Originally expected to stick with the Chicago Bears in a system he knows as a well paid backup, free agent quarterback Josh McCown is now no longer expected to “be back in Chicago”, according to ESPN‘s Adam Schefter.
With the Bears likely off the list per one of the league’s most reliable sources, NFL fans are going to start wondering where, exactly, McCown will play in 2014. With several playoff-ready teams looking for help under center, the 34-year old McCown should quickly become a hot commodity.
A career journeyman until last season, McCown blew his market stock up with a stellar season in Chicago, a he passed for 13 touchdowns and threw just one interception, while winning more games than he lost. While it’s entirely possible McCown benefited from quarterback whisperer Marc Trestman and could be a free agent flop, teams hurting under center may have to take a shot, regardless.
With that in mind, let’s go through the top-five teams that could express interest in McCown during free agency:
1. New York Jets
New York is the only team other than the Bears that is out in the open in regards to being interested in McCown. Geno Smith at least for now looks like a bust, and with a borderline elite defense, Rex Ryan and co. are in win-now mode. The Jets still need to add the appropriate offensive talent to make McCown feel good about the move, but it’s a match that makes sense.
2. Houston Texans
The Jets rank #1 due to their open interest, but Houston is arguably the best situation for McCown. The Texans already have elite talent on their roster on offense, while also boasting a very talented and effective defense. The Texans wouldn’t ask the world of McCown, and he would get a solid paycheck in the process. He’d start for 1-2 seasons as a bridge to the Texans’ future quarterback, while hopefully doing enough to get them back into the playoff picture.
3. Minnesota Vikings
Adrian Peterson wants Michael Vick, but McCown would probably come a little cheaper and is actually surprisingly probably the safer roll of the dice. Like Houston, Minnesota would give McCown a very nice supporting cast, while Norv Turner’s vertical system would matchup with his solid arm strength. McCown would get to stick in the familiar NFC North, too.
4. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Less likely than the four options above, but still possible. New head coach Lovie Smith is going to try to win in Florida the same way he used to win in Chicago: with defense. He also knows McCown from his final season with the Bears in 2012 and would probably be much more comfortable with him than second-year passer Mike Glennon. The backing for Glennon has been soft and McCown showed enough last year to have Smith and co. think they might be able to make a run at the playoffs with him for 1-2 years and then freely draft their own guy sometime during that span.
5. Oakland Raiders
Oakland is that fifth option that McCown may not want to truly consider, but the money could end up calling his name. You can throw in the likes of the Jacksonville Jaguars, Cleveland Browns and possibly even the Tennessee Titans here, too. Oakland isn’t close to winning and their supporting cast is shaky, at best. McCown spent a year in Oakland back in 2007, too, so he should know to avoid this kind of mess. The money begs these bottom dwellers to be mentioned at least once, though.
It’s entirely possible, if not likely, that the guy we saw McCown become is not where he’d be elsewhere. After all, last year was by far the best he’s ever played and in his new town he’d be without the likes of Trestman, Matt Forte, Brandon Marshall, Alshon Jeffery and Martellus Bennett. Still, McCown has always been a solid talent, and perhaps he’s mostly struggled so much in his career because he’s played for bad teams with little talent around him.
Ultimately, I think home is where the heart is for McCown. He’s close friends with starting quarterback Jay Cutler, and has been very public about his desire to remain in Chicago. The Bears just need to pay him what the top-flight backup deserves.
*Photo credit – Mark Susina via Flickr.