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Who is the NFL’s next superstar quarterback? What will come of all the NFL’s fading star QBs? And does anyone want Antonio Brown? All of that and more in this week’s 10-Point Stance.
1. The Taysom Hill Era
The NFL offseason is here, and this year’s may feature the most substantial activity at the quarterback position that we’ve ever seen. This week’s 10-Point Stance will look at many of the names who figure to be involved, but any conversation about this offseason’s QBs must begin with the one name you need to pay special attention to, and that’s the Saints’ Taysom Hill.
Some of you know how good Hill is; some of you do not. If you’re looking for the next star quarterback in the league, Hill is an excellent candidate.
And if he stays in New Orleans and continues to work with head coach Sean Payton, one of the smartest people in the sport, he could even ascend into the Patrick Mahomes-Lamar Jackson stratosphere.
Yeah, I said it. He’s that good.
Maybe some detractors will argue that Hill’s upside is limited because he’s already 29 years old, but I don’t buy that. It’s not like his extra years were spent showing no potential as a backup or in the CFL. He lost time to a Church of Latter-day Saints mission and injuries, but when he’s been on the football field, he’s always shown the kind of explosiveness we’ve now seen at the NFL level.
At the very least, what we’ve seen already is that Hill can be a franchise quarterback.
And he sees himself that way, too.
No reason why he shouldn’t.
Hill is in an excellent position. If Drew Brees retires (more on that in a bit), he’d likely be the starter. If Brees stays one more year, Hill’s snaps will have to increase.
If somehow the Saints let Hill leaveand I don’t think they wouldhe’ll have enough suitors that he’ll be able to choose a situation to become a star.
Payton told NBC Sports’ Peter King that he believes a team will attempt to sign Hill to a restricted free-agent contract this offseason. If a team does, the Saints can match it. The team to watch is the Patriots, who may make a run at Hill whether Tom Brady returns or not.
Hill’s status could also impact the draft. What if a team like the Lions or Dolphins decides to make a huge run at Hill instead of building the position through the draft? What if the Dolphins say, “Let’s get Hill instead of Tua Tagovailoa”?
The Saints are also in a precarious position that will require some massive massaging. They are projected to have the fifth-least amount of salary-cap room, according to Spotrac. What if Brees retires and Hill and Teddy Bridgewater get monster offers?
The Saints are excellent at, well, pretty much everything. Payton is a historically good coach. He can coach any quarterback, young or old, and make that quarterback good. The front office is also excellent.
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But this will not be easy for them.
No matter where Hill ends up, something is certain. We are on the verge of the Taysom Hill Era, and it’s going to be fun to watch.
2. And what about Drew Brees?
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For now, for right now, Brees still hasn’t made a decision about his future. That could change at any moment, but for now, for right now, Brees doesn’t know if he’s going to retire or come back for one more season with the Saints.
Brees has the most passing yards in NFL history, with 77,416 yards. Second is Tom Brady, at 74,571 yards. Brady (for now, etc., etc.) is like Brees. He is still working through what to do about his future. What seems certain is that Brady wants to play next season. What seems uncertain is where.
We need to pause for a moment and take this moment in, because it’s actually one of the most remarkable moments in the century-long history of the league.
The futures of the guy that’s the best quarterback in history in Brady and the player who is statistically the greatest passer ever in Brees are highly uncertain right now.
We have never seen two such valuable quarterbacks in situations like this in the same offseason.
There’s really nothing that even compares. It’s like if Captain Kirk and Spock were both uncertain they were going to stay in Starfleet Command.
Throw into the mix that Eli Manning, winner of two Super Bowls, recently retired. Also add to the blender that Philip Rivers and the Chargers officially parted ways.
Between Brady, Brees, Manning and Rivers, that’s a total of 71 years of playing experience.
We haven’t even gotten to names like Ryan Tannehill, Jameis Winston, Dak Prescott and Marcus Mariota. And there’s still no certainty with the likes of Nick Foles, Josh Rosen, Derek Carr, Andy Dalton and Joe Flacco.
There’s a changing of the guard happening in the NFL, and the ascent of Mahomes, Jackson andsoon to comeHill are an example of it, as is this uncertainty with some of the game’s most historic greats.
As of right now, we have little idea where these players will be next season, and in the case of Brees, we’re not even sure if he will play.
