More so than any other offseason in recent NFL history, we’re expecting a whole bunch of quarterbacks to change teams once March comes calling. Whether teams are moving on from the old guard or simply looking to improve under center, more than a quarter of the league seems to be in a precarious position here.
Super Bowl winners Joe Flacco and Eli Manning could very well end up moving on from the only NFL cities they’ve ever called home. A fellow former Super Bowl winner might be on the outs in Philadelphia.
Meanwhile, at least one younger quarterback has proven that he might be a starter in this league. These are among the 10 quarterbacks we fully expect to change teams during what promises to be an active offseason at this position.
Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins
The Dolphins have a real decision to make after this season. It starts with head coach Adam Gase’s future with the team and continues at quarterback. After missing all of last season to a torn ACL, the 30-year-old Tannehill has missed five games to injury this season. He’s set to count a whopping $26.6 million against the cap in 2019, and Miami can save about $13.3 million by releasing the former first-round pick.
At some point the powers that be in South Beach have to realize the status quo is not working. Miami has been nothing more than mediocre in Tannehill’s seven seasons as its starter. Why would anyone expect that to change? And with a ton of starter-caliber quarterbacks potentially set to hit the market this March, there’s every reason to believe this team will go in a different direction.
Eli Manning, New York Giants
We’ve read the comments from head coach Pat Shurmur and others within New York’s brass. Even after being shut out last week by Tennessee, the Giants are going to play out another lost season with Manning under center. Such is the nature of the beast when an organization fails to let go of its past. It’s been a good half-decade since Manning was even a top-16 quarterback in the NFL.
Now that the Giants have a young core — led by Odell Beckham Jr. and Saquon Barkley — it’s high time the team resolved itself to a full rebuild. That means selecting a quarterback in Round 1 and going with a stop-gap free agent option. Manning is set to count $23.2 million against the cap next season — only $6.2 million of which would carry a dead cap hit. Even if Eli wants to continue his career, it should be in another city. That includes the possibility of him teaming up with Tom Coughlin in Jacksonville.
Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
The end has to be coming here, right? Pretty much on an annual basis over the past several seasons, rumors of Marvin Lewis’ and Andy Dalton’s demise in Cincinnati have been put to rest one way or another. It included the Bengals signing Lewis to an extension mere months after it was reported that he’d resign.
Now, with Dalton lost for the season to injury and Lewis pretty much gone, it seems to be a clear indication the quarterback will be calling another city home. Cincinnati can get out from under his contract with zero dead money hit — saving $16.2 million against the cap in the process. If so, look for Dalton to find a starting job somewhere else next season.
Nick Mullens, San Francisco 49ers
A six-game sample size is not enough to anoint someone a starter-caliber quarterback in the NFL. That said, what Mullens has done since taking over for an injured and ineffective C.J. Beathard has been nothing less than extraordinary. He’s posted a 3-3 record in six starts after the 49ers went 1-7 with him on the bench. Equally as important, the second-year undrafted free agent has looked every bit the part of a starter.
He’s averaging nearly 300 passing yards per game with 10 touchdowns and six interceptions for a robust 96.0 passer rating. The 49ers are also averaging nearly 400 yards per game with him under center. Should Mullens continue this stellar play over the final two games of the season, it would not be a shock if another quarterback-needy team called the 49ers up about a trade. That’s how good he’s been.
Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
The writing is clearly on the wall here. Even with this former Super Bowl champion healthy, Baltimore has decided to go with rookie first-round pick Lamar Jackson. It’s resulted in the Ravens winning four of five and inching closer to the playoffs. No matter what happens in the final two games of the season, Mr. Jackson is the future in Baltimore.
What that means for Flacco remains to be seen. Though, we’re pretty darn sure he won’t call it quits simply because the Ravens decided to move on from him. Instead, look for the veteran to latch on as a starter for another playoff contender. Set to count $26.5 million against the cap next season, that will likely come in the form of Baltimore granting Flacco his release — enabling him to hit free agency in the process.
Foles is just magic. We saw that firsthand during Philadelphia’s surprise win over the Los Angeles Rams this past Sunday night. Simply put, he wins football games. Playoffs included, he’s posted a 7-2 record since the start of last season. That can’t be lost on other teams in need of an upgrade or stopgap option under center once March comes calling.
The better news here for Foles is that he has a mutual option on his contract for the 2019 season. Foles can pay back $2 million of his 2018 signing bonus and hit free agency. If that’s not the end result, Foles’ $20.6 million cap hit for next season makes him a tradable commodity. Look for teams such as the Jaguars, Redskins and Dolphins to show interest in the reigning Super Bowl MVP.
At this point, the best Bortles can hope for this coming offseason is to find a situation where he can compete for a starting job. No other team is going to hand this struggling signal caller the job outright. That’s just not the way this whole thing is going to play out after Jacksonville benched him in favor of Cody Kessler earlier in the season.
In no way does this mean Bortles will be on the streets once training camp comes calling. The Jaguars have made it clear he doesn’t fit into their future. This comes after Bortles signed a three-year, $54 million extension last February. If the Jags were to release him, they would incur a lofty dead cap hit while being helped out by off-set language in his contract. That makes this scenario relatively likely.
We’re still somewhat surprised that the Buccaneers are rolling with Winston under center. Benched multiple times in favor of Ryan Fitzpatrick earlier this season, the former No. 1 pick has regressed big time right in front of our eyes. He’s no longer seen as a sure-fire franchise quarterback in Tampa Bay.
This season alone, Winston has accounted for 14 touchdown passes compared to 16 turnovers. Add in his off-field issues, and the end of the line could be here. That’s magnified by the fact that Winston’s $20.92 million salary for next season is guaranteed for injury only. If he finishes up the season healthy, the Bucs can get out from said deal without a dead cap hit. Should that happen, at least a half-dozen teams would be willing to bank on Winston as a starter moving forward.
Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders
First-year Raiders head coach Jon Gruden has said multiple times that Carr’s job is safe. We can pretty much take that with a grain of salt after Gruden spearheaded the trades of Khalil Mack and Amari Cooper over the past several months. With former general manager Reggie McKenzie now no longer part of the organization, Gruden has no built-in relationship with Carr. If you don’t think that will play a role in the decision-making process, we’re not too sure what to say.
What we do know is that the Raiders have three first-round picks in the 2019 NFL Draft and have set off on what will be a long-term rebuild as they prepare for relocation from Oakland. That could very well mean starting with a clean slate under center. If so, Gruden and Co. would receive a nice amount of interest in Carr on the trade market. Still just 27 years old, Carr has accounted for 122 touchdowns compared to 52 interceptions in his near five seasons with the Raiders.
Teddy Bridgewater, New Orleans Saints
Having yielded a third-round pick to the Jets for Bridgewater this past summer, there’s some around the Saints who believe this team will look to sign Bridgewater to a long-term contract this coming offseason. The idea would be for him to eventually take over for future Hall of Fame quarterback Drew Brees.
Though, Teddy is going to have unlimited options once free agents starts. As many as eight teams will be looking for viable starters this offseason. Even when we take into account that Bridgewater has thrown three regular season passes since a Pro Bowl 2015 campaign, he’ll seemingly be a valuable commodity. Yeah, we have not heard the last of this former first-round pick. That’s for sure.