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Some teams need a new quarterback. Others are trying to figure out what to do with the one they already have. A bunch are searching for ways to develop, support or pay a promising young one.
So what will they do?
All 32 NFL teams have quarterback questions this offseason, from “Who’s next?” to “How much?”and Bleacher Report is here to provide all the answers.
(Note: All cap figures courtesy Over The Cap.)
Question: How can Kyler Murray take the next step?
Answer: Murray was sacked 48 times in his rookie season. He ran himself into a lot of those sacks, but the Cardinals need upgrades all along the offensive line. Quality third and fourth receivers would also be helpful for a team that uses lots of four-receiver sets. So there’s a ton of work to do. The good news is that we’re now talking about Murray’s potential and not his height or whether he would rather be playing baseball.
Question: Is it “quarterback of the future” time?
Answer: No, it’s “defense of the present” time, as it has been for the last three years. But maybe it should be. The Falcons haven’t drafted any quarterbacks at all since they took Sean Renfree in the seventh round in 2013. It’s time for them to emulate the Patriots and start taking Jimmy Garoppolo-Jacoby Brissett-Jarrett Stidham fliers in the middle rounds to serve as possible successors if Matt Ryan ages suddenly, trade bait if he lasts forever and more appealing alternatives to Matt Schaub when they need a spot starter.
Nick Wass/Associated Press
Question: Did the Titans “figure out” Lamar Jackson in the playoffs?
Answer: No. The Titans stuffed some fourth-down plays and made some juggling end-zone catches in the playoffs. Jackson will remain in MVP form so long as he continues to develop as a passer and decision-maker (there’s still plenty of room for growth) and the Ravens acquire more than just Hollywood Brown at wide receiver.
Question: Is Josh Allen on the Blake Bortles Express to Trubiskytown?
Answer: The real Allen lies halfway between what his harshest skeptics think of him (Wile E. Coyote on rocket skates with an Acme bazooka strapped to his arm) and what the Bills Mafia thinks of him (Cam Newton, only 100 times better). As long as the Bills only ask for a handful of scrambles and lasers per game from Allen and don’t do anything silly like open up their offense to “feature” him, he is more likely to go the Joe Flacco career route than go bust. And Flacco, you will recall, led a team to the Super Bowl.
Question: Does keeping Cam Newton now that everyone else has left make any sense?
Answer: Yes. Newton’s cap number is a manageable $21.1 million. If he’s healthy, he’s a bridge quarterback to a youngster at worst and an All-Pro-caliber Comeback Player of the Year candidate at best. The Panthers should only move on from him if they are blown away by a trade offer or if the MRI machine bears bad news.
Seriously, in a league where we’re pretending Philip Rivers isn’t toaster crumbs and “Tom Brady in Las Vegas” doesn’t sound like the plot for Ted 3, why would anyone (besides America’s angry father-in-law Facebook community) be quick to write off Cam Newton?
Question: Mitch Trubisky? Seriously?
Answer: Yep. The Bears front office is tripling down on its bad decision, so everyone will just have to play along until the defense fizzles and pink slips start flying. The Bears would be a fine landing place for someone like Marcus Mariota or Josh Rosen who could nudge Trubisky a bit, which is why that won’t happen. At least Trubisky contract extension talks haven’t started. That we know of. Yet.
Question: Joe Burrow, right?
Answer: Yes, Joe Burrow.
Question: Is it time to give up on Baker Mayfield?
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Answer: Cutting bait on Mayfield would be a terrible Moneyball move. Franchise-caliber quarterbacks are precious, Mayfield represents a considerable investment of draft capital and time, and he earned the Good Analytics Seal of Approval coming out of college. But dumping him would be a savvy political move. His backslide can be blamed on the failures of the outgoing regimes, and a quarterback reboot would earn the new braintrust an extra year of job security.
We’ll learn with Mayfield over the next 12 months or so whether Paul DePodesta and his Ivy League All-Stars are firm believers in analytics or front-office politics. Some of us already have a guess.
Question: Is signing Dak Prescott to a nine-figure contract the team’s best move?
Answer: No. Signing Prescott to a nine-figure contract last year instead of dropping a cartoon safe on Ezekiel Elliott would have been the best move. Now, Prescott has more leverage and the Carson Wentz and Jared Goff contracts as templates, and the Cowboys have lots of free-agent mouths to feed. They need to sign Prescott before they have to franchise-tag him so they can proceed with the rest of their offseason priority list on their own terms. If they must tag him, it will only cost them more money and headaches down the line.