This is remarkable, unprecedented and staggering. We’ve never seen anything like it. We may never seen anything like it ever again.
3. Bridge to everywhere
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One last thing on the Saints quarterbacks. Yes, I’m a Hill fan, but do not sleep on Teddy Bridgewater, the other Saints quarterback from last season.
He’s excellent and, like Hill, could easily be a franchise quarterback. A really terrific one. Bridgewater would just do it differently. He’s a pocket passer, while Hill is a stick of dynamite.
It should shock no one if Bridgewater goes somewhere like the Patriots (if Brady leaves) and leads them to a playoff run and beyond.
4. Where is Tom Brady going?
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Again, outside of Brady and a few people close to him, no one knows. Any speculation about him going to the Cowboys or Jets is all guesswork.
What is true is that if Brady does enter free agency, he will be the most sought-after free agent maybe ever. Reggie White once held that honor, but it would now belong to Brady. Even with his best playing days behind him, he can make that much of a difference in how a team is viewed by its fans and opponents.
5. Will the XFL keep going strong?
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The XFL debuted last weekend, and it was fun. A lot of fun. It also served its purpose well as a temporary football fix as the NFL enters its offseason phase.
ESPN announced that Saturday’s DC Defenders win over the Seattle Dragons averaged 3.3 million viewers and peaked at 4 million, while Sunday’s St. Louis BattleHawks win over the Dallas Renegades (two excellent team names) averaged 2.5 million and peaked with 2.9 million. The network also said that made the St. Louis-Dallas game the most-watched sporting event on TV on Sunday.
That’s not bad at all. The key is: Will people keep watching?
History tells us the answer is no. These leagues almost always die, and they die quickly.
If the XFL can hang on for a season, maybe two, it can have lasting power because it’s smarter- and better-run than some recent past leagues (including its previous incarnation).
It’s also incredibly fun. Sometimes, that’s enough.
6. Keep watching the Bengals
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I’m going to keep ringing this bell because there is a small amount of noise (emphasis on small) from scouts that I trust who think LSU quarterback Joe Burrow might try to keep the Bengals from selecting him by saying he won’t play there.
Some of this might be the usual lies we hear during the predraft process. Even those you trust sometimes fib to you. This is also possibly more wishful thinkingteam sources hoping he drops to their team.
Nonetheless, the talk is still there, like a trending hashtag.
Just keep watching closely.
7. Interest in Philip Rivers is high
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Rivers is one of the best passers of his generation. And now he’s a free agent, recently let loose by the Chargers. It may not take long for him to get a job.
Teams are looking at Rivers as a short-term rental, maybe one or two years, and a possible bridge to a rookie draft pick or younger player.
Rivers won’t get a long-term deal, but there may be teams like Jacksonville who think he’s a good option for now.
There’s a lot of interest. Rivers won’t be unemployed for long.
8. Big 11
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One last thing on the Super Bowl and its ratings. They were, um, incredibly high.
In the end, Super Bowl 54 was the 11th-most-watched television program ever. Ten of the top 11 are Super Bowls.
We take these ratings for granted sometimes, but they remain stunning. And there is no sign of it slowing down.
9. Teams don’t believe Antonio Brown
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Wide receiver Antonio Brown has been on a sort of apology tour. Has it worked? Hell no.
Teams don’t trust Brown. He won’t be able to fake charm his way out of this. Even teams that once told me they were interested in him are taking a serious wait-and-see approach.
This doesn’t mean Brown won’t get signed. Eventually, he will. However unbelievable he is, some team will eventually talk itself into him. For now, they’re preaching caution, but eventually desperation will win out. Always does.
10. An amazing human
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I’ve interviewed quarterback Alex Smith a number of times and spoken to many people about him, and there is always a consistent theme: Everyone really likes him.
Smith has been in the league since 2005 and played for three different teams. And in that time, so many who have played with him have called Smith among the most professional players they’ve ever been around. Patrick Mahomes recently did the same, crediting Smith for his success.
Smith suffered a devastating leg injury 15 months ago, and an ESPN documentary about his comeback from the injury looks pretty amazing.
There will likely be a lot of players watching it, because so many like Smith and respect him. They also want him to come back and kick ass. Knowing Smith, he likely will.
Mike Freeman covers the NFL for Bleacher Report. Follow him on Twitter: @mikefreemanNFL.
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