2018 NFL Free Agency: Predicting Where Every Quarterback Signs
The NFL never stops. Right now teams are trying to gauge which college players are worth adding in the 2018 NFL Draft. In less than a week general managers will be making decisions on which free agents are worth paying handsomely to add to their roster.
Nobody will be looking at a fatter contract than Washington Redskins quarterback Kirk Cousins. On his way out of town thanks to the franchise trading for Alex Smith, Cousins is set to make some serious coin out on the open market.
That’s a weird reality to accept, but Cousins isn’t just breaking the bank; he’s dictating how this entire free agent quarterback class maps out.
Yeah. Seriously. Kirk Cousins.
The beauty here is there is actually money be made for people beyond Cousins or even his fellow free agent passers.
Some NFL betting sites are offering prop bets dealing with Cousins’ free agency destination, as well as others.
Bovada has the Minnesota Vikings (-295) as the obvious favorite, followed by the Denver Broncos (+400), New York Jets (+400) and Arizona Cardinals (+1500).
More props could follow, but the big domino is Cousins.
Once bettors and NFL fans alike can decide where Cousins is going, that suddenly makes the process of mapping out the 2018 free agent quarterback class a whole lot easier.
Let’s go over this year’s impressive crop, and starting with Cousins, gauge where all of these talented quarterbacks will wind up when it’s all said and done:
Kirk Cousins – Minnesota Vikings
The teams seriously in the running for Captain Kirk have dwindled.
The Cleveland Browns, Buffalo Bills and Jacksonville Jaguars all could be argued as potential landing spots, but ESPN’s own Adam Schefter seems to have narrowed it down to four likely possibilities.
The most likely options are the Denver Broncos, Arizona Cardinals, New York Jets and the Minnesota Vikings:
The final four teams expected to be vying for free-agent quarterback Kirk Cousins are the Broncos, Cardinals, Jets and Vikings, per league sources.
— Adam Schefter (@AdamSchefter) March 3, 2018
All of these teams hold valid arguments for landing the most coveted quarterback in free agency this year, but Minnesota is starting to look like the top option.
According to Overthecap.com, two of the four teams rank inside the top-10 in terms of available salary cap.
Arizona and Denver aren’t realistic options right now from a financial perspective. Despite Cousins possibly being a solid fit in Denver or Arizona, it’d take a lot of movement to make those marriages happen.
Ultimately, this race might be down to the Jets and Vikings and Minnesota should win out simply due to having a far better chance at winning.
The Vikings have one of the more dynamic offensive supporting casts in the NFL, an elite defense and even without a settled quarterback room, they enter 2018 with the fifth best odds to win Super Bowl 53 (+1500), per Bovada.
Adding Cousins doesn’t make the Vikings Super Bowl favorites, but they’re already title contenders.
This would at the very worst solidify their quarterback position and also provide an upgrade over the surely departing trio of Teddy Bridgewater, Case Keenum and Sam Bradford.
Drew Brees – New Orleans Saints
It’s easy to get Brees out of the way, but I wanted to settle the Kirk Cousins fiasco first.
Unless the New Orleans Saint view Cousin as their long-term solution in a post-Brees world, however, there’s almost zero chance the 39-year old gunslinger leaves town.
Brees has already said he doesn’t want to continue his playing career anywhere else, so a short-team deal might make sense for both parties.
While Brees is aging and slowly regressing, he was still quite good in 2017. The aging veteran still completed a career high 72% of his passes, while putting up 23 passing scores against just eight interceptions.
People say Brees has lost a step, but if he has it’s hardly noticeable.
More than anything, the Saints finally realized that you can’t consistently win games by trying to put up 40 points per game. Instead of running Brees into the ground, they scaled back their passing attack, ran way more and helped nurse a terrible defense back to life.
Brees still fits this system due to his elite accuracy, experience, leadership and penchant for the long ball. The Saints made it to the NFC title game last year, after all, and with Brees in tow (+1500 Super Bowl 53 odds) they remain a title contender.
A.J. McCarron – Cleveland Browns
The Browns need to make sure they pull out all the stops to make their quarterback situation vastly improved.
Deshone Kizer spent way too much time on the field for a dreadful 0-16 team, so adding a reliable veteran and drafting a quarterback in the first round of the 2018 NFL Draft are things that probably need to happen.
The Browns have already been tightly tied to McCarron.
A former Hue Jackson disciple in Cincinnati, McCarron almost was acquired in a trade by Cleveland last year. Now they’ll still have to give up some big money to get their guy, but they won’t have to forfeit any draft picks.
