So, with free agency fast approaching I thought I’d take a look around the league and try to decipher the difficult QB market in order to predict each teams starter for the first game of next season. For a little more depth I’ve tried to pick out the back up QB too. Players locked-in to a team are in GREEN, those who seem likely to be part of the squad in some capacity are in ORANGE and those who are only there through my flights of fancy are in RED. These selections a clearly subject to huge changes what with injuries, trades, draft-day deals etc all yet to happen, so with that in mind I give you… The AFC
New England Patriots: This is an easy one to start with, The G.O.A.T will be back for the 73rd straight year, luging his MVP trophy from last season along with his 5 Super Bowl rings. (It should be 6, I firmly believe that Belichick was wrong to drop Butler and it cost the team). Unless father time figures out how to defeat the invincible one then there’ll be no change here for a while. The back up spot may be more interesting, Brian Hoyer is a good no.2 but he isn’t the future, so I fully expect the pats to spend a pick on a QB between rounds 2 and 4 in the draft. I’d take a swing at Mason Rudolph out of Oklahoma State, he won last years Johnny Unitas award, previous winners include Peyton Manning, Matt Ryan and Andrew Luck…so there’s potential.
Starter: Brady Back up: Hoyer
Buffalo Bills: Ah, Buffalo, the first of many teams who seem intent on moving on from their incumbent starter. Tyrod Taylor restructured his contract last season in order to keep his roster spot in a “team-friendly” move. He was rewarded by being unceremoniously dropped mid-season for the Nathan Peterman experiment… that didn’t go so well. 52 TDs to 16 INTs over his 3 seasons with the Bills and a first playoff place since before the millennium deserves better, but I see a move coming. McDermott seems to have some faith in Peterman, so I expect he’ll be back, but he doesn’t look like a long term face of the franchise. The Bills have 2 first round picks (21 and 22) so they can afford to move up to the top 5 and nab one of the handful of QBs coming out of college (Baker Mayfield perhaps?) whilst signing a free agency star to help build on the 2017 success immediately. There are several who fit the Bill (see what I did there?) but I’m going with Sam Bradford on a 1-year deal. He is the pocket-passer type that McDermott favours and he has shown that he can lead a team in cold conditions. The knee is a risk but if the Bills do truly believe in Peterman and/or Mayfield then they may be pleased to have the chance to rotate them in from time to time without controversy.
Starter: Bradford Back up: Mayfield
Miami Dolphins: Jay Cutler has left the building, thank god. 2017 served only to prove that his inclination to retire after the bears dropped him was probably the right one. That said he wasn’t entirely at fault for the down turn in the Dolphins fortunes. Adam Gase needs to put some shine back on his resume and I believe he’ll attempt to do that with the returning Tannehill under centre. Matt Moore (2017-disappointing) and David Fales (2017-better than expected) are about to hit F.A, though there is a chance that one of the two is brought back as insurance in case of a reoccurrence of the ACL tear that felled the no.1 QB in 2016. There has been much talk of the Dolphins taking a QB at no. 11 in the draft and they may well do so but Gase and co. can’t risk everything on an untried rookie. For me this is not the year the ‘Fins blow it all up at QB, instead they’ll try to sign a F.A with experience to shadow Tannehill should the worst happen. Then, if a decent QB prospect falls into their lap in the first round I think they’ll take him. At no.11 I can see Lamar Jacksons name still being on the board. For Tannehill the multiple knee injuries seem to have healed well and he’ll be keen to show that he truly belongs in the NFL as a starter. As he turns 30 its clear that he isn’t the long-term future of the franchise, but a return to the playoffs is all that counts in 2018 and Tannehill gives the team a decent shot at this goal.
Stater: Tannehill Back up: Jackson
New York Jets: Ok, here comes the first big leap of this oh-so-early prediction for 2018. The Jets are going to be big movers in free agency as they continue to rebuild, and a young genuine face of the franchise Quarter Back is an absolute must. With that in mind I think New York becomes the new home of Teddy Bridgewater. Yes, him. Teddy will have plenty of suitors when F.A opens so the Jets will have to come up with a good offer to secure his services, but the key here may be the assurance of being the no.1 passer on the team, something Bridgewater believes he deserves to be. Despite missing practically 2 whole seasons, Bridgewater represents a starting-calibre QB, with years ahead of him, who is available at sensible money, meaning that spending a high-ish draft pick on another Quarter Back who may need to develop isn’t out of the question. Darnold, Mayfield, Allen, Rosen, Jackson…all or none could be available at the 6th spot in the draft where the Jets reside. Josh McCown put in an admirable performance without much around him last year, if the team plays the market right they could get a pair of better QBs AND upgrade the weapons around them. Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty both belong on the scrap-heap of failed projects (im sure such a heap exists near Jets HQ) so McCown seems likely to be retained as backup/coach to the younger passers in the team.
