7 NFL teams that must starting looking to the future at QB
by Vincent Frank
We may be witnessing some tremendous quarterback play from the likes of Aaron Rodgers and Tom Brady this year. That’s fine and dandy, but the overall quarterback play around the NFL over the past couple seasons has been absolutely horrific.
When checking in on the quarterback situations for every team around the league, we could probably list 20 squads that should be looking to the future at this position. That’s how many question marks exist around the NFL today.
Instead, here’s a look at seven squads that should go full-on Marty McFly by looking towards the future. There will be a combination of teams with Hall of Fame signal callers under center. There will also see downtrodden franchises that have not had an elite quarterback to call their own in well over a decade.
1. New Orleans Saints
At 36 years old, Drew Brees seems to be a shell of his former self. While he is still completing 68 percent of his passes this season and is on pace for over 4,800 passing yards, the future Hall of Famer has thrown just seven touchdowns in five games and is leading the league’s 17th-ranked scoring offense.
Even if the Saints are content with Brees playing out the remainder of his contract and expect him to perform at an above-average level during that span, they need to start looking to the future here. That’s only magnified by the rotator cuff injury the veteran suffered earlier in the season.
With a contract set to take him through just next season, Brees is guaranteed to be on the roster. He has a $33.8 million dead cap hit after the 2015 campaign. In this, the Saints would be smart to potentially select a quarterback early in the draft next year to learn from the veteran for at least one full 16-game slate. No, Garrett Grayson is not the answer here. Sorry, Colorado State fans.
2. Denver Broncos
Denver is in a somewhat unenviable position here. With Peyton Manning’s deteriorating skills, it’s safe to assume the quarterback will call it quits following this season. After all, he’s actually the one player holding Denver’s offense back right now. Including his first six outings this year, Manning has tallied 27 touchdowns compared to 22 interceptions over his past 16 starts.
The arm strength just isn’t there for Manning. And in reality, it’s sad to see him regress on this scale after such an amazing career.
Denver did "plan" for Manning’s eventual departure when it selected Brock Osweiler in the second round of the 2012 NFL draft. Though, the former Arizona State standout has attempted a total of 30 regular season passes in three-plus seasons. Short of rolling the dice on him next year, the Broncos will have to address the future of the quarterback position during the spring. Even if Denver is sold on Osweiler to be the heir apparent to Manning, it would be smart to find him some competition.
The unenviable position here is that Denver stands at 6-0 on the season and is the clear favorite to win the AFC West. This pretty much eliminates top prospects Jared Goff, Connor Cook and even Christian Hackenberg from the mix. Unless, one of those players drops down the board leading up to the draft, it will be all about the second tier — something Denver had to already deal with when it selected Osweiler in the second round back in 2012.
Geno Smith obviously isn’t the answer in New York. Outside of the fact that Smith has put up nine more interceptions than touchdowns in his career, he was beat out by veteran backup Ryan Fitzpatrick for the starting job. For his part, the 32-year-old Fitzpatrick also can’t be seen as the long-term solution here.
New York did select Bryce Petty in the fourth round of this year’s draft. Though, relying on a mid-round pick that succeeded in Art Briles’ spread offense at Baylor likely won’t calm the nerves of Jets fans moving forward.
Somewhat like the Broncos before, this team finds itself in an odd situation. at 4-1 on the season, the Jets stand a darn good chance of earning a playoff spot. If that happens, the upper-echelon quarterback prospects mentioned above might not be available when the Jets pick in the first round.
4. Dallas Cowboys
We have seen first hand this season how the Cowboys have fallen apart without Tony Romo under center. Having to rely on the likes of Brandon Weeden and Matt Cassel has this team potentially looking at a lost season.
What might be bad for the short term could very well work out for Dallas over the long term. With Romo’s injury history, owner Jerry Jones and Co. have to seriously consider drafting a quarterback next year. Even if Romo does play out the remainder of his deal through the 2019 season, the Cowboys would be wise to add a young quarterback behind him.
It could come in the form of a trade with another team or a draft pick. As a Texas native, Johnny Manziel has been linked to the Cowboys since prior to the 2014 draft. Adding him on the cheap as a project behind Romo could make some sense here. Outside of that, Hackenberg’s skill set seems to fit what Jason Garrett likes to do on offense.
5. Cleveland Browns
With all the drama surrounding Manziel since Cleveland made him a first round pick last year, there’s very little doubt that he doesn’t fit into the team’s future. That’s the harsh reality of the situation, especially after Manziel’s most recent off-field situation.
And while Josh McCown has played pretty good football this year, Cleveland simply can’t rely on a 36-year-old career backup to take it into the future.
From Tim Couch and Brandon Weeden to Manziel, first-round picks at the quarterback position have failed Cleveland numerous times over the past several years. That could make the team hesitant to spend a high-round pick at this position. However, playing scared when it comes to the draft isn’t necessarily the best strategy. Depending on where Cleveland is picking next year, it might have to bite the bullet once again.
6. Kansas City Chiefs
Alex Smith’s contract situation makes this situation extremely convoluted. Smith’s cap hit of $17.8 million for the 2016 season became guaranteed back in March. He will also have a dead cap hit of nearly $8 million following next year. This is an indication that Kansas City will have to ride him for the next couple years.
At 1-5 on the season and with an extremely talented roster, Kansas City might find itself in a situation where it will be drafting high in the first round — something that might not be the case moving forward. If that’s the case, a similar situation as to what the Green Bay Packers did with Brett Favre and Aaron Rodgers could make sense here. This is to say, Kansas City might be smart to pick a quarterback in the first round with the knowledge that he won’t be starting for a couple seasons.
It remains to be seen whether Andy Reid’s tenure in Kansas City will lost a whole lot longer, but Jared Goff seems to be a perfect fit in his variation of the West Coast offense. With one win on the season, Kansas City might find itself in position to pick the Cal quarterback.
7. Washington Redskins
It was just a couple seasons ago that Robert Griffin III was considered one of the top young quarterbacks in the NFL. Leading his Redskins to the playoffs as a rookie in 2012, the future looked to be extremely bright for the former Heisman winner — a future that likely won’t be with the Redskins after he has fallen out of favor big time in D.C.
Yet to take a snap this season, RGIII is guaranteed $16.2 million for 2016 after the Redskins picked up his option during the spring. Considering Washington is okay with its former No. 2 overall pick riding the pine this year, that shouldn’t be much of an issue moving forward. Though, Griffin III might demand a trade from the Redskins if he continues to sit behind a terrible quarterback in Kirk Cousins.
Either way, Washington is going to have to seriously consider drafting a quarterback come next year. It will likely be in a decent position to nab one of the top-end passers, which will definitely play a role here.
Check out Vincent’s other work on eDraft.com and follow him on Twitter @VincentFrankNFL.
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