The scramble to find a franchise quarterback in the NFL has never been at a higher fever pitch, and it's making teams do extremely risky things. That insatiable thirst for finding something — ANYTHING — that resembles competence under center is what makes teams spend $20 million a year for Case Keenum and Sam Bradford, and it's what makes teams chase raw projects like Josh Allen with a top ten pick in the draft.
I'm sure these men making these decisions run their personal lives in a relatively conservative, responsible fashion, but that measuredness does not translate to the Great QB Chase in the NFL. Each year, without fail, the game of musical chairs lands on about a half dozen teams who say "Crap, we aren't going anywhere with this guy. It's time to reset." Those half dozen or so teams then embark on the hardest journey in sports — finding "THE guy" at quarterback.
In 2018, the teams on that trail were the Browns, Jets, Bills, Cardinals, Ravens, and maybe one or two more. Most of them chose a quarterback high in the draft. We will know in a few years how many got it right. What will that list of teams look like in 2019? Who will be the Dirty Half Dozen searching for the franchise savior?
Let's nail this down by working backwards and eliminating the teams who we KNOW will have their "THE guy" for 2019 and beyond. These are teams who have a young QB that they've drafted, or a veteran QB who we know won't be retiring any time soon. 22 teams, in no particular order...
FRANCHISE QB IN PLACE FOR 2019 AND BEYOND
* NEW YORK JETS: Sam Darnold
* BUFFALO: Josh Allen
* BALTIMORE: Lamar Jackson
* CLEVELAND: Baker Mayfield
* HOUSTON: Deshaun Watson
* TENNESSEE: Marcus Mariota
* KANSAS CITY: Patrick Mahomes
* OAKLAND: Derek Carr
* PHILADELPHIA: Carson Wentz
* DALLAS: Dak Prescott
* WASHINGTON: Alex Smith
* GREEN BAY: Aaron Rodgers
* DETROIT: Matthew Stafford
* MINNESOTA: Kirk Cousins
* CHICAGO: Mitchell Trubisky
* ATLANTA: Matt Ryan
* CAROLINA: Cam Newton
* TAMPA BAY: Jameis Winston
* ARIZONA: Josh Rosen
* LOS ANGELES RAMS: Jared Goff
* SAN FRANCISCO: Jimmy Garoppolo
* SEATTLE: Russell Wilson
Next, let's make sure we account for the teams who have established, productive veteran quarterbacks who we KNOW will be starting in 2019, barring an unforeseen retirement, but are candidates to retire after 2019. These teams could potentially be in the QB-drafting market to find their next "THE guy"...
FRANCHISE QB IN PLACE FOR 2019 AND THEN WHAT?
* NEW ENGLAND: Tom Brady
* PITTSBURGH: Ben Roethlisberger
* LOS ANGELES CHARGERS: Philip Rivers
* NEW ORLEANS: Drew Brees
Ok, that's 26 teams we've listed so far, which means we have a true Dirty Half Dozen that will be drafting quarterbacks in the 2019 draft. If you root for one of these six teams, you have about 300 days to prepare for a never-ending roller coaster of rumors, innuendo, and smoke regarding your team's QB position. Have fun!
Here is the 2019 Dirty Half Dozen.....
IN THE MARKET TO DRAFT A QB HIGH IN 2019
It was a mild surprise to many that the Dolphins didn't draft a quarterback with the 11th overall pick, with Lamar Jackson sitting right there. So it appears that head coach Adam Gase is giving Ryan Tannehill one more chance to stay healthy and show he can be a productive NFL quarterback. Since neither of those things has really happened yet, I am going to bet that it won't again. The backups are Brock Osweiler and David Fales, so there's literally nothing there that excites you on this depth chart. Cutting Tannehill after 2018 would also bring a cap savings of about $13 million for 2019.
I'm guessing Andy Dalton doesn't have many more seasons in Cincy to chase that elusive playoff win. At least early in his career Dalton was getting INTO the playoffs. Now, the Bengals have all the earmarkings of a vintage Cincy outfit — declining defense, shaky QB play, just Bengal-type stuff. Dalton is not the answer long-term, and with A.J. McCarron now gone as a possible heir to the QB spot, the Bengals should look for a long-term, highly drafted solution. Also, Dalton has no dead money left on his deal after 2018 and a 2019 cap figure of $16 million. He won't be back.
Until I see Andrew Luck actually throw a football in an NFL game, I refuse to believe that he will just magically return to being the Andrew Luck that was carrying 52 other players, Chuck Pagano, and Ryan Grigson on his back to an AFC title game in 2014. So, if that's the case, it means the Colts will be back to picking in the top five again in 2019, in which case, this time, they have to go quarterback with that pick. It seems like just yesterday that Luck signed his huge contract extension, yet here we are, where in 2019 the Colts can save over $14 million on the cap by releasing Luck.
I am, frankly, somewhat surprised (and very thankful, as a Texans fan) that the Jags didn't use the 29th overall pick on Jackson. We know Blake Bortles isn't the long-term solution, and I think that will be further exposed in 2018. The Jags have everything else you need to win on this roster, but have a weird conundrum, where they almost HAVE to win in 2018 or 2019, because after that they have a lot of cap money shoved into future years that is going to be painful when it's time to retool this roster. The Jags should draft a QB next year, but if Bortles is subpar in 2018, they could also be in the market for a bridge guy along with a highly drafted QB in 2019. (Bridge guys listed below.)
This is going to rile up Case Keenum truthers, and I swear that's not what I am trying to do — the problem for Case in Denver is that he is surrounded by a roster that is a fraction of the one he took to the NFC title game in Minnesota, and Case needs a full complement of tools offensively, and a really good defense, in order to replicate 2017. I just don't see it happening for him there, so when the Broncos are picking in the top ten again in 2019, they should be looking at a quarterback.
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NEW YORK GIANTS
This entire offseason has felt like the Giants are trying to atone for benching the revered Eli Manning during the 2017 season, even though he has performed abjectly terrible the last two seasons in relation to what the Giants are paying him. Win two Super Bowls, and it doesn't matter how you actually perform on the field anymore, I guess — your spot is set. So once this season of "make up sex" is done between Eli and the Giants, and they go, say, 5-11, it will be time to guillotine this thing, realize about $17 million in cap savings, and find a long-term solution at quarterback.... and then Eli can go be a bridge for Tom Coughlin and the Jaguars for a season.
Speaking of bridge QB's, here are the guys who will be paid a nice wage to keep a seat warm for a young QB somewhere next season.....
BRIDGE QB's CLASS OF 2019
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.