Starter: Bridgewater Backup: McCown
Pittsburgh Steelers: Last off-season this looked a tricky one to call as retirement rumours hung around the neck of big Ben. This year no such rumours exist, and he seems a certainty to continue under centre. Landry Jones will most likely carry on at no.2 as he has been serviceable when called upon. No one expects him to succeed Roethlisberger, so the draft may well see a mid-round pick spent on a youngster. Luke Faulk and Mike White should both be available if the Steelers want to take a swing for their next generation starter.
Starter: Roethlisberger, Back up: L.Jones
Baltimore Ravens: One. More. Year. That’s what the Ravens fans need to remember when they see Flacco roled out as the starter in 2018. His contract is up in a years’ time and the team can then move on without significant financial penalties. There is a good chance the ravens go after a QB much the same as the Steelers will but for now more significance should be placed in looking for an established no.2 in case of a Flacco injury (common) or melt down (more common). Ryan Mallet shouldn’t be considered as viable as he is a pick 6 waiting to happen. I say Brothers John and Jim confer and the name Kaepernick is dropped into the conversation. Imagine that… Kap gives up his law suit against the league and finds his way back into football sooner rather than later. Ok, ok, it probably wont happen, but if it did, wow, what a buzz that would generate around the Ravens. Surely Flacco would have to up his game then…?
Starter: Flacco, Back up: Kaepernick
Cincinnati Bengals: Marvin Lewis is back, which means Andy Dalton is back. Sigh. Years of mediocrity don’t seem to have been enough to dislodge him from the starting spot (A.J McCarron is right to want out so badly) despite what the numbers say. A cursory look at the draft seems likely but for me I think we see a bland appointment behind Dalton, much in keeping with the entire franchise’s philosophy. Jeff Driskell was last seasons no.3 and he stands a good chance of promotion, but he’s been injured a lot and has had zero NFL game time. I say an experienced hand is called upon, no one to threaten the red rifle, just to sit there on the off chance he gets clattered. Ugh.
Starter: Dalton, Back up: Stanton
Cleveland Browns: Ok, here we go. The difference between what they should do and what they will do is always huge when discussing the Browns so let’s see… For my money they should chase a realistic, experienced, target in F.A and then spend the 4th pick in the draft on a potential future star. A.J McCarron nearly joined during the last season, I think he is the top name here again. He wants desperately to get a shot at leading a team, he’s got good, if limited, game-tape, including a playoff match-up that he should have won (Bungles defence killed it for him on the day) and he will probably accept a 2 year deal with the option to move on should he or the Browns feel the need. The Browns WILL take Barkley at the no.1 pick in the draft (surely?? Right??!), and at no.4 they will have several talented arms to chose from. Any of these could be a big hit fairly soon, the Browns won’t want to see another Goff or Wentz or Watson go sailing past them. Josh Allen is a good fit and I think he’ll be there when the clock starts for pick4. As for last year’s day one starter, well, I think Kizer may get traded away to someone who feels they can raise his confidence and put him back on the right path. Look for Cody Kessler to hang around as no.3.
Starter: McCarron, Back up: Allen
Indianapolis Colts: Hey everybody, Andrew Luck is back…Luck…remember him…Yeah. Ok, so two shoulder surgeries and an entire year recuperating seem to have fixed the issue and the Colts star man should be on the field for week one of the new season. My issue with this is that it seems only a matter of time before he’s carted off again and potentially missing for a big stretch. Don’t get me wrong, I want to see the best players playing and he is brilliant, but fragile too. The signing of Jacoby Brissett last season gave the team a chance in some games where they really deserved nothing. Sure, he doesn’t look anything like the finished article, but keeping him onboard is a must, if only for insurance reasons.
