The biggest of the offseason quarterback dominoes have fallen. Free agent Kirk Cousins is planning to sign a three-year contract with the Minnesota Vikings, according to ESPN’s Adam Schefter. Case Keenum is set to sign with the Broncos and Sam Bradford with the Cardinals. That takes three major targets off the board for many of the league’s quarterback-needy teams. And there are still a couple of those. Where now do teams like the Jets and Bills turn for their quarterback solutions? How does the backup quarterback market shake out? How do the Cousins, Bradford and Keenum deals affect the offseason quarterback market the rest of the way? You’ve got questions, we’ve got answers, with an up-to-the-second rundown of who’s left and what could happen next:
The Bengals backup and former Alabama star hits the market in search of an opportunity to start somewhere. Cleveland appeared to be his most likely destination, because of his connections with the Browns’ coaching staff, before the Tyrod Taylor trade. Now if he wants a shot to start, McCarron needs to land with the Bills or Jets. There aren’t many other obvious situations (Chiefs, Cardinals maybe?) where he could even expect to be in a camp competition for a starter’s job. If he can’t find a spot to start, McCarron could look to sign with a team whose starter might not have many years left, such as New Orleans, Baltimore or New England. Of course, Cincinnati also might qualify as such a place.
Coming up on his 39th birthday, and coming off a strong season with the Jets, McCown looks like a solid option for a team looking for a bridge quarterback to play while their draft pick gets ready. Again, such teams would include the Jets and Bills, assuming those teams draft quarterbacks. He would have made sense in Cleveland for that reason, and it’s possible he still could, though obviously the Taylor acquisition complicates matters there. It wouldn’t be at all surprising to see McCown back with the Jets on a one-year deal, along with a draft pick and the next guy on this list.
Formerly the Vikings’ quarterback of the future, Bridgewater hasn’t played a meaningful snap in two years because of his 2016 ACL injury. He’s still viewed as a talented option, but there’s no way to know for sure what teams are getting because he was still in a developmental phase when he got hurt. So Bridgewater probably has to land in a place that has another viable option either in front of or behind him. He could pair with McCown in New York or Bradford in Arizona very neatly.
Expected to be released by the Bears in the coming days after his poor performance as their starter in 2017, Glennon has 22 NFL starts under his belt and remains a reasonable fallback option for a team looking to piece together a plan at the position. For example, if a priority for Bradford’s backup is someone who’s got NFL experience, Glennon fits. For those teams shut out on McCarron and McCown that don’t know if they have a viable starter elsewhere on the roster, Glennon is at least someone who’s done it before. I know these aren’t exactly ringing endorsements, but the fact is that some of these teams are going to end up with imperfect solutions.
The backup quarterback market has a little something for everyone. Guys like Drew Stanton, Trevor Siemian, Geno Smith and Tom Savage all have starting experience in the league. Matt Moore, Derek Anderson, Chad Henne and Mark Sanchez all have carved out roles as useful mentor-type backups in recent years. And Colin Kaepernick has had more NFL success than anyone we’ve mentioned here so far and is still out there wanting to play, but we know the reasons he’s not on a roster go a lot deeper than football.
As many as five quarterbacks could go in the first round of this year’s draft. USC’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, Oklahoma’s Baker Mayfield, Wyoming’s Josh Allen and Lousville’s Lamar Jackson all offer appeal to teams looking for long-term answers. The Browns are expected to take one of them with the first overall pick, and if they don’t, they’ll likely take one with the fourth overall pick. With the Giants at No. 2, the Broncos at No. 5, the Jets at No. 6, the Bills at No. 12 and 21, the Dolphins at No. 11, the Cardinals at 15, the Ravens at 16, and the Saints, Steelers, Jaguars and Patriots in the latter part of the round — it wouldn’t be a surprise to see any of those teams draft quarterbacks high this year, and some, like the Bills and Cardinals, might have added incentive to trade up depending on how the rest of free agency goes.