The quarterback is the most important position in all of sports, and we all know it. Everyone is looking forward to the 2017 NFL season, but most teams already have their quarterback depth chart set, besides a couple of QB battles which will headline the preseason.
Looking ahead to the 2018 offseason with a good free agency crop and draft class which is already being hyped up as one of the best in recent memory, several teams could have major changes to their quarterback depth chart. The free agency class is expected to be headlined by Kirk Cousins while the draft class is headlined by guys like Sam Darnold, Josh Rosen and Josh Allen, among several other first round quarterbacks.
Below we will go team-by-team with a brief outlook of how each QB depth chart could look different heading into the 2018 season.
Tyrod Taylor is the starter for the 2017 season, but is basically on a one year deal. Cardale Jones and Nathan Peterman will compete for the backup role. Unless Taylor takes his play to the next level this season or one of the young backups truly impress, look for the team to use both first round picks (theirs and the Chiefs) to move up and select one of the top quarterbacks in the draft; because as we saw in this past draft, you don’t draft a QB unless you’re trading up.
Ryan Tannehill is the franchise guy for the Dolphins and Matt Moore is one of the best backups in the league. Tannehill had his best year last year, but if he regresses don’t be surprised for the team to add a potential replacement early in the draft.
New England Patriots
At this point I’m not betting against Tom Brady playing into his mid 40s, but don’t expect the team to let Jimmy Garoppolo just walk in free agency. Assuming Brady shows no signs of major decline, expect the Patriots to franchise tag Garoppolo then trade him to a quarterback needy team with a lot of draft assets, such as the Browns. After that, look for them to select a quarterback early in the 2018 draft to compete with Jacoby Brissett as the backup to Brady and eventual replacement.
New York Jets
Who the hell knows what the Jets will do, but if I was them I would throw Christian Hackenberg in the fire and see if shows signs of being any good. I’d play him all 16 games this year no matter how bad the record gets. I mean, the team did burn a 2nd round pick on him. Then again, I’m not coaching the New York Jets this Fall, so that’s not likely to happen. Assuming Hackenberg shows to be a bust, the team will have a top three pick in the draft and a good chance to get the quarterback of their choice. Expect them to draft one and add a veteran to compete with the rookie and be a mentor.
Unless Joe Flacco gets seriously hurt or takes a major step back, don’t expect any quarterback changes to the team’s depth chart in 2018. Although, he is getting up there in age so the Ravens may be in the market of drafting a QB late in the 2018 draft. Ryan Mallett is one of the better backup quarterbacks in the league.
Andy Dalton isn’t my favorite quarterback, but the team likes him. Don’t expect anything to change for him entering the 2018 season. However, backup A.J. McCarron will be a free agent with a lot of teams interested. If McCarron has another strong preseason and gets some stints in the regular season, if Dalton were to get hurt, look for the Bengals to put the franchise tag on him to try and trade him to a quarterback needy team (i.e. Garoppolo). Either way, McCarron will be playing elsewhere in 2018. The Bengals will need to add a veteran backup quarterback in free agency.
Read why A.J. McCarron is a better trade option than Jimmy Garoppolo here
In a similar situation as the Jets, I feel the Browns should play DeShone Kizer all year long and see if he shows signs of being the long term answer. I don’t believe Kizer is ready to play, but the Browns need to see if he shows flashes of being their guy before the 2018 draft. If not, they will be picking top three again and can pick a quarterback there and pray for the best. Cody Kessler should be kept as the long term backup; a role he fits better in. They could also be a potential trade partner for McCarron as Hue Jackson coached him in Cincinnati. McCarron could be signed to a Mike Glennon-esque contract, giving the team time to sit whoever they pick in the draft for a year or two.
Ben Roethlisberger contemplated retirement this offseason and hasn’t committed to playing past the 2017 season. Joshua Dobbs was selected in the fourth round, but he doesn’t have starter qualities and should be viewed as a quality backup who can start a game or two in a pinch. Look for them to gauge the temperature on Roethlisberger’s retirement thoughts and Dobbs’ rookie performance before deciding to take advantage of the deep quarterback draft class.
After drafting Deshaun Watson in the 2017 NFL draft, expect him to be the starter for the team in 2018 with either Tom Savage as the backup, or they could sign a veteran to backup Watson. Plus, with no first or second round pick and being burned throwing big money at Brock Osweiler a couple years ago, don’t look for them to draft or sign a big time quarterback in free agency.
Andrew Luck is one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL and just entering his prime. Maybe the team looks to upgrade the backup spot over Scott Tolzien in free agency but otherwise, don’t look for any changes to the Colts quarterback depth chart in 2018.
Marcus Mariota is viewed as a star in the making, so the team has no reason to even look at drafting or signing a quarterback in the 2018 offseason. Matt Cassel will be 36 years old heading into the 2018 season. The team might look to sign a replacement for Cassel as the backup.
Blake Bortles’s fifth year option was picked up for the 2018 season, but it’s only guaranteed for injury. If Bortles plays poorly again this year expect the team to cut him at no cost and draft another quarterback as they will likely be picking top five again.
Kansas City Chiefs
Alex Smith is the starter for the 2017 season and the team just used it’s 2018 first round pick to trade up to select Patrick Mahomes as the quarterback of the future. The team could look to release Smith after the 2017 season as he has a high cap number with low penalty and turn the keys over to Mahomes to start in 2018. If they do that, expect the Chiefs to sign a high end veteran backup.
Derek Carr is one of the best young quarterbacks in the NFL and expected to get a mega contract extension. Expect the only quarterback transactions in the 2018 offseason to be upgrading the backup spot over E.J. Manuel and Connor Cook, if the team feels both are incompetent in that role.
