Speculation And Soothsaying


This Friday is different from other Fridays during football season.  Normally, Friday is a day to make projections about the weekend’s upcoming games.  This weekend, there is only a single game and I would give it more stature than it is worth if I called it inconsequential.  I speak, of course, about the Pro Bowl.  Here are the 2 things you need to know about the game:

  1. Do not waste your time and watch it.
  2. For the love of everything that is good and holy, do not bet on it.

Having disposed with the Pro Bowl, I want to spend time today talking about NFL QBs.  Every year, this is a topic of interest because of the importance of the position to NFL teams; this year, it seems as if there is the potential for a lot of turnover in that cadre.  For starters, everyone says – and I agree to a large extent – that there are plenty of college QBs in the draft that have serious NFL potential.  There may be a half-dozen QBs taken in the first couple of rounds.

However, that only begins the story.  The NFL situation has plenty of QBs eligible for free agency with other QBs edging toward retirement and with one QB having already announced his retirement.  All this is to say that there should be lots of movement regarding QBs in this off-season and that allows for speculation/projection before the fact.  So, let me take advantage of that opportunity here.

In normal years, teams that made the playoffs would not be front and center in this sort of speculation, but this year is different.

  • The Chiefs made the playoffs.  Their starting QB (Alex Smith) is under contract for next year, but the Chiefs traded up to get Patrick Mahomes last year and they started him in a game this year to get a look at him.  Alex Smith is thought to be “available” in a trade.
  • The Bills made the playoffs.  Their starting QB (Tyrod Taylor) is under contract for next year, but the Bills’ coaching staff has signaled pretty clearly that they are not totally convinced Taylor is “the guy”.  Tyrod Taylor is thought to be “available” in a trade.
  • The Jags made the playoffs.  The team has an option on its starting QB (Blake Bortles) for next year.  Will they exercise that option?  According to reports, the Jags would have to pay Bortles $19M for one year if they exercise it.
  • The Saints made the playoffs.  Their starting QB (Drew Brees) is a free agent.  Brees is a 38-year old QB who is “Hall of Fame quality”.  Will the Saints resign Drew Brees?
  • The Vikes made the playoffs.  They have 3 QBs on the roster for the moment who have been their starters in the last couple of years, but all three contracts are about to expire.  What do the Vikes do with Sam Bradford, Teddy Bridgewater and/or Case Keenum?

Obviously, there are plenty of teams that did not make the playoffs that perceive a need to upgrade their QB proficiency (Browns, Jets, Broncos) and a team whose starting QB retired (Cardinals) and a few teams with “QB questions” (Skins, Giants, Bengals. Dolphins, Niners).  There are lot of ways to “slice and dice” this situation so let me choose to identify the NFL QBs who may be moving or eligible to move and think about where they might wind up when the music stops.  I’ll do this in alphabetical order lest anyone read more into this than is intended.

  • Blake Bortles:  His guaranteed $19M salary for 2018 will kick in unless the Jags cut/release him before mid-March.  He played much better this year than he has in any of his previous 3 seasons, but he was still mediocre.  He did not have a top-shelf set of receivers to throw to; so, how much of his “mediocrity” should be attributed to that fact?  I think the Jags will “kick the can down the road” and stick with Bortles for 2018 – – UNLESS – – they can make a trade to get an established QB in a trade such as Alex Smith or Kirk Cousins.  Personally, I would move on from Bortles were I in charge of the Jags…
  • Sam Bradford:  I think he winds up as a backup QB somewhere simply because Sam Bradford has not been able to avoid the injury bug.  He has been in the NFL for 7 seasons and has been in all 16 games in only 2 of those seasons.
  • Drew Brees:  He says he wants to stay in New Orleans; the Saints have to find a way to keep him there, don’t they?
  • Teddy Bridgewater:  The Vikes’ coaches and medical staff have to decide on the status of his knee.  He suffered an injury that was thought to be career-ending and he has not seen the field since 2015 other than a cameo appearance earlier this year.  Assuming his knee is “fixed”, I think the Vikes sign him and he competes for the starting position in Minnesota.
  • Kirk Cousins:  The soap opera continues; if you have not followed the twists and turns in this plot, let me just say that the odds are against him signing a long-term deal with the Skins meaning the Skins have three choices.  They can use the Franchise Tag on him again guaranteeing him $34M in 2018 or they can hang the Transition Tag on him guaranteeing him $28M in 2018.  With either of those options, he will be an unrestricted free agent after the 2018 season.  Or, the Skins can let him achieve free agency this year and look for a new starting QB.  I think Kirk Cousins will stay in Washington for 2018.  However, if the Skins are smart – and they have given little evidence in the past 20 years that they are close to smart – they will avail themselves of the collegiate QB bounty and draft Cousins’ replacement this year.
  • Jimmy Garoppolo:  If the Niners let him leave town for any reason, look for the local villagers there to take up torches and pitchforks and storm the team headquarters…
  • Case Keenum:  I would suspect that the Vikes would love to have him and Bridgewater competing for the starting job.  However, Keenum is going to be in demand elsewhere after the way he played in 2017 and some other teams may be able to give him a lot more assurance of a starting job (Browns, Jets, Cardinals).
  • Eli Manning:  His contract runs through the 2019 season and it surely seems as if he wants to stay in NYC and finish his career there.  The blockheaded move to sit him down for a game to give Geno “Bleeping” Smith a look has to enter into the thinking here.  The fact is that Manning is 37 years old and is approaching the twilight of his career.  I doubt the Giants would “move him” but the team does need to address the “future franchise QB issue” sometime soon.
  • AJ McCarron:  The Bengals tried to trade him to the Browns earlier this year.  Might that exchange be resurrected?  The Browns must be looking for a QB, but they have a lot of other options out there…
  • Josh McCown:  He had an excellent season with the Jets.  He is an unrestricted free agent and he is 38 years old.  I have no idea where he will be next year.
  • Alex Smith:  He is signed through 2018 but I think the Chiefs are going to try to trade him and give the starting job to Patrick Mahomes.  The Chiefs are not going to send him to the Broncos; they will not be interested in helping one of their division rivals solve a roster problem.  Maybe they trade Smith to the Browns to act as a placeholder/mentor for a top QB that the Browns take in the draft this year.  Maybe they trade him to the Jets.  Maybe they trade him to the Bills.  I suspect Alex Smith will not be in KC next year.
  • Ryan Tannehill:  He is signed through 2020 but he is coming off an injury that kept him out of action for all of 2017.  Moreover, his career record as a starter is only 37-40.  Might the Dolphins be interested in trading him and “going in another direction”?
  • Tyrod Taylor:  If he is on the Bills’ roster after mid-March, the team owes him $6M as a roster bonus.  His salary for 2018 would be an additional $10M if he stays with the Bills.  I don’t think that is going to happen; I think the Bills will be looking to sign one of the free-agent QBs out there.  As a wild thought, might the Skins let Kirk Cousins walk and sign Tyrod Taylor?

Even if you do not find this sort of speculation and soothsaying particularly interesting, let me assure you that it is far more interesting than the Pro Bowl.

Finally, Brad Dickson had this comment in the Omaha World-Herald regarding the surprising resignation of ESPN president, John Skipper recently:

“The head of ESPN suddenly resigned. I’m trying to confirm that he quit to spend more time with LaVar Ball.”

But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………