Call me inspired after taking a few days off from writing, but I wanted to get something in quickly regarding Brock Osweiler and whether or not the market for his services is really going to be as big as some might think it will be.
First of all, we need to remember the season isn’t over yet and that, while Osweiler has had good moments, he’s had his bad moments as well. He’s not yet in the category of where Colin Kaepernick once was (two NFC title games and a Super Bowl trip), and not in the category of what Andy Dalton was when he signed his extension (playoff trip every year he started). And while Nick Foles got a nice extension, he already had two full seasons as a starter under his belt, while Osweiler will have no more than seven regular-season starts this year.
Second, it’s not just a matter of teams throwing money at a quarterback just to do so. A team that is going to throw money at a QB is going to be a team that’s desperate to get over the hump and has a regime that senses its necks are on the line in 2016 if it doesn’t do something big. Furthermore, no team is going to give Osweiler big money if it already has money tied up in a quarterback, is developing its own QB, considering extending a current QB or won’t have the cap space to play such a game.
So let’s go over the teams that aren’t going to throw money at Osweiler next season and why they won’t do that.
All three of Denver’s AFC West opponents: This is easily summed up. The Oakland Raiders may be flush with cap space, but they aren’t going to pull the plug on Derek Carr just to sign away Osweiler. The Kansas City Chiefs will be committed to Alex Smith for another year given his contract structure, and more importantly, they need to use their available cap space on extending Eric Berry and possibly Tamba Hali. And the San Diego Chargers just gave Phillip Rivers a new deal, so why would they suddenly shift gears and pursue Osweiler?
All four AFC East teams: You would think the Miami Dolphins would want to play the game, but after the contract they gave to Ndamukong Suh, they have screwed up their cap situation next year, and besides, they can’t really get out of the Ryan Tannehill deal until 2017. The Buffalo Bills can free up cap space by cutting Mario Williams, but they need to concern themselves with extending Cordy Glenn or otherwise addressing the offensive line, so they can’t afford to spend big on a quarterback. The New York Jets spent big this past offseason, but they seem more interested in extending Ryan Fitzpatrick and will need to address a few holes on the offensive line, particularly if they cut D’Brickashaw Ferguson. And we all know the New England Patriots aren’t going to throw big money at Osweiler as long as Tom Brady is around (besides, they will be tight on cap space next season).
Most of the AFC North teams: What do Baltimore, Cincinnati and Pittsburgh have in common? Answer: They already have their quarterbacks. Why do they need to chase Osweiler?
Most of the AFC South teams: Indianapolis isn’t going to throw money at Osweiler as long as Andrew Luck is around. Why would Jacksonville give up on Blake Bortles? And if the Titans give up on Marcus Mariota already, they’ll be the laughingstock of the NFL.
Most of the NFC East teams: The Giants recently extended Eli Manning, the Cowboys aren’t in a position to cut ties with Tony Romo yet (not that they would) and Washington is likely going to extend Kirk Cousins, given how well he’s played for Jay Gruden.
All of the NFC North teams: Chicago is likely sticking with Jay Cutler for one more season. If Detroit were to part ways with Matthew Stafford, it would be to free space for other needs, not to get another QB. Green Bay doesn’t play that game. Minnesota won’t, either, as long as the Vikings are developing Teddy Bridgewater.
All of the NFC South teams: You can scratch Carolina off the list for obvious reasons. Tampa Bay isn’t going to give up on Jameis Winston after one season. New Orleans needs to get its cap situation in order and can’t afford to toss big money at Osweiler, even if Drew Brees is gone. And I seriously doubt the Falcons are going to cut ties with Matt Ryan that quickly.
Half of the NFC West teams: Seattle is committed to Russell Wilson. Arizona is more likely to draft a quarterback to develop behind Carson Palmer. Nothing to see here, move along.
So we are left with the following teams: Cleveland, Houston, Philadelphia, St. Louis and San Francisco. That’s five teams who might pursue Osweiler. But with some of these teams, it’s not guaranteed they’ll do that. Let’s consider three who aren’t likely to chase him.
Houston: While it’s true the Texans will have the cap space to pursue a quarterback such as Osweiler, they have not been the type of team who throws money around just to do so. Rick Smith tends to focus on taking care of his own players first. If he really wants a quarterback to put the Texans over the top, he may be better off trading for a QB, which makes the likes of Drew Brees and Colin Kaepernick better options than gambling $14M per year or more on somebody like Osweiler. If the Texans want to draft a quarterback, they could be tempted to trade up to get one or take somebody in the second round. Additionally, they need help at running back, a second wide receiver and some upgrades on the offensive line. It doesn’t make sense for them to commit money to somebody who has only a small sample of starts.
St. Louis: Again, this is a regime that tends to focus more on taking care of its own players first, before it starts making a splash in free agency. The Rams have a lot of cap space available, but they need help in other areas, too. They desperately need a good wide receiver and that may be where they commit their dollars. And given that they were careful how much money they committed to Foles in the first place, even though he had nearly two full seasons of work, that tells me they won’t give $14M per year to Osweiler, even if Jeff Fisher might enter a “win or else” campaign next season.
Philadelphia: We’ve seen Chip Kelly spend money freely, but the problem is that, in his first year as the general manager, he’s gotten very little in return on his big ticket players, namely Byron Maxwell and DeMarco Murray. Kelly really isn’t as bad of a coach as people make him out to be, but it’s clear he’s not qualified to be a GM. I suspect Eagles’ ownership will want him to reign in his spending a bit next season, so I wouldn’t expect him to be throwing money at free agents. It’s possible he tries trading for Colin Kaepernick, assuming he doesn’t extend Sam Bradford. But Kelly may be forced to play it safe next year in free agency after two of his biggest prizes turned into two of his biggest duds.
So that leaves two teams who might be in play for a big contract for Brock Osweiler: The Browns and the Niners. The Browns will have some cap space available, but not a lot. I expect a regime change there, but whatever the new regime does, it will more likely focus on the draft for a quarterback and let him compete with Johnny Manziel for the starting job. The Browns do have a few pending free agents they need to retain (although they don’t want to overpay) and they are more likely to focus on defensive free agents because their run defense has been bad. I think the Browns are a remote possibility, but I wouldn’t count on it happening.
What about the Niners? They will enter the 2016 offseason with a lot of cap space to work with, and that’s even before they cut anybody they no longer want. They don’t have free agents of their own they simply must keep, either. So the Niners could be a team that comes into play for Osweiler’s services.
With that said, consider this: Given that things didn’t work out as expected with Colin Kaepernick, would the Niners really be eager to pay a lot of money up front to Osweiler when he has fewer starts than Kaepernick? More importantly, if you are a team with a ton of cap space and a ton of needs, wouldn’t you prefer to spend that money elsewhere? I think the Niners would much rather go after Malik Jackson and Danny Trevathan if they want pending Broncos free agents. The Niners need help at a lot of positions, so they may want to focus on those areas in free agency, while they draft a quarterback to compete with Blaine Gabbert.
So, realistically, Osweiler’s market may not be as strong as people think it is. It was easy to play that angle up when the Broncos were winning. But now that they’ve lost back-to-back games and reality is setting in regarding where Osweiler is really at with his level of play, it’s much harder to envision teams lining up to pay him top dollar. That’s particularly true when you take a closer look at the big picture and realize that, of the teams who are in the best position to chase a QB in free agency, they either have shown no history of doing that or are more likely to focus their spending elsewhere.