Los Angeles Chargers
The team didn’t take a quarterback at any point during the 2017 draft, but expect them to draft Philip Rivers’s replacement in 2018 as early as the first round. The rookie would be able to sit behind Rivers for a year or two before taking over as the starter. A similar situation to what the Kansas City Chiefs did.
The Broncos are in a tricky spot. If neither Trevor Siemian nor Paxton Lynch show any development or signs of improvement during the 2017 season, the team will be in a tough spot. Being a “win now” team they might decide to make a push to sign or trade for a quarterback. Both McCarron or Cousins would be on their wish list. They could also draft a quarterback in the first round of the draft, but that’s highly unlikely unless Lynch just looks flat out horrible this season.
Don’t expect much to happen here. Maybe the team looks to upgrade the backup spot over Kellen Moore, but the team has their franchise quarterback, Dak Prescott.
In a similar situation to the Cowboys, the Eagles have their franchise quarterback in Carson Wentz. After signing Nick Foles in free agency this Spring they have one of the best backups in the league.
New York Giants
Assuming Eli Manning doesn’t abruptly retire, expect him to still be the starter in 2018. After seeing third round pick Davis Webb for a year, the team will have a better idea if he is the eventual replacement for Manning, or a career backup. If the team doesn’t have faith in Webb, look for them to draft a quarterback early in the 2018 draft.
Here is the wild card! Kirk Cousins could leave the Redskins next year for nothing. To put the franchise tag on him (again) for the 2018 season would cost about $32 million, making it nearly an impossible option. Cousins could bolt for San Francisco to play under former coach Kyle Shanahan, as many people believe he will do. That would leave the team with Colt McCoy as the only other quarterback on the roster. The Redskins might be forced to make another major trade to move up and grab a quarterback early in the draft.
Mitch Trubisky will take over as the starter at some point during the 2017 season, if not he will be the starter in 2018; Mike Glennon will be released and the team will sign a veteran backup. If by some chance Glennon plays so well that he keeps Trubisky on the bench in 2018, then the depth chart will look the same as it does now.
Matthew Stafford is the franchise guy and expected to get a huge contract extension done soon. 2017 sixth round pick Brad Kaaya should be the backup entering the season. Don’t expect any changes to the depth chart come 2018.
Green Bay Packers
Aaron Rodgers isn’t slowing down so he will be the starter in 2018. If Brent Hundley plays well in the preseason again, the Packers could try and trade him to a quarterback needy team for draft picks, but given the quarterback draft class that isn’t likely. If they do, look for them to draft a quarterback at some point. Depending on when that is, they could also sign a veteran in free agency.
The 2017 season is critical for the franchise because after the season both Sam Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater are free agents. Bridgewater is still recovering from a major knee injury he suffered in practice right before the 2016 started, and he may not even play in 2017. The team will need to decide which quarterback if either they want to bring back in 2018. They could also try to trade for McCarron or draft a quarterback. My guess would be depending on Bridgewater’s health, they re-sign both him and Bradford to short term deals then draft a quarterback.
Coming off his MVP season, Matt Ryan shouldn’t be slowing down anytime soon. Look for the only changes on the quarterback depth chart to be if the team decides to upgrade the backup spot over Matt Schaub as he’s nearing the end of the line.
Despite a down year coming off his MVP season, Cam Newton is the franchise guy and that’s not going to change. Derek Anderson is one of the better backups in the league. Don’t expect any quarterback changes for the 2018 season.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Jameis Winston should take the next step forward in 2017 and he is only going to get better from there. They did lose Mike Glennon in free agency and their new backup is Ryan Griffin. If not sooner, look for the team to upgrade the backup spot by signing a veteran quarterback in the 2018 free agency.
New Orleans Saints
The 2017 season might be Drew Brees’s last and if it’s not he will be retiring soon enough. The Saints had interest in Patrick Mahomes at pick 11 in the draft, but the Chiefs traded up and leapfrogged them. Look for them to draft a quarterback as early as the 1st round in the 2018 draft, even if Brees doesn’t retire following this season.
Russell Wilson is their franchise guy, but the team needs to find a backup who they trust. Trevone Boykin is the current backup and can easily be upgraded, especially with off-field issues taken into consideration. They could do that in the middle rounds of the 2018 draft or sign a veteran in free agency.
Los Angeles Rams
The 2017 season will be critical for Jared Goff. If he struggles again, the team may decide to move on. Remember head coach Sean McVay wasn’t the one who drafted him, so he may want “his guy”. If the team finishes with a top five pick, look for them to take advantage of the talented quarterback class and cut the cord on the Goff experiment.
I believe if Mahomes or Watson had been available in the draft at pick 13 that would’ve been their choice. With the 2017 season likely Carson Palmer’s last; look for them to draft his replacement in the first round in the 2018 draft. Drew Stanton is one of the better backups in the league, but is a free agent after the season and will need to be resigned.
San Francisco 49ers
If Kirk Cousins leaves the Redskins, this is more than likely where he is heading. The 49ers didn’t draft a quarterback early in the 2017 draft knowing they either will sign Cousins in free agency or draft one early in the 2018 draft. Don’t be fooled by the drafting of C.J. Beathard as the team should view him as a Cody Kessler type career backup. Current co-starters Brian Hoyer and Matt Barkley are nothing more than bridge gap quarterbacks.
The 2017 season could be a major one for many current quarterbacks. With a very strong 2018 quarterback draft class along with several good free agents and trade options, expect major movement on several teams draft charts come the beginning of the 2018 season.