QB Musical Chairs

Updated: July 23rd 2017

This offseason could be one of the more intriguing in memory thanks to an unprecedented amount of quarterbacks possibly switching teams. Stable starting quarterbacks rarely move because finding just competent level players at the position is incredibly hard in the NFL.  This year’s candidates for taking over starting jobs in other locations include, among others, free agents Kirk Cousins, Brian Hoyer, and Mike Glennon; trade/release options Tony Romo, Jay Cutler, Tyrod Taylor, Jimmy Garappolo, Colin Kaepernick, Nick Foles, and A.J. McCarron; plus rookies DeShaun Watson, Mitch Trubisky, and DeShone Kizer.

This article examines possible landing spots based on a variety of factors including team composition, draft capital, and salary cap situation. The large supply of veteran quarterbacks available with starting experience could make for a very interesting market this offseason at the QB position and will undoubtedly force many into backup jobs.

The Elite Landing Spot: Houston

The Texans provide the premier landing spot for our quarterback class. The defense was among the better units in the NFL in 2016 without superstar defensive lineman J.J. Watt.   The offense boasts quality playmakers at wide receiver (DeAndre Hopkins) and running back (Lamar Miller) plus a decent offensive line which should improve next season.  Houston is set up to win now except for the quarterback position in one of the NFL’s weakest divisions.  There is no need to write more about the struggles of Brock Osweiler.  Tom Savage looked the part of starting QB for about a half of football then reverted to a player who did not belong on the field.

Best fits: Tony Romo, Jimmy Garoppolo.  Houston should find a way to get Romo on the roster despite the difficulties with Osweiler’s contract and Houston’s cap issues.  He instantly makes the Texans a legitimate Super Bowl contender and Houston does not want to waste the limited time frame of a great defense.  Garoppolo answers the cap issue and Houston’s 25th pick would be hard to resist by New England as part of a trade but the Osweiler debacle makes investing in another QB with limited experience scary for Houston.  Selecting a QB at 25 in the draft is another cap-friendly option addressing the position.

No Man’s Land: Buffalo, New York Jets

Both of these teams seem caught in that blurry area of having just enough roster strength to possibly fight for a playoff spot but having far too many weaknesses to truly contend. Both were major disappointments in 2016 failing to make the playoffs.  The Bills (10) and Jets (6) are both at spots in the NFL draft where one of their top rated quarterbacks may fall to them.

Buffalo brings in a new coaching staff led by new HC Sean McDermott.  The Bills are unlikely to pick up the large option on current QB Tyrod Taylor.  The defense unexpectedly bottomed out in 2015 and 2016 under former coach Rex Ryan.  A few analysts made a questionble argument this team is close to competing with the addition of a solid quarterback based on a strong run game and solid offensive line.  A major improvement from a defense among the worst in the league against the run and not good against the pass would have to happen for any talk of contention to occur however.

Best fits: Jay Cutler, Mike Glennon.  This depends a lot on whether the organization views Cardale Jones as a long-term project or an eventual successor.  Buffalo management must find the direction they want to take this team.  Signing a cost-friendly free agent quarterback gives this team desired flexibility for the future. Cutler should come relatively cheap, provides a short-term fix with recent upside (QBR 10 in 2015, QBR 3 in 2013), and has the arm needed for Buffalo’s late season weather.  Resigning Taylor is another option but looks unlikely given the current contract situation.

New York faces a difficult choice about whether to take one last shot or start the rebuild process.  The roster is full of aging former stars including running back Matt Forte (who was clearly outplayed by Bilal Powell in 2016), wide receivers Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker (who suffered through injuries and the awful version of Ryan Fitzpatrick), and cornerback Darrelle Revis (whose days as a starting corner look over).  This looks like a team in need of a fresh start when adding in an elderly offensive line and a secondary that was among the worst in the league last season.  The Jets also have one of the worst salary cap situations in the league with limited flexibility to obtain significant cap room.

Best fits: DeShaun Watson, Colin Kaepernick.  Time to start over with the top rated QB left on their board.  This is too early in the draft for this quarterback class but better to take the gamble on a possible franchise QB.  This team is going nowhere soon, the top tier defensive prospects might be gone at 6 in the draft, and the Jets do not have the cap space to make big moves in free agency.  The Jets might also effectively “punt” next season on quarterback and sign one of the lower-end options available in free agency like Kaepernick or Nick Foles to compete for the starting job.

The Young Rebuilders: Cleveland, San Francisco, Chicago

These teams occupy the top three positions in the NFL draft after winning a combined six games in 2016. Each team has significant holes throughout the roster to be filled.  Each organization has plenty of cap room with Cleveland and San Francisco holding the most cap space in the league.  The cap space and draft capital give each of these teams a variety of options available in addressing QB needs.  Taking one of the top quarterbacks is certainly an option but might not be the wisest choice for a top-three pick with the uncertainty surrounding this rookie class.

Best fits (Cleveland): Tyrod Taylor, DeShone Kizer.  Taylor allows Cleveland to keep all of their draft picks which the Browns management covets.  Hue Jackson displayed a willingness to work with Robert Griffin III who has a similar skill-set to Taylor.  Kizer makes for an intriguing pick at the 12 spot but could fall further.  The Irish quarterback has all the required physical traits and throws one of the better balls among the rookie class but needs a lot of coaching to become ready for the NFL.

Best fits (San Francisco): Mitch Trubisky, Jay Cutler.  San Francisco feels like another team who could wait in determining a long-term quarterback solution.  The roster is nowhere close to competing despite new GM John Lynch’s optimism.  New head coach Kyle Shanahan will not force the issue for quarterback at the top of the draft if he is not confident about the talent available and has ties to Cutler.  Many consider Trubisky the most accurate QB in the draft, if San Francisco goes in that direction, but questions surround the Tar Heel with a limited sample of game film to go off of.

Best fits (Chicago): A.J. McCarron, Patrick Mahomes.  Chicago is a team who could compete sooner than many would presume. There is a strong rushing attack anchored by a very good offensive line and injuries decimated a defense which could be better than expected in 2017 if the Bears find some help in the secondary.  McCarron makes for a low-risk option which should come much cheaper than Garappolo.  Any team acquiring McCarron will also have an extra year of control with his contract as a restricted free agent in 2018.  The Bears should re-sign Brian Hoyer, who showed well in limited action this season, whether as the backup or a bridge to the future for a quarterback taken later in the draft like Texas Tech standout Mahomes.

The Longshots: Denver, Washington, Kansas City

There has been talk of Romo going to Denver but the Broncos seem happy enough with their quarterback situation and just used a first round pick on Paxton Lynch last year.  Kirk Cousins is staying in Washington on the assumption somebody in the Redskins management maintains some level of reason.  Cousins will probably get the franchise tag again as there is no backup plan to Cousins leaving. Kansas City is another popular landing spot for Tony Romo to put the Chiefs over the top.  This seems somewhat unlikely on a team with 23 wins over the last two seasons, a competent quarterback, and limited salary cap flexibility.


Bio: Bernard Faller has degrees in engineering and economics.  He currently lives in Las Vegas and enjoys athletics, poker, and fantasy football in his free time.  Send your questions and comments (both good and bad) on Twitter @BernardFaller1.