Question: How good is Drew Lock?
Answer: Lock looked like your basic adequate prospect in five starts last year. He only seemed like the second coming of Patrick Mahomes because Broncos fans are used to their quarterbacks curling up in the fetal position in the pocket or getting arrested after Halloween parties. Lock has the tools to be a franchise quarterback, making him as good of a prospect as Sam Darnold and Baker Mayfield were this time last year. In other words, the hard work for the Broncos and Lock still lies ahead.
Question: Is it time to start thinking about life after Matthew Stafford?
Answer: The Lions should have spent the last decade thinking more about life with Matthew Stafford.
Green Bay Packers
Question: Should they invest in four new receivers for Aaron Rodgers, or just two or three?
Answer: The Packers haven’t spent a first- or second-round pick on an offensive skill-position player since they drafted Davante Adams 53rd overall in 2014. So yes, drafting some upgrades to complement Adams is a fine idea. And if that doesn’t appease Rodgers, they can always try tossing some coaches into the mouth of an active volcano.
Question: How much trouble is Deshaun Watson in now that Bill O’Brien is officially both general manager and head coach?
Answer: Exactly as much trouble as Watson was in before, when O’Brien was unofficially both general manager and head coach. Watson’s agent needs to open contract extension discussions now, before O’Brien starts preparing not to participate in the draft. If Watson is lucky, O’Brien will trade him to a team that’s run professionally.
Question: Is Philip Rivers the best solution for their quarterback problem?
Answer: No. The Colts are in denial about being in rebuilding mode, and Rivers is driving on a donut with his tailpipe dragging and smoke billowing from under his hood.
James Gilbert/Getty Images
Question: What’s the best way to settle the Gardner Minshew II-Nick Foles situation?
Answer: Acquire an actual franchise quarterback instead of a magical playoff unicorn and the Floribama Shore version of Trevor Siemian. But that won’t happen, because the Jaguars will talk themselves into Minshew the same way they keep talking themselves into Doug Marrone, all the while dragging Foles’ contract behind them like a piano up a flight of stairs.
Kansas City Chiefs
Question: How can they pay Patrick Mahomes without purging Chris Jones and other key contributors from the Super Bowl team?
Answer: According to Bleacher Report’s back-of-the-envelope calculations, the Chiefs can pay both Mahomes and Jones as long as they don’t try to do much else. The trick will be giving Mahomes a contract with a mammoth bonus and lots of backloaded cash and not worrying about what that does to the 2022 or 2023 salary cap, because he’s Patrick Mahomes and he’s worth it.
Las Vegas Raiders
Question: Is Jon Gruden going to dither around with Derek Carr for another year?
Answer: Carr finished sixth in the NFL in Football Outsiders’ DYAR and ninth in passer rating while throwing to a castoff Ravens tight end and the No. 3 receiver for the 2018 Clemson Tigers. Maybe Gruden needs to stop dithering around at every other roster position before he worries about Carr.
Los Angeles Rams
Question: How can they get the most out of Jared Goff?
Answer: Step 1: Fix the offensive line, which will be tricky because Andrew Whitworth is a free agent and the Rams lack a first-round pick. Step 2: Get real about the running back situation, which will be tricky because Todd Gurley II’s cap number is over $17 million, making it hard to justify relegating him to committee status. Step 3: Teach Goff to make pre-snap reads without Sean McVay whispering into his helmet, which will be tricky because Goff should know this stuff by now and McVay built much of his genius cred on his Batman Beyond routine. In summary: The Rams are about to become really nostalgic for 2018.
Los Angeles Chargers
Question: Who will be their quarterback in 2020?
Answer: The Chargers would be a fine landing spot for Cam Newton in a trade, Teddy Bridgewater on a long-term contract or even Ryan Tannehill on a short-term “prove it” deal. But they’re also the most likely team in the NFL to just shrug its shoulders and hand the starting job to Justin Herbert.
Question: Let’s assume they draft Tua Tagovailoa. What’s next?
Answer: Activate the Patrick Mahomes protocols! Plant Tua on the bench to learn and get fully healthy while Ryan Fitzpatrick soaks up rebuilding-era starts. Draft a top receiver and offensive line reinforcements with their other two first-round picks. Begin tailoring the offense to Tua’s strengths. Then unleash a fully armed and operational new offense in 2021.
Question: What happens to Kirk Cousins if they’re forced to release Stefon Diggs as a cap casualty?
