This upcoming offseason promises to provide quarterback-needy teams with much more options than what we’ve seen in the past.
Whether it is a young signal caller in New England set to receive interest or an accomplished starter in Dallas prepared to move on to a new team, there’s a ton of decent quarterback options set to hit the open market following the 2016 season.
Here’s a look at six NFL quarterback who’ll likely be starters for new teams in 2017.
Tony Romo, Dallas Cowboys
By now, it’s well known that the Cowboys are prepared to ride with rookie quarterback Dak Prescott. This isn’t just limited to the remainder of the 2016 season. What Prescott has done en route to leading his Cowboys to 11 consecutive wins has never been seen in the history of the NFL from a rookie quarterback. That’s not hyperbole. It’s exactly what we’re witnessing right now.
Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has already stated that Romo is the most-expensive backup in the league. Paying him this money for the remainder of the season is one thing. It’s a completely different thing to dole out a $24.7 million cap hit to a clipboard holder in 2017. It’s in this that we’re pretty sure the Cowboys will look to trade Romo.
Much like what we saw from the San Francisco 49ers and Alex Smith following the 2012 season, there’s no reason to believe this will be a messy divorce. Romo will be in high demand. Multiple teams will come calling the Cowboys. And as a result, look for Dallas to allow Romo to have a say in where he ends up.
This leads us to two likely conclusions. Romo could go to the Denver Broncos in an attempt to win that elusive Super Bowl. With a tremendous defense and one of the best offensive-minded head coaches in the NFL, the Broncos seem like the logical landing spot for Romo.
He could also look to join a team in an attempt turn it around. That’s where Chip Kelly and the San Francisco 49ers might come into play. We know Kelly’s system has proven to be quarterback-friendly in the past.
In addition to this, San Francisco has two solid book-end offensive tackles in Joe Staley and Trent Brown. Based on his recent injury history, pass protection will be key in Romo’s decision-making process. Either way, there’s little doubt Romo will be starting for another team in 2017.
Jay Cutler, Chicago Bears
Now that his season is officially over, it’s pretty much a guarantee that Cutler has played his final game with the Bears. He doesn’t seem to have any intention of returning to the windy city, and the Bears are now prepared to look for a quarterback of the future.
It most definitely wouldn’t be a stretch to say that the majority of Cutler’s career with the Bears was unsuccessful. The team yielded a huge bounty to acquire him just a couple short years after reaching the Super Bowl with Rex Grossman under center. The idea there was to bring in a more-talented quarterback in an attempt to actually hoist the Lombardi. Cutler proceeded to lead Chicago to one playoff win in eight seasons.
Despite this, the lack of quarterback talent we see in today’s NFL makes it more than reasonable to believe Cutler will land on his feet as a starter during the offseason.
Multiple teams could use someone with his talent to hold down the fort over the short term. After all, here’s a guy that’s thrown 20-plus touchdowns six times in his career while tallying 3,000-plus yards seven times. That’s a history of success downtrodden teams will surely look to capitalize on. The New York Jets and aforementioned San Francisco 49ers come to mind here first.
Colin Kaepernick, San Francisco 49ers
Speaking of San Francisco, the situation with Kaepernick is about as convoluted as it gets. He seemed headed to another team via a trade this past offseason prior to the financials not working out.
That was followed by months of injury concerns, more questions regarding his standing in San Francisco, a national anthem protest and him being forced to back up Blaine Gabbert for the first five games of the season.
Kaepernick then took over the starting job and produced at a high level for what has quickly become one of the worst teams in the entire NFL. This came immediately after he agreed to restructure his contract, enabling Kaepernick to opt out of his deal and the 49ers to move on from him without a dead cap hit.
This has left the Kaepernick situation up in the air. And even after Kaepernick’s disastrous performance Sunday against Chicago, there’s still likely going to be interest in his services. You simply can’t deny the talent Kaepernick brings to the table and the past success he’s enjoyed.
Unlike other players, there’s an exterior factor in play here. Based on Kaepernick’s political stance, he’s become a divisive figure around the United States. This could limit the interest in him when it comes to certain NFL markets. It could also force certain owners to avoid him altogether. Without getting too much into detail here, the New York Jets and potentially the Denver Broncos could be suitors. After all, both were in on him this past offseason (more on that here).
Jimmy Garoppolo, New England Patriots
The Patriots have a knack for being able to turn players into draft picks and assets. We’ve seen this with the likes of Matt Cassel, Richard Seymour and Randy Moss in the past. If the team decides to do this with Garoppolo, it could very well be looking at acquiring multiple high-round picks.
Prior to being injured earlier in the season, this former second-round pick was doing extremely well in the stead of the then suspended Tom Brady. He completed 70 percent of his passes for nearly 500 yards with four touchdowns and zero picks in two starts.
That might not be a tremendous sample size. It could also force some teams to refrain from offering the Pats a bounty for Garoppolo. History has a way of repeating itself, and we’ve seen teams burnt in the past by acquiring unproven starters with limited sample sizes. Remember the Cardinals’ package for Kevin Kolb?
With that said, desperation will do some crazy things. If the alternative is reaching for a quarterback near the top of what promises to be a weak 2017 NFL Draft class at that position, Garoppolo might end up sounding like a tremendous option. It’s in this that a team likely unable to grab one of the top-two quarterbacks in the class might come calling. Look at the Bears and Cardinals as potential options.
Blake Bortles, Jacksonville Jaguars
Bortles’ regression has been about as stunning of a development as we’ve seen thus far this season. He threw yet another pick-six Sunday against the Denver Broncos and now leads the NFL with 15 interceptions on the season. This comes on the heels of Bortles also leading the league in picks last season. That’s definitely not putting your team in a prime position to win.
With the Jaguars likely to move on from head coach Gus Bradley and potentially general manager David Caldwell, there might be a philosophical change in the cards here. If so, a new regime will likely want to change what the Jaguars have built on what has been a disappointing offense. And with a ton of other talented skill-position players on this unit, quarterback could be the most-dramatic change.
For his part, Bortles still offers some upside. He’s not yet at the point Blaine Gabbert was at when Jacksonville traded him to San Francisco for pennies on the dollar back in 2014. In fact, an argument could be made that the Jaguars might be able to pick up a higher-round pick for him. If so, a change in scenery should be in the cards here.
Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota Vikings
This is all assuming Bridgewater is ready to get back on the field by the time the 2017 season. After the disastrous injury he suffered during the summer, there’s no telling whether this will actually be the case. At this point, it seems like a long shot.
If Bridgewater shows signs of progress in rehab, the Vikings will find themselves in an odd situation. Minnesota, in the midst of a dramatic slump, dealt a first and fourth-round pick to the Philadelphia Eagles for Sam Bradford back in September.
Bradford himself is under contract with a $17 million cap hit. Could Minnesota justify keeping Bradford at that cost as a backup? If not, would the team even think about trading the veteran for a much lesser haul than it sent to Philadelphia? Also important to note, the Vikings are now without a first-round pick by virtue of the aforementioned Bradford trade.
There’s a scenario in play here that suggests Minnesota could decide to gauge Bridgewater’s value should he show signs of progress in rehab. At that point, there are multiple teams that would show interest in the young quarterback. Obvious teams like San Francisco and Cleveland come to mind here first.