There are always a few teams in crisis mode at the end of the NFL regular season. This year is no different. New coaches are looking for quarterbacks to secure their jobs into the future and veteran coaches on the hot seat are scrambling to find the guy who will save their jobs. We saw a couple of teams display their dissatisfaction with their starters in 2018 and there are also plenty of teams with quarterbacks in their late 30s. So, despite the great quarterback class that came out in the 2018 NFL Draft, there will still be a good number of teams on the quarterback market this offseason.
Whether these teams fill their quarterback need through free agency, trades, or the draft, these are the best players available to them.
Who knows if he’ll stick around for another go? He’ll be turning 40 next season, which might make retirement the best option. If he does decide to stick around, I can’t believe he’ll have a ton of options. McCown did have effective campaigns recently in 2013, 2015, and 2017, but he threw just one touchdown and four interceptions in 2018. At most McCown is a bridge quarterback who will throw for just over 200 yards per game. At worst, he’s probably not worth signing.
The 36-year-old Harvard product started seven games for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this season and played in eight total. He finished the year with 295.8 passing yards per game, a 100.4 quarterback rating, and a 66.7 completion percentage. Those are all career highs. Granted he did throw 12 interceptions to 17 touchdowns, but we’ve seen worse. Fitzpatrick has plenty of experience as a starter, but he plays better when he’s a pinch starter who only goes for a few games at a time. After 2018, Fitzpatrick’s future in the NFL is hard to predict.
In Week 17 of the regular season, Bridgewater made his first start since Week 17 of 2015. That’s right, it’s really been that long. Bridgewater made the Pro Bowl in 2015 despite mediocre numbers, but his promising future was nearly ruined by a devastating knee injury that kept him out all of 2016. He played in just one game in 2017 and then saw action in five games this regular season, including the one start. Bridgewater still looked rusty though in Week 17 and didn’t have a good performance. It’s a tragic story for a player who was once expected to be a big part of the next wave of NFL quarterbacks. But who’s to say he can’t get back on his feet? Bridgewater is still 26 years old and wouldn’t be the worst player to sign as a potential bridge quarterback. If he proves he can play at a solid level for a full season, then he’ll be back into the league’s starting rotation for sure.
He played well enough in 2016 to start most of the Denver Broncos games in 2017. Things didn’t work out though as Siemian tossed more interceptions (14) than touchdowns (12). In both of those seasons, he recorded less than a 60% completion percentage. Personally, I think Siemian is better off as a highly sought-after backup than a starter. However, we have seen desperate teams start bigger project players in the past. Siemian, who’s 27 years old, has enough talent to be in the league for a while and could get back on the field soon.
Man, we really forgot about Taylor pretty quickly. People spent a lot of time trying to figure out if the former Pro Bowler would hold onto the Cleveland Browns starting job when the team drafted Baker Mayfield with the number one overall pick. Taylor played in four games and started three. He went 1-1-1 in his starts but didn’t show anything spectacular. He only recorded 473 passing yards, two touchdowns, and two interceptions on 49.4 completion percentage. That’s not a performance that will earn you a lot of money in free agency.
According to a poll done by The Athletic, in which 85 defensive players from 25 different teams were surveyed, 95% of the surveyed players believe Kaepernick should be on an NFL roster. Two players simply elected to not specify their beliefs on the matter. In all honesty, if Kaepernick was going to be signed it probably would have happened by now. I don’t believe an NFL team will reach out to him. However, the last time Kaepernick played he was easily better than current players like Blaine Gabbert, Cody Kessler, Jeff Driskel, Josh Johnson, Mark Sanchez, and Nathan Peterman. All of those guys started games in 2018 by the way.
Joe Flacco, Baltimore Ravens
The former Super Bowl MVP was benched this season in favor of rookie Lamar Jackson. He’s expected to be dealt this offseason and there should be a market for him. While Flacco is hardly a Pro Bowl quarterback, he started for the Baltimore Ravens for ten and a half seasons. During that time, he missed just six games in 2015 and a couple that opened the door for Jackson this season. During his career, Flacco has averaged 234.6 passing yards per game, a 61.7 completion percentage, and an 84.1 quarterback rating. While I wouldn’t sell the farm to get the soon to be 34-year-old, in a year with a weak draft and free agent class, Flacco could be very attractive.
Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles
I mentioned Fitzmagic earlier, but what Foles does in on a whole different level. He wins even when he doesn’t have great games, partly because other teams have bad kickers, but also because he’s clutch. Foles finds ways to clutch games. When he stepped in for Carson Wentz this season, he played five games and finished with an average of 282.6 passing yards per game, a 96.0 quarterback rating, and a completion percentage of 72.3. I know it’s just five games and that Foles’ only Pro Bowl season came in 2013, but he can be special when a team needs him to be. That’s exactly why he needs to stay a backup. I don’t think he can do it for a full season, especially not for a team that’s bad enough to be in the quarterback market. That being said, wherever happens, he’ll be the most trusted backup in the league next season.
DRAFT (EARLY ROUNDS)
Drew Lock, Missouri
Lock got a lot less press this year than he did in 2017 partly because his touchdown numbers dropped from 44 to 28, but also because he was overshadowed by other Heisman level upperclassmen and rising underclassmen. Still, the 6-4, 225 lbs. Lock threw for 3,498 yards and completed 62.9% of his passes. It’s hard to say whether Lock performed better in 2017 or 2018 and that might scare scouts. To be fair, Lock plays for Missouri which can’t exactly be compared to some of the bigger schools on this list. Lock did increase his completion percentage every year of his career and did a good job driving down his interception total in 2018. Even though most people’s eyes have been off of Lock recently, the combine and his pro day will surely remind people just how much pro potential he has.
Dwayne Haskins, Ohio State
Haskins finished third in the Heisman voting this season, showing just how highly regarded he is right now. This was really his only season as a full-time starter, but Haskins put on a show that should get him drafted in the first round. Through 14 games Haskins completed 70.0% of his passes for 4,831 yards, 50 touchdowns, and only eight interceptions. He finished with a 174.1 passer efficiency rating. Despite some hiccups, Ohio State won the Big Ten Conference Championship and finished third in the AP poll but failed to make the playoffs. Barring anything drastically new appearing, it seems like Haskins is a shoo-in to be taken in the first round.
Daniel Jones, Duke
Jones built up a lot of momentum during the season and now scouts are talking about him being a first-round pick in the draft. Jones’ stock is peaking at just the right time to continue to raise him in the rankings as we wait for the combine and pro days. In 2018, Jones played in 11 games and completed 60.5% of his passes for 2,674 yards, 22 touchdowns, and nine interceptions. Duke didn’t finish in the AP poll at the end of the year and the highest spot they claimed during the season was 22. Duke isn’t exactly a school known for producing NFL talent, but Jones seems to be headed in the right direction. He has to be careful though. Players whose stocks suddenly rise like this can be prone to letdowns during pre-draft evaluations.
Jarrett Stidham, Auburn
Stidham might have benefitted from returning to school for his senior year. I’m only saying that because his 2017 campaign was significantly better than the one he produced this year. In 2017 he put up 3,158 passing yards, 18 touchdowns, and six interceptions on a 66.5 completion percentage. This season he put up 2,794 passing yards, 18 touchdowns, and five interceptions on a 60.7 completion percentage. He did play in one less game in 2018 than the year before. It’s also worth noting Stidham elevated Auburn to as high as fourth in the AP poll last year and the team finished in tenth. In 2018 Auburn’s highest rank was seventh, but they finished the season unranked. I still think Stidham is one of the better quarterbacks in the draft, but his stock took a hit this season.
Kyler Murray, Oklahoma
The 2018 Heisman Trophy winner threw for 4,361 yards and 42 touchdowns this season. He also rushed for 1,001 yards and 12 touchdowns. While the rushing ability might seem similar to Lamar Jackson, the Louisville product was a better runner, but Murray is a much better passer. Murray’s completion percentage and pass efficiency rating in 2018, the only season where he was a clear full-time starter, were 69.0% and 199.2. In comparison, Jackson’s best completion percentage as a starter was 59.1 (2017) and his best pass efficiency rating was 148.8 (2016). Jackson was a first round pick, so it’s hard to see why Murray wouldn’t be one as well. That is if he decides to actually play football. Murray said is the past he plans to pursue a professional baseball career and not become a quarterback in the NFL. We’ll see if he changes his mind on the next couple of months. The biggest concern about Murray might be his size. He’s only 5-10, 195 lbs., but his mobility can make up for his small stature.
