats of all-time and the Broncos more ready-level personnel, especially coming to the party with a great defense, give us the Broncos as the franchise Cousins lands with.
Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
Next up comes the best QB of the bunch yet may just rank last in terms of fascination. While Drew Brees enters free agency as the greatest, he’ll wind up home with the New Orleans Saints.
Sean Payton and company cannot franchise tag Brees after the 38-year-old negotiated out of his current deal that would have run through 2020.
Where he lands isn’t interesting. The way the Saints approach his deal will be.
Thanks to Jimmy Garoppolo’s record-smashing contract offering up $27 million on an annual basis, how do both parties (Brees, Saints) handle this one? Brees’ camp can claim many positives, but he is already 38.
In any event, expect the future Hall of Famer to remain home.
Case Keenum, Minnesota Vikings
One of the key authors of the “Minneapolis Miracle” will finally be cashing in. Case Keenum, 29, put up a career-year at just the right time—on his walk-year.
His offensive coordinator (Pat Shurmur) is in New York with the Giants. Some have mentioned those Jints as a possible landing spot for the career journeyman. Unless he’s comfortable with a clear backup role behind a guy who never misses days on the job (Eli Manning), it won’t happen.
Arizona is a possibility. So is Buffalo. Cleveland is always open for business. Expect Keenum to stay put and officially enter an NFL season as the starting quarterback of a team, for the first time in his career.
Sam Bradford, Arizona Cardinals
Speaking of Minny signal callers …
Who better than Bruce Arians former team to take on that gamble that is Sam Bradford? It makes all the sense in the world.
Arians has already created that risky QB culture out west, so it just makes sense for defensive mind Steve Wilks to take a high-risk, high-reward player like Sam Bradford.
Even with Bradford in tow, there will be another face in Zona to compete with the bust of a No. 1 overall pick.
Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota Vikings
Teddy Bridgewater, 26, may represent the highest-upside versus the lowest-risk of any guy on the market. Still young, he’s a kid who’s already shown promise (6,150 yards, 28 touchdowns, 22 interceptions in 29 games during his first two seasons).
Many teams have been linked to the Louisville product: Bills, Browns, Cardinals, to name a few, and most believe he’s on his way out of Minnesota.
Expect the upset to happen in this situation.
With Bradford out, the Vikings will want to keep the position secure. There’s nothing secure about Case Keenum and nobody else. With Bridgewater coming into camp with Keenum, a 1A, 1B look can keep Skol country nice and relaxed.
AJ McCarron, Cleveland Browns
The Cincinnati Bengals love AJ McCarron. There’s very little secret in terms of that notion.
Despite this love, it’s hard to see the Alabama product remaining in Cincy unless he’s in line for the starting spot. This means Andy Dalton has to be dealt or cut. It’s the only way the Bengals will have the opportunity to sway the kid to stay and since Dalton’s contractual situation makes it difficult, it’s easy to see McCarron on his way out.
It’s possible for Cincy to sign McCarron and deal Dalton, but the return will be minute matchup up with great risk.
McCarron’s a kid who has no problem taking on a challenge and in Cleveland as the guy who’ll battle a first-round draftee like Sam Darnold or Josh Rosen, it just feels right.
Josh McCown, New York Jets
The losers of the Kirk Cousins saga may just count their lucky stars after it’s all over. Close to $30 million a year for, perhaps, the 10th best quarterback in the league could easily backfire. Constructing a team around such stringent financials is a general manager’s worst nightmare.
It only works if that $30 million a year guy is a bonafide stud.
Meet the New York Jets, the team who can easily turn out as the losers of the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes. Meet Mike Maccagnan, the general manager leading that charge.
By losing out on Cousins to the Broncos, not only will they dodge that 15 percent of the cap bullet, but the Broncos snagging him will also take away another potential QB slot in the NFL draft. New York holds the sixth pick. Denver holds the fifth. Dave Gettleman may pass entirely on a quarterback and one of the two Browns picks won’t be a QB.
If Cousins goes to Denver, this means three of the five picks ahead of the Jets are likely to be non-QB selections. The Jets will then be guaranteed one of the top three prospects (Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen, Josh Allen). Pair that selection with Josh McCown, a guy who has no problem doing whatever the team needs, and Gang Green is feeling pretty good about their situation.
Jay Cutler, N/A
It’s the big N/A for Jay Cutler right now. This doesn’t mean he won’t find a home eventually. It means by the time OTAs come and perhaps training camp, Cutler will still be on the open market as that “hired gun” waiting for an opportunity.
Tyrod Taylor, Arizona Cardinals*
Technically not a free agent, Buffalo Bills quarterback Tyrod Taylor must be discussed. As of this moment, his deal is one Buffalo could easily squirm out of. They can cut him and look for another option to pair with young Nathan Peterman.
Expect it to happen, especially after his porous performance in the Bills first playoff game in over two decades.
With Palmer retiring, Bruce Arians will go after both Sam Bradford and Tyrod Taylor. It’ll be a smart move by Taylor. With the number of starting options dwindling, he’ll opt for the spot that provides a competitor in the form of the most injury-prone QB in all of football.