This may be a rare draft season where scarcity at the NFL level largely matches a surplus coming up.
The MMQB’s latest big board shows an overflow of defensive talent. At the NFL level, coaches are dipping down into college in order to find and develop the type of multi-tooled prospects that can handle the air raid/zone read/RPO style offenses that are dominating the game.
The quarterback position in college is experiencing a down year—there’s a chance one might not be picked in the first round—but we’re also nearing a point in NFL history where almost every team in the league is at least comfortable with their signal-caller.
Still, there will be teams that depend on this offseason to yield a new quarterback, whether it’s via the draft or free agency. Here’s a look at who they are, and what their avenues might be:
There’s still a chance Eli Manning gets on a run and stumbles into the conversation for 2019. He’ll turn 38 after this season and has never looked less comfortable or fleet of foot in the pocket. That being said, after the staff untangles their offensive line evaluations from Manning’s performance, they’ll be hard pressed to blindly throw their resources behind him again next season.
Best case: Acquire Teddy Bridgewater via free agency or make a hard evaluation on Derek Carr and pry him loose from the Oakland Raiders. There is significantly less dead cap associated with Carr’s contract after the change in league year. Jon Gruden is torching his promising young quarterback along with everything else in Oakaland, and may welcome the fresh start.
Worst case: Hope for a Kurt Warner to Manning-type transition, draft Manning’s successor in the first round and spend 2019 in a painful, elongated Manning Goodbye Stadium Tour while Saquon Barkley and Odell Beckham get yet another year older.
We’ll have more on this in our quarterback stock watch series starting later today. That being said, there will almost certainly be a new coach and general manager. The inherited offensive line is passable and the Bucs have one of the best receivers in football.
Best case: Take a chance on an offensive-minded head coach with some chutzpah and spend some draft capital on a quarterback who can move and throw. The Bucs are one of a few teams that seem to lag behind in terms of coaching innovation (for example, they just took away play-calling power from their most creative mind, offensive coordinator Todd Monken). Bring in Tyree Jackson from Buffalo. Get a play caller who spent some time with Mark Helfrich, Dino Babers or Mike Leach. Start surprising some people.
Worst case: Allow a new coaching candidate to feed you what you want to hear, which is that Jameis Winston is fixable and a top-10 quarterback so long as you listen to him.
There are savings to be had here if the Dolphins part ways with Ryan Tannehill without a post June 1 designation, as the Miami Herald laid out here. While promising with Adam Gase, it may be time to allow the offensive minded head coach a chance to get his hands on someone that can maximize the speed on his roster.
Best case: Gase gets to use the savings from a Tannehill cut to do some shopping on the free-agent market. Or, at the least, he gives himself the freedom to select a quarterback in this year’s draft to develop behind Tannehill while the Dolphins wait for the dead cap money to dwindle. He could pull an Andy Reid and round out the flaws in Drew Lock or Will Grier during 2019 and be ready to go by ’20.
Worst case: Do nothing. While Gase deserves a ton of credit for keeping this team competitive, they are too talented elsewhere to be treading water.
4. Denver Broncos
It’s hard to imagine John Elway settling for a full rebuild, especially since he would probably put most of that weight on his current head coach (or another one coming in). Once viewed as a plumb job, this is more of an intimidation zone for would-be offensive minds. Do they take another big swing in the draft?
Best case: Do what Elway does best: Shop around and court a veteran. We could see Tannehill or Joe Flacco available this offseason. Hell, even Eli Manning could be around if he doesn’t want the ceremonial Derek Jeter goodbye in New York. Jacoby Brissett becomes more tradable the healthier Andrew Luck gets. While the Broncos are desperate for a rebuild, this defense will be good enough for another year and their running game is all-of-a-sudden fierce.
Worst case: Keep Vance Joseph, put immense pressure on his staff to find the next great quarterback in the draft and vaporize the best remaining years of your defense trying to bolster a young quarterback who isn’t ready.
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