Given that we are fast approaching the start of free agency, and particularly with the questions about the quarterback market, I figure it’s a good time to examine where the teams with the biggest questions at QB stand and how each might affect what the Broncos ultimately do.
I won’t rehash too much of where I stand regarding Osweiler, but we must remember that, if the Broncos don’t come to terms with Osweiler on a new contract, that doesn’t mean all is lost. Every move that another team makes with the quarterback position affects what other teams may or may not do and what the bigger picture could look like.
I’ll keep the focus on teams other than the Broncos who are either in the market for a starting quarterback or could be facing a change with their backup quarterback. In some cases, what happens with the backups could have just as much of an effect as what happens with those who could be starters to open the 2016 season.
New York Jets: The obvious situation here is whether or not the Jets extend Ryan Fitzpatrick. If they do extend him, it’s likely they will draft a quarterback on the second day of the 2016 draft and waive Geno Smith. If they can’t come to terms, Fitzpatrick will enter a market in which teams know his ceiling has been reached, but he might be a stopgap while the team develops another QB.
Cleveland: The only known factor is that the Browns plan to part ways with Johnny Manziel. What isn’t known is if the Browns plan to stick it out with Josh McCown as their veteran option or look elsewhere. If they decide they like a player on the open market as their starter, though, that could not only mean that McCown is released, but that the Browns opt not to draft a quarterback that early. It doesn’t necessarily have to be Osweiler; the Browns could prefer to pay Fitzpatrick or give another QB a chance.
Houston: One would think the Texans would be prepared to go “all in” on a quarterback, but given that the Texans did make the playoffs last season, there is likely less pressure to do so. That doesn’t mean the Texans won’t pursue free agency; they will consider it, but they may not be prepared to pour a lot of money into a player. If they do sign a free agent, they will likely cut Brian Hoyer. If they don’t, the Texans are likely to draft a quarterback early, but they could still choose to cut Hoyer if they would rather go with T.J. Yates (who is a UFA) as their veteran option.
Washington: Kirk Cousins received the franchise tag and we know Robert Griffin III will be released. It remains to be seen if RG3 would prefer to take a one-year “prove it” deal in hopes of raising his market value in 2017 or if he would rather sign a multi-year deal and either be a backup for the time being or enter a QB competition. Washington could be a team that considers a quarterback on the second day of the draft if they want a fallback option, in case Cousins doesn’t pan out in 2016.
Philadelphia: While the team’s extension for Sam Bradford takes them out of the running for a starting quarterback, they could still choose to sign Chase Daniel to replace Mark Sanchez as the backup. Or they may be content to draft a quarterback on day two or three to develop behind Bradford. Only time will tell if Sanchez becomes available, but most teams will only consider him if he is a street free agent rather than trading for him.
Arizona: I bring up the Cardinals for two reasons. First, Carson Palmer isn’t getting any younger and struggled down the stretch, so it’s fair to wonder if his decline is starting to set in. That means the Cardinals could be thinking about drafting somebody to groom behind him. Additionally, Drew Stanton is an unrestricted free agent and did a respectable job when he replaced Palmer last season. Teams might be willing to give Stanton a two-year deal and have him compete for a starting job.
Los Angeles: The Rams will likely give the second-round tender to restricted free agent Case Keenum. What happens next depends on what the Rams do with Nick Foles. I imagine they will seek trade offers to start, but if they don’t find any they like, they could release him and draft a quarterback.
San Francisco: The talk is that the 49ers are prepared to stay with Colin Kaepernick for another year. His salary may be an injury-only guarantee, but given that they placed him on IR, they would likely have to pay him an injury settlement if they were to cut him and I imagine his agent will try to argue that they should have to pay him his salary in full. Trading him is more likely to be what the Niners do if they intend to part ways with him. That opens the door for the Niners to draft a quarterback who would compete with Blaine Gabbert for the starting job. If they decide to keep Kaepernick, though, they are less likely to draft a QB in the first round, but they could draft one on day two.
As for what’s out there for the Broncos, we’ve discussed several of these options, but let’s review what could happen if they don’t come to terms with Osweiler. All of them would involve drafting a quarterback early, but these options could serve the Broncos just as well if they find Osweiler’s asking price is too high.
Robert Griffin III: We’ve talked about him many times. Given that his stock is lower than Bradford, Osweiler and Fitzpatrick at this point, I doubt he’s going to command that much money.
Drew Stanton. This is somebody I had in the back of my mind as a possible short-term option and it may be time to pull his name out, provided the Cardinals don’t extend him. Given that his ceiling has clearly been reached, he’s not going to command a ton of money. But he could at least provide short-term help or a reliable backup for whoever the Broncos draft.
Mark Sanchez: If the Eagles do cut Sanchez, I would not be opposed to bringing him in. Sanchez would be a serviceable option, similar to Stanton. He wouldn’t get any more than what the Eagles gave Sanchez last year.
Ryan Fitzpatrick: The question to ask is this: If Fitzpatrick were to ask for money similar to Bradford and you don’t think Bradford is worth that, would you really want to do that? I’d only consider him if the market isn’t strong for his services and the only way to find that out is for him to hit free agency and visit other teams.
Nick Foles: I would definitely not trade for Foles. But if the Rams do cut him, he would probably be willing to take a small salary from whatever team that signs him, knowing that the Rams will have to pay him $6M (it may be a roster bonus but it was fully guaranteed, so the Rams have no choice but to cut him the check). He’s not my first choice, but if he’s willing to take no more than $3M from another team a one-year deal, I wouldn’t say no.
Colin Kaepernick: As with Foles, I would not trade for him. The asking price for Kaepernick is likely to be higher than for Foles and the salary would be greater. Again, I doubt the Niners will cut him at this point, and it’s more likely they would only part with him through a trade. But stranger things have happened, so if they do cut him (and likely pay him an injury settlement in the process), he could be willing to take a one-year, low-cost deal.