Starter: Luck, Back Up: Brissett
Tennessee Titans: Marcus Mariota had a down year in 2017. There, I’ve said it. I still think he has potential a-plenty and is as dangerous a duel threat QB as there is, in the right system. He will lead the team as they look to return to the playoffs once more, but the back up role neds addressing. Cassel is not good enough to step in and get results and Mariotas injury history suggests that the no.2 at the Titans will see game time during the season. I think the new management team plays it safe, brings in a well-versed backup and picks up a youngster at the end of the draft. Ryan Fitzpatrick could be coming home…
Starter: Mariota, Back Up: Fitzmagic
Houston Texans: DuShaun Watson should be back to start the season as his injury occurred early enough into last year. He’s rehabbing well by all reports. My word did the Texans miss his exciting style of play! Tom Savage was as poor as its possible to be and really harmed the teams chances of success with late turnovers at crucial times. He MUST be replaced. Looking at the free agency pool I think we could see a limited upgrade at best (Mike Glennon-anyone?). The Texans may be best served to stick with on-off-on again Texan reserve T.J Yates.
Starter: Watson, Back up: Yates
Jacksonville Jaguars: So, Bortles has signed a new deal (3 years, $54 million) but all may not be completely settled here. The deal drops Bortles 2018 cap-hit from $19million to $10million, meaning the Jags can afford to look for another QB and not leave huge amounts of cash sitting on the bench in Blake regresses. Henne isn’t a good enough back up because he can’t push for starts, he failed to unseat Bortles last season when handed the chance, so the search is on. In the draft maybe Logan Woodside gets the nod, he’s been compared to Tom Brady but hasn’t received much press attention so theres a good chance he’s available in the middle rounds. If I thought Wentz would be fit to start the year I’d say Nick Foles ends up here, but that seems unlikely at the moment. Should the ‘Fins move up for a QB then perhaps Tannehill becomes a target. Its all about pressuring Bortles to force him to keep playing at a high level. Im going to throw a dart for the back up slot…
Starter: Bortles, Back up: Osweiler
Oakland Raiders: Jon Gruden will get the absolute best out of Derek Carr. ‘Nuff said. The back uprole isn’t as clear, EJ Manuel is a F.A and Connor Cook is yet to progress as hoped. Gruden can doubtless get the best out of both, it’s whether their best is good enough. I like Cook, I think he got a rough ride being thrown into the playoffs in 2016 having never started an NFL game before. He was highly thought of coming out of college and somewhere in there that talent still resides. Manuel will be employed somewhere as he has experience and is seemingly a willing reserve, so it’s possible all 3 2017 QBs for the Raiders are on the team for 2018 too.
Starter: Carr, Back up: Cook
Denver Broncos: John Elway needs to get this right. He never cops any blame for the fall of the Broncos but he is responsible for the lack of a succession plan following Peyton’s retirement. Kirk Cousins is probably his number 1 target but unless his powers of persuasion are super natural I think Elway and co. come up short in that quest. The next QB on the radar is likely to be Case Keenum who should be a fair bit cheaper, leaving more money to improve the rest of the team. Brock Osweiler looks unlikely to be back at Mile High and Paxton Lynch seems to have been a miss-spent pick which leaves former Starter Trevor Siemian as a potential back up. The team has reportedly shopped him around the league with several suitors considering a trade. He does however make an affordable no.2 ($1.9million in 2018) so perhaps he gets a reprieve. This team finds its Super Bowl window closing and win-now is the prevalent attitude, so experience behind the incoming starter would be a good move.
Starter: Keenum, Back up: Siemian
Los Angeles Chargers: Phillip Rivers will be back again, and this team is very good with him at the helm. They should draft 7 kickers to make sure they get one good one, had they done that last year they probably flew into the playoffs. The coaching staff really like Cardale Jones as the no.2 , the former Bills player hasn’t had chance to put anything on film yet but he did have good physical traits in college… the knock on him has always been his lack of application. Time will tell but I see few changes here this season.
Starter: Rivers, Back Up: C. Jones
Kansas City Chiefs: The deal is done, the safety-first approach of Alex Smith will be no more, instead the Chiefs will ride with the cannon-arm of Patrick Mahomes under centre. It’s an aggressive move to make and may result in a few bumps along the road but the potential talent is huge and the only way to improve is to play. Long time Chiefs back up Chase Daniel is my pick to return in the support role after a year with the Saints. He knows the team well and seems content to wait out the briefest opportunities that he has had to date.
Starter: Mahomes, Back up: Daniel