As we hurtle toward free agency and the 2019 NFL Draft, now is the time when every NFL team takes a long, hard look at its personnel makeup. And of course, no position defines the roster more than quarterback. With that in mind, Marc Sessler takes a quick look at all 32 QB rooms, slotting each current situation into one of five categories:
IN DESPERATE NEED OF HELP
Jacksonville Jaguars:Nick Foles and the Jaguars appear headed for a financially massive union. The Super Bowl hero would be right to view Jacksonville as a promising landing spot. The defense boasts star power, and Foles would march in as the unquestioned QB1 after the club (invariably) cuts bait with fizzled-out starter Blake Bortles. The potential fly in the ointment comes if the Eagles don't franchise Foles, allowing him to hit the open market, and the QB decides to sign with, say, the Giants inside the NFC East. From where we stand today, though, Foles feels like a fit for the Jags ahead of hyper-average backup Cody Kessler.
Miami Dolphins: I'm operating under the assumption the Dolphins are about to cut Ryan Tannehill to the wind. That would leave Miami's QB room with nobody under contract beyond a pair of former sixth-rounders, Luke Falk and Jake Rudock. Openly starting over, the Fins could pluck a quarterback at No. 13 or grab an affordable veteran for 2019 before going all in on next year's juicier signal-caller class. It's not hard to imagine someone like Tyrod Taylor or Ryan Fitzpatrick clad in teal come Week 1.
Washington Redskins: Washington's season spun into darkness when Alex Smith and Colt McCoy suffered gruesome broken legs in the span of two weeks. With Smith's playing future entirely up in the air, coach Jay Gruden is under pressure to find a starter -- or two. Landing Foles would serve as a shocker, but how about Teddy Bridgewater?
SET FOR YEARS TO COME
Atlanta Falcons: Turning 34 in May, Matt Ryan statistically mimicked his 2016 MVP campaign last autumn and remains in charge of an offense flush with Julio Jones and plenty of weapons. Finding a better backup than Matt Schaub is a must, but Ryan hasn't missed a game since 2009. Look for him to remain one of the NFC's more reliable arms this fall.
Baltimore Ravens: There's zero debate about Baltimore's commitment to Lamar Jackson heading into 2019. With Joe Flacco shipped to Denver, the question is how Baltimore's offense evolves. "I wouldn't try to pigeonhole us just yet that we're going to try to be ground-and-pound," newly anointed coordinator Greg Roman said last month, adding: "Who really wins big doing that?" Roman later told The Athletic he plans to "build an offense that really accommodates" Jackson's strengths, which means leaning on his whirlwind mobility while fine-tuning his accuracy and ball security.
Carolina Panthers: A banged-up shoulder reduced Cam Newton to a compromised, short-range lobber by the end of last season. Concerns lingered over his status for September, but surgery revealed the injury was "not as extensive" as feared, per his doctor. Under contract through 2020, Newton owns the job for at least the next two seasons. He's streaky and sometimes frustrating, but the 2015 NFL MVP just pegged a career-high 67.9 percent of his passes and remains a mammoth beast on the ground.
Cleveland Browns: Cleveland's desperate chase for a franchise passer dominated offseason think-pieces inside this newsroom for a near eternity. I can't believe I'm typing this, but the Browns harbor high hopes with Baker Mayfield running the show. Finding rock-solid tackle play and another wideout would help, but Mayfield made good on his draft pedigree with the ideal blend of on-field heroics and fiery leadership. The promotion of Freddie Kitchens to head coach makes plenty of sense after the pair wreaked havoc together in a post-Hue Jackson universe. Finding a backup to battle player-coach Drew Stanton remains a priority if and when Tyrod Taylor lands elsewhere in free agency.
Green Bay Packers: Five simple words: Aaron Rodgers is your quarterback. Yes, he turns 36 in December. Yes, there is high pressure on newbie coach Matt LaFleur to maximize the star passer and tug Green Bay back to the Super Bowl. Yes, this roster has issues. Still, nobody would be surprised to get another half-decade out of Rodgers, who took plenty of flak during a 2018 campaign that saw him battle through injuries to toss 25 touchdown passes against just two lonely picks. An upgrade over backup DeShone Kizer would be nice, but the Packers hope their No. 2 stays tightly attached to the clipboard come September.
Houston Texans:Deshaun Watson and the Texans were exposed in January's ugly playoff loss to the Colts, but Houston's versatile, dangerously talented starter -- still just 23 -- capably shook off the effects of his rookie-year ACL surgery. The Texans must find a way to better protect him after Watson absorbed a league-high 62 sacks in 2018. With Brandon Weeden and Joe Webb hitting the market, the search is also on for a capable understudy.
