Here Are the Likely NFL QBs (for the Teams That Need Them)
If you're reading this, there is a good chance that you live in the city of Houston, and if that's the case, then this time of year on the football calendar has felt eerily familiar for the better part of the last four off-seasons, where the search for a starting quarterback has been interminable. We thought that the signing of Brock Osweiler ended said search, at least for a few years, but alas, Brock's play was so bad the team is going to willingly swallow $19 million in cap dollars for him not to start (and, possibly, not even be on the team anymore) in 2017.
So we're back where we started last February, searching for a starting quarterback, not necessarily with FEWER options, just different ones. The Texans actually should be pretty good at this "QB shopping" thing by now. They've had enough practice. If quarterback shopping were a game of chess, they should damn near be Kasparov at this point.
Truth be told, although the whirl of the carousel of quarterback openings feels acute here because we've been engaged in it since about the time Matt Schaub lost the ability to play football in 2013, there are typically only about a half dozen or so teams that are truly still wondering who their starting quarterback will be come Week 1 of the regular season.
So, let's take inventory of all 32 teams, and then make some predictions (we will call this version 1.0 of the QB Slotting Game) on what quarterbacks will fill the starting void for the teams in need. To begin, I would say there are 20 teams that, barring injury, know EXACTLY who their starting quarterback will be next season. They are:
NEW ENGLAND: Tom Brady
MIAMI: Ryan Tannehill
PITTSBURGH: Ben Roethlisberger
BALTIMORE: Joe Flacco
CINCINNATI: Andy Dalton
TENNESSEE: Marcus Mariota
INDIANAPOLIS: Andrew Luck
OAKLAND: Derek Carr
L.A. CHARGERS: Philip Rivers
DALLAS: Dak Prescott
N.Y. GIANTS: Eli Manning
PHILADELPHIA: Carson Wentz
GREEN BAY: Aaron Rodgers
DETROIT: Matthew Stafford
ATLANTA: Matt Ryan
TAMPA BAY: Jameis Winston
NEW ORLEANS: Drew Brees
CAROLINA: Cam Newton
SEATTLE: Russell Wilson
ARIZONA: Carson Palmer
Next, I would say there are five teams who are virtually certain, but with a sliver of possibility that there could be a change, depending on how free agency and the draft unfold. They are as follows:
JACKSONVILLE: Blake Bortles
MITIGATING FACTOR: New team president Tom Coughlin has intimated that Bortles will have to compete for his job, just like everybody else. That's not something you say about an anointed signal caller. Bortles is the heavy chalk, but I wouldn't bet my life on his being the Week 1 starter.
KANSAS CITY: Alex Smith
MITIGATING FACTOR: Until Tony Romo has signed elsewhere, Kansas City, by virtue of having "all the pieces except a true elite QB" and having a head coach very familiar with Romo (Andy Reid) from coaching against him all those years in Philly, will be a possibility for the soon-to-be-former Cowboy signal caller.
WASHINGTON: Kirk Cousins
MITIGATING FACTOR: They love Cousins in Washington, but if they don't use the franchise tag on him, he will hit the open market, and then who knows what happens?
MINNESOTA: Sam Bradford
MITIGATING FACTOR: I put Minnesota in here only because I cannot believe Sam Bradford is going to pile another $18 million onto his mountain of cash he's been gifted.
L.A. RAMS: Jared Goff
MITIGATING FACTOR: Jared Goff was the No. 1 overall pick last season, but he sucks. No, I mean, like, he is REALLY, REALLY TERRIBLE. Yeah, you almost have to start him if your first-year head coach Sean McVay, but damn...
So this leaves us with seven teams (in order of where they pick in the draft) — Cleveland, San Francisco, Chicago, the New York Jets, Buffalo, Denver and — yippee kai yay! — YOUR HOUSTON TEXANS! As best I can tell, the pool of available Week 1 starting quarterbacks for these seven teams looks something like this:
VETERAN FREE AGENTS: Kirk Cousins (maybe, but unlikely), Mike Glennon, Brian Hoyer, Robert Griffin III, Brian Hoyer, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Case Keenum, Matt Schaub, Josh McCown.
POSSIBLE VETERAN CUTS: Tony Romo, Jay Cutler, Tyrod Taylor.
TRADE TARGETS: Romo, Jimmy Garoppolo, A.J. McCarron.
DRAFT PICKS: Mitch Trubisky (UNC), Deshaun Watson (Clemson), Deshone Kizer (Notre Dame), Pat Mahomes (Texas Tech), Davis Webb (Cal), Brad Kaaya (Miami Hurricans), Nathan Peterman (Pittsburgh).
1st ROUND PICK(S): No. 1 overall, No. 12 overall
2017 STARTER: Jimmy Garoppolo
If Garoppolo were in this draft class, even with the small sample size of two starts, he'd probably be the first quarterback taken. I don't think the Browns will give up the first overall pick for Garoppolo, but the second first-round pick they have (12th overall) from the Wentz trade last season is some heavy lumber, and they have the cap space to extend Garoppolo on a big deal as well. In a division where all the other foes are set at quarterback, and have been for the better part of a decade, this would be a big swing by the Browns.
SAN FRANCISCO 49ers
1st ROUND PICK: No. 2 overall
2017 STARTER: Brian Hoyer
I think the Niners probably use their first-round pick on a future quarterback. Trubisky seems to be the one everyone loves right now, so we will slot him to the Niners as a draft choice. However, so they don't have to rush the rookie into the lineup, Hoyer will be reunited with Kyle Shanahan, under whom he had some of his best success in Cleveland a few years ago, and start Week 1.
1st ROUND PICK: No. 3 overall
2017 STARTER: Deshaun Watson
The Bears go with some star power and the best (only?) "big game" performer among the rookies, tabbing Watson as the future of the franchise. I'll also go out on a limb and say they start him Week 1, mainly because, for a bad team overall, the Bears have enough offensively (Jordan Howard, solid WR corps if they bring back Alshon Jeffery) to where the onus won't be entirely on Watson to get the job done. Also, the Bears will release Jay Cutler, who winds up....
NEW YORK JETS
1st ROUND PICK: No. 4 overall
2017 STARTER: Jay Cutler
Oh, please, God...yes, please, please, please...let this happen.
1st ROUND PICK: No. 10 overall
2017 STARTER: Tyrod Taylor
The Bills are up in the air right now on what they're doing with Taylor. He is due a HUGE bonus if they exercise their team option on him, and would have a cap figure of around $17 million each of the next two seasons. The cash outlay for him over the next two seasons would be around $40 million. I'm predicting the team and the player find some sort of suitable middle ground.
1st ROUND PICK: No. 20 overall
2017 STARTER: Paxton Lynch
The Broncos traded up into the first round to draft Lynch last season. Now, the head coach and offensive coordinator who drafted him are both gone. If Trevor Siemian opens the season as the starter again, that's a terrible sign for the Lynch camp.
1st ROUND PICK: No. 25 overall
2017 STARTER: Tony Romo
You know where I stand on this.
Listen to Sean Pendergast on SportsRadio 610 from 2 to 6 p.m. weekdays. Also, follow him on Twitter at http://twitter.com/SeanTPendergast and like him on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/SeanTPendergast.
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