This just makes too much sense to not happen. Jackson knows McCarron, McCarron knows the system and the two believe in each other.
The move doesn’t mean the Browns can’t (or shouldn’t) also spend one of two first rounders on an elite franchise passer, but it does ensure Cleveland won’t have to endure another season of Deshone Kizer.
The only thing holding this back is the money. If McCarron opts for a discounted deal with incentives rather than guaranteed money, it could work for both sides.
Teddy Bridgewater – New York Jets
With Cousins opting for winning and cash in Minnesota, there’s a decent chance the Vikings let all three of their free agent quarterbacks go this offseason.
Bridgwater may be the first to jet (get it?), as he still has starting talent and at age 25 still projects as a fine long-term investment.
New York isn’t trying to play it safe, either. This is a team that has been very public about doing whatever it takes to land Kirk Cousins, but once they see that won’t happen, Plan B will take over.
That plan may be to retain Josh McCown, bring in Teddy Bridgewater and also draft a signal caller early in this year’s draft. The reality is the Jets do not have a realistic passing option on their roster and the 38-year old McCown can’t be relied upon for much longer.
If Cousins doesn’t come to the Big Apple, I think Bridgwater and McCown go to New York and the Jets cover all the bases by bringing in an elite rookie arm as well.
Josh McCown – New York Jets
One way or another, I believe McCown is due back in New York. There is a weird flirtation with the idea of him latching on with the Arizona Cardinals (the team that drafted him), but he likes New York and he played well for the Jets last year.
McCown seems to have found a home to close out his career and since he’s perfectly willing to start or play the mentor role, he’s a laid back player the Jets seem to value.
Keeping McCown would do a few things. It’d give the Jets a starter to begin 2018 if their other options don’t impress, it gives them a viable mentor for their young quarterbacks and it also helps them get rid of their other passing talent.
Christian Hackenberg doesn’t belong on an NFL roster and Bryce Petty isn’t long for the league, either. The Jets should grab Bridgewater, keep McCown and go get a young passer in the 2018 NFL Draft.
Doing that still may not make them title threats (league worst +10000 odds at Bovada), but it does get them headed in the right direction.
Sam Bradford – Arizona Cardinals
The second part of Minnesota’s trio of free agent passers is Bradford, who was pretty strong as a starter in 2016 and got off to a hot start last year before injuring his knee.
Bradford is never going to be easy to trust thanks to his long history of knee issues, but he’s still an accurate passer who can win games from inside the pocket.
That may lead a team to lowballing Bradford in contract talks or requiring a short-term “prove it” deal, but he’s still just 30 years old and can still be an effective starter.
Because of that, I think a potential winner like the Cardinals, Bills or Broncos eyes Bradford as a one-year stopgap before a young guy can take over.
I like Arizona as Bradford’s best landing spot, as they currently don’t have a single passer under contract and probably would prefer a veteran presence to pick up the pieces in 2018.
I’m not sure Bradford morphs the Cardinals into serious title threats, but they do have some talent on offense and need a veteran presence under center with Carson Palmer retiring. Bradford fits their system, with the only question being whether or not he can stay healthy.
Case Keenum – Denver Broncos
Denver promised after yet another poor season that fixing their issues under center is their main objective this offseason. Paxton Lynch hasn’t turned into the franchise quarterback the team hoped he’d be and Trevor Siemian was always a bandaid option at best.
That has the Broncos back to the drawing board, as they’re probably in position to draft a franchise passer in the first round of this year’s draft, but also may want to spend some money to make sure they make improvements in such an important area.
Denver’s players have openly courted Kirk Cousins, but I think Cousins is going to Minnesota or New York. That should have Denver shifting course in the near future, as they look to add a franchise passer and bring in a veteran presence that can provide a solid short-term fix.
Keenum flashed brilliance at times in 2017 and got the Vikes to the NFC title game and there is value in that. He also has a connection with Gary Kubiak, who has long been John Elway’s right hand man.
If Kubiak whispers into Keenum’s ear, I think this is a solid marriage. It shouldn’t stop the Broncos from moving on from some of their other quarterbacks (while bringing in a rookie), but there is a case to be made that Keenum fits what they want to do perfectly.
Overall, the quarterback position starts with Kirk Cousins in free agency this year. He has four realistic landing spots and you could really make a case for several more.
With so many options out there for Cousins, where he goes could really dictate how the rest of the field unfolds.
I think Minnesota does make the most sense and Vegas agrees. It will be interesting to see how things unfold and whether or not some NFL teams bypass veteran presences or take shots on lesser talent just in an effort to make money.