Ryan Finley, NC State
The senior benefitted from returning to school last year. He posted the best season of his collegiate career in 2018, completing 67.4% of his passes for 3,928 yards, 25 touchdowns, and 11 interceptions. All of those numbers, including the interceptions, are career highs. As a team, NC State didn’t have the season they were hoping for. In 2017 the team finished 9-4, peaked at the fourteenth spot in the AP poll, and finished ranked twenty-third. The team went 9-4 again in 2018 but only made it as high as 16 and finished unranked. Finley became only the second quarterback in school history to throw for over 10,000 yards during his collegiate career. The other quarterback is Philip Rivers.
Will Grier, West Virginia
Grier had a tumultuous early college career. He saw action back at Florida in 2015 but was then suspended for a whole year for violating the NCAA’s policy on PEDs. He left Florida and went to West Virginia. He made the team, which is far from being known as a football powerhouse, relevant in 2018, getting them as high as sixth on the AP poll. In his senior season, Grier finished with 3,864 passing yards, 37 passing touchdowns, and eight interceptions on a completion percentage of 67.0. There are times where Grier, who isn’t athletic or prone to scramble, will sit back in the pocket and throw an astonishing pass. He has that kind of big-play ability and has flashed pro potential, albeit inconsistently, over the last two seasons.
DRAFT (MID-LATE ROUNDS)
Clayton Thorson, Northwestern
Thorson and Northwestern had a very good season. Thorson completed 61.0% of his passes for 3,183 yards, 17 touchdowns, and 15 interceptions. Those interception numbers are worrisome and are one of the reasons why I don’t think he’s a first or second-round pick. In my opinion, his best season came back in 2016 when he threw 22 touchdowns and just nine interceptions. Since then his touchdown numbers have dropped and he’s thrown more interceptions. Thorson did get Northwestern to the Big Ten Conference Championship and the school finished twenty-first in the AP poll.
Gardner Minshew, Washington State
I bet most of you didn’t know Minshew finished fifth in the Heisman voting in 2018. That’s right, he finished fifth for the nation’s top collegiate football award. Looking at his stats, it’s easy to see why the voters liked him so much. He completed 70.7% of his passes for 4,776 yards, 38 touchdowns, and just nine interceptions. The performance earned him the Pac-12 Offensive Player of the Year award and sent him skyrocketing up draft boards. It’s hard to say exactly where Minshew will be drafted, especially because he hasn’t broken into the top-tier of NFL prospects yet. Based off of production, he should fall somewhere in the early to mid-rounds but production isn’t everything. I’m betting on him coming off the board in the latter half of the draft.
Jake Browning, Washington
Remember when Browning was touted as a potential key member of the 2018 quarterback class? Things have really gone downhill for the Washington quarterback. He went from finishing sixth in the Heisman voting in 2016 to no longer even being one of the top ten quarterbacks in the country. In 2016 Browning completed 62.1% of his passes for 3,420 yards, 43 touchdowns, and nine interceptions. In 2018 he completed 64.9% of his throws for 3,192 yards, 16 touchdowns, and ten interceptions. Browning should still be drafted but he won’t hear his name called until the later rounds.
Trace McSorley, Penn State
He’s a bit undersized at 6-0, 201 lbs. and doesn’t have a fantastic arm. He also posted the worst season of his career as a starter in 2018. He completed just 53.2% of his passes for 2,530 yards, 18 touchdowns, and seven interceptions. Those numbers are so much worse than in 2017 when he completed 66.5% of his attempts for 3,570 yards, 28 touchdowns, and ten interceptions. His numbers fell off so much because a lot of the talent that was around him in 2017 left for the draft and he was left alone to battle injuries and poor protection schemes all year long. McSorley is a tough, top-level competitor. Despite all of his physical limitations and the poor 2018 campaign, he should be a mid-round draft pick.