2014 QB Market: Who Will Be Shopping?
The MRI on Tom Brady’s left knee suggested there is nothing Patriots fans need to worry about. A calendar would not be so optimistic.
That knee and the rest of the body it’s attached to are 36 years old now. Sooner or later, New England is going to need a new quarterback.
There’s no reason to think they’ll be shopping for Brady’s successor this offseason. But it does appear there will be significantly more options at quarterback in the 2014 draft than there was last year, when only one – E.J. Manuel – was selected in the first round. And even that was a bit of a reach.
Our Preseason Big Board 2.0 projects three quarterbacks worthy of first-round consideration next year: Louisville’s Teddy Bridgewater (No. 4 overall prospect), Georgia’s Aaron Murray (No. 26) and Tajh Boyd (No. 31). Two more could come off the board in the second round (Miami’s Stephen Morris, No. 35; Alabama’s A.J. McCarron, No. 60).
There are a ton of others who could play themselves into the top tier of QB prospects: North Carolina’s Bryn Renner, Fresno State’s Derek Carr, Stanford’s Kevin Hogan and San Jose State’s David Fales. And there’s no shortage of draft prognosticators far more bullish on UCLA’s Brett Hundley and Texas A&M’s Johnny Manziel than I am. Even Cornell has a quarterback (Jeff Mathews) who will be on everyone’s radar.
It’ll be a good year to be in the market for a quarterback. And it's never too early (Week 2 of the preseason is underway, right?) to start speculating who, then, will be shopping for a new signal-caller come next May?
NEED A STARTER NOW
Cleveland: I am in the minority, but I would not be surprised to see Brandon Weeden do enough this year to keep the job. But then he’ll turn 30 this season anyway. Either the Browns will be looking for a new starter in 2014 or a guy to replace Weeden a year or two thereafter.
Jacksonville: This is Priority One. If the Jaguars finish with one of the three worst records in the league – as I and Las Vegas expect they will – they will be first on line for a quarterback. Any fashionistas out there want to speculate how Teddy Bridgewater will look in teal?
Oakland: If Matt Flynn turns out not to be the answer – and we’re pretty certain Terrelle Pryor isn’t either – then the Raiders will have to wonder if they can do better than Tyler Wilson. Which they can.
Philadelphia: Chip Kelly will sort out things for this year between Michael Vick, Nick Foles and Barkley. But eventually you figure he’ll want his kind of guy to run his style of offense. Could that be Marcus Mariota in two seasons?
Tennessee: This should be the final year of the Jake Locker experiment. He either secures the job or loses it for good.
TIME TO PLAN FOR THE FUTURE
Arizona: Carson Palmer is already following the retirees blueprint: He's moved to Arizona. Palmer should have a couple more productive seasons in him in Bruce Arians’ offense. Still, Arians has always had the touch with young quarterbacks. If he’s to tie the success of his first head coaching gig to a quarterback, it’s likely to be a young gun of his choosing.
Chicago: The Bears are one more disappointing season from Jay Cutler away from going in a different direction.
Houston: Sitting all those years in Atlanta makes Matt Schaub a young 32, but it might be a good time to evaluate whether T.J. Yates really is the best next option.
Kansas City: Even if Alex Smith engineers a turnaround and has the Chiefs back in the playoffs in a year or two, Andy Reid surely will be looking for his next young quarterback to work with (I’m still shocked he didn’t wind up with Matt Barkley).
New Orleans: Who dat think Drew Brees is going to play forever? Brees will turn 35 during the playoffs this year, which means Sean Payton needs to bring someone aboard to spend some time around this future Hall of Famer before replacing him.
Pittsburgh: Maybe Landry Jones will give the Steelers reason to think he can replace Ben Roethlisberger someday. More likely Pittsburgh would be able to find an upgrade in the middle rounds.
St. Louis: It would be extreme to call this a make-or-break season for Sam Bradford. But by the end of Season Four, the Rams will know whether he’s going to develop into a top-tier quarterback.
San Diego: What is likely to happen to the Chargers this year will not be the fault of Philip Rivers. Not entirely. But with their window to win clearly behind them, it’s certainly possible the Chargers start thinking about going in another direction.
OFF THE MARKET
Atlanta: The era of Matt Ryan playing at a truly elite level is just beginning.
Baltimore: You give your Super Bowl-winning quarterback the richest contract of all-time means you’re planning not to need a quarterback for a long time.
Buffalo: After spending a first-round pick on Manuel, the Bills are out of the market for the foreseeable future.
Carolina: Cam Newton took a statistical step backwards in his second season. His decision making in the passing game needs to improve, but there’s no reason to think the Panthers aren’t committed to giving the former No. 1 pick all the time he needs.
Cincinnati: There is no cause to question Andy Dalton, who has led the Bengals to the playoffs each of the last two seasons.
Dallas: If Tony Romo leads the Cowboys back to the playoffs, as I am predicting he'll do, there would be no reason to run Romo out of town, yet.
Denver: Peyton Manning isn’t forever. But the Broncos are carrying two young QBs (Brock Osweiler and Zac Dysert) and hoping that shadowing Peyton will help one of them be ready when the time comes.
Detroit: Mentioning that Matthew Stafford has stayed healthy for several years is like talking about a no-hitter in progress. It’s happening, but no one wants to jinx it. As long as Stafford is upright and is willing to throw the ball 650-plus times a season, he’ll be the man in the Motor City.
Green Bay: If the Packers lead the league in sacks allowed again, they might be forced to find someone to replace Aaron Rodgers, who simply shouldn’t be exposed to that kind of pressure all season long.
Indianapolis: The Colts likely will see a steady rotation of backups like Matt Hasselbeck roll through town to hold Andrew Luck’s clipboard for the next decade.
Miami: The Dolphins are anticipating a huge leap for Ryan Tannehill in Year Two. The Fish should be set for some time.
Minnesota: There are rumblings that Christian Ponder isn’t what the Vikings thought they were getting when they took him with the 12th pick of the 2011 draft. Maybe not, but they invested such a high pick – and his productivity should continue to climb this season – that I don’t think the Vikings are ready to acknowledge that they overreached.
New England: All signs point to them being comfortable with Ryan Mallett, should he be pressed into service. There isn’t a Patriots fan anywhere who wants to see how that would turn out.
New York Giants: Ryan Nassib certainly wasn’t worth the eighth pick in the 2013 draft, where a lot of projections had him landing. But he could develop into a decent backup behind Eli Manning.
New York Jets: Regardless of which quarterback starts Week 1, it seems obvious they want to turn the ball over to Geno Smith eventually – Week 1, 2014 at the latest.
San Francisco: It will be interesting to see how defenses approach Colin Kaepernick this season, now that they have multiple games’ worth of film to evaluate. He won’t sneak up on anybody this year, but he might surprise people with his skills in the pocket.
Seattle: What Pete Carroll saw in Russell Wilson wasn’t just a quarterback to bring the Seahawks back to the playoffs. It was a quarterback to build a team around.
Tampa Bay: Even if Josh Freeman’s freefall continues, the Bucs will give Mike Glennon a shot before shopping around again.
Washington: The Robert Griffin III pick was a no-brainer. But taking Kirk Cousins a few rounds later to insure against that inevitable injury to Griffin was pure genius.