Answer: The same thing that always happens to Cousins when conditions are the least bit suboptimal: He’ll transform into an over-his-head game manager trying desperately not to lose.
The Vikings’ cap situation is dire, and Diggs may have to go even though they lack viable replacements. The best way for them to clear cap space would be to extend Cousins, who’s entering in the final year of his contract, so they can hide some of his dough in future years.
You know your organization is in a tough spot when the best solution to your problems is “give Kirk Cousins even more money.”
New England Patriots
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Question: If he leaves, will there be life after Tom Brady?
Answer: OK, time for some straight talk: There’s a 95 percent chance that this Brady-Patriots trial separation ends with Brady getting schmoozed in free agency by the Raiders for a few hours and then running back to Foxborough with roses and chocolates for Bill Belichick. Brady turns 43 in August and is in the midst of a four-year statistical decline. He doesn’t need new weapons or a change of scenery. He needs a teary-eyed ceremony and a banner in the rafters. If Belichick thought otherwise, Brady would already be under contract.
Brady still makes sense for the Patriots as a bridge quarterback taking a victory lap around the NFL if the price is right. Any other team would be getting a fading game manager with a mega-premium salary and expectations. The NFL no longer belongs to Brady or the Patriots. The headlines just haven’t caught up to that reality yet.
New Orleans Saints
Question: Is Taysom Hill really the answer if Drew Brees retires?
Answer: No. This is one of those mass delusions, like when everyone convinced themselves in the early 1990s that Rob Liefeld was a great comic book artist.
New York Giants
Question: How high should expectations be for Daniel Jones now that we are officially in the post-Eli Manning era?
Answer: Relatively low, because Jones was turnover-prone and the team around him needs massive upgrades. Luckily, Dave Gettleman and the Giants are doing everything they can to lower expectations.
New York Jets
Question: How can Sam Darnold turn the page on a mostly miserable sophomore season?
Answer: The best solution involves locking Adam Gase in a warehouse somewhere in Secaucus, New Jersey, and then losing the key, but we’re trying not to get too dark here. Until the Gase era self-destructs, Darnold must keep grinding and hope the Jets add some talent at wide receiver and on the line. If he’s lucky, they will have something like the 2016 Dolphins season, giving him something to build on.
Question: Is Carson Wentz too injury-prone to count on?
Answer: This is the sort of thing you worry about when you no longer have to worry about finding, developing, paying or extending the shelf life of your franchise quarterback. Give Wentz someone to throw to who wasn’t grilling cheesesteaks a month earlier and he’ll be less likely to get speared while escaping from Jadeveon Clowney in next year’s playoffs.
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Question: How much does Ben Roethlisberger have left in the tank?
Answer: Let’s assume Roethlisberger recovers fully from elbow surgery and hasn’t spent the last five months driving from Krispy Kreme to Zaxby’s to Eat’n Park every day. He turns 38 in two weeks, has the injury history of a crash-test dummy, has never exactly been a model of TB12-caliber training habits and will be returning to an offense full of not-too-familiar faces. The Steelers have diligently drafted possible successors (Landry Jones, Joshua Dobbs, Mason Rudolph) in the past. Now is the time to get more serious.
Question: This segment is just going to be a variation on “Russell Wilson is fine; it’s the rest of the organization that needs to step up,” isn’t it?
San Francisco 49ers
Question: What’s the confidence level in Jimmy Garoppolo as a true franchise quarterback?
Answer: You’ll have to ask Kyle “Let’s Go To Halftime Tied” Shanahan. The good news for the 49ers is that Garoppolo is a relative bargain with a $26.6 million cap number this year because they walloped him with bonus bucks back in 2018. Whatever his faults, he’s a better option than the living legends waiting behind door No. 2.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Question: Should they move on from Jameis Winston?
Answer: They should, but they won’t, because the only alternatives (someone proven but past his prime, or someone unproven) aren’t real upgrades. This is what it looks like when an organization paints itself into a corner at quarterback.
Question: What’s the best course of action with Ryan Tannehill?
Answer: Typically, using the franchise tag on a quarterback is a terrible idea, but it would amount to a one-year, no-obligations, $27 million-ish “prove it” deal for Tannehill. He’s a better short-term fit for the Titansand vice versathan any of the alternatives.
Question: Is Dwayne Haskins the long-term answer?
Answer: We’ll find out once we see what he looks like with an actual organization, coaching staff and roster around him.
Mike Tanier covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @MikeTanier.
Josie Lepe/Associated Press