Indianapolis Colts: Lost in the wilderness for a year-plus following shoulder surgery, Andrew Luck roared back to reposition himself as one of the NFL's raging stars. The Comeback Player of the Year triggered new highs for completion percentage (67.3) and passer rating (98.7) behind an offensive line that offered pristine protection for the first time in his career. At 29, Luck is fully back in the driver's seat as a top-tier quarterback. Behind him, the Colts boast one of the NFL's juiciest backups in Jacoby Brissett.
Kansas City Chiefs: Kansas City's bold move up the board to grab Patrick Mahomes two Aprils ago -- shipping two firsts and a third for Buffalo's 10th overall pick -- looks like sheer brilliance today. Can you imagine where the Bills would be with Mahomes running the show? The Chiefs starter can accomplish feats with the human body that others at his position could only fantasize about. Barring disaster, Mahomes will dominate the NFL for a generation.
Los Angeles Rams:Jared Goff's Super Bowl meltdown is concerning, but his growth over three NFL seasons can't be ignored. The first-rounder found himself in the MVP conversation for much of the year before falling into a thorny slump down the stretch. Goff will sit under the microscope in 2019, but it's easy to forget he's just 24 years old. With two more years on his affordable rookie deal, the Rams starter would need to utterly implode to fall out of the role.
Minnesota Vikings: Act One for Kirk Cousins in Minnesota was hardly a hit. The $84 million quarterback spent too much of last season on the run behind a super-shaky offensive line. The infrastructure around him was far from pristine, but Cousins came up small in key defeats down the stretch to New England and Seattle alongside a pair of ugly losses to the Bears. Struggling at times to mesh with his wideouts, Cousins is under pressure to lead this talented but underperforming attack back to the playoffs. I'd expect a better showing in 2019.
New York Jets:Sam Darnold's rookie outing was sprinkled with ups and downs, but late-season starts against the Texans and Packers showed what New York's young starter is capable of. He deserves better blockers. He could use the help of star free-agent runner Le'Veon Bell. Darnold also needs new coach Adam Gase to rifle last year's dangerously vanilla playbook off the Brooklyn Bridge. Jets fans have traveled eons without a quarterback operating as something brighter than a full-blown disaster. Those dark times feel over.
Philadelphia Eagles: The past 14 months have shuttled Carson Wentz through the ringer. The one-time MVP candidate endured a scathing January report picking apart his leadership style. This came after the 26-year-old suffered a pair of season-ending injuries that helped turn Nick Foles into a folklore-dipped hero in Philly. The Eagles are committed to Wentz as their younger, higher-ceiling starter -- as they should be -- but the scrutiny will be turned way up in 2019. From another angle, it's the perfect setup for a Wentz bounce-back campaign.
Pittsburgh Steelers:Le'Veon Bell is history; Antonio Brown is next. The Steelers, though, house zero plans to move on from Ben Roethlisberger, with team president Art Rooney II labeling his 36-year-old starter as "close to being in the prime of his career." We've heard the critiques of Big Ben's leadership, but none of that prevents him from being one of the game's premier starters. Currently negotiating a contract extension, Roethlisberger remains driven to keep fawned-over young arm Mason Rudolph off the field.
San Francisco 49ers: The injury-kissed Niners ripped through quarterbacks in 2018, but the expectation is that Jimmy Garoppolo makes a full recovery from last year's early-season ACL injury. The late-bloomer with just 10 NFL starts turns 28 in November, but hopes are high for Jimmy G to roar back in 2019. Nick Mullens and C.J Beathard round out one of the league's deeper quarterback rooms.
Seattle Seahawks:Russell Wilson and the Seahawks have yet to open talks over a long-term extension. His 3,448 passing yards in 2018 under new play-caller Brian Schottenheimer were the lowest since his second season, but Wilson's 35 touchdowns marked a career best. Entering the final year of his deal, the 30-year-old passer is going nowhere barring a stunner.
LOVE THE ONE YOU'RE WITH
Arizona Cardinals: I'm willing to erase everything we saw from Josh Rosen's rookie season. Chalk it up to problematic coaching and one of the NFC's more disastrous offensive lines. Rosen gets a fresh start under creative new coach Kliff Kingsbury. At the same time, I'm convinced a smattering of Cardinals officials -- despite their heavy protests -- remain tempted to shop Rosen and make Oklahoma's Kyler Murray their "Air Raid" darling for years to come.
Buffalo Bills:Josh Allen gives you saucy mobility and one of the game's more powerful cannons. He has plenty of work to do as a week-to-week pocket passer, but the Bills did Allen no favors by surrounding the rookie with one of the league's shoddiest collections of playmakers. Better protection and a few starting-level wideouts would do wonders.
Chicago Bears: Mitch Trubisky made visible strides in his second season. The prettier moments included a six-touchdown romp over the Bucs and one of the finer darts all year on a 25-yard rope to Allen Robinson that helped push Chicago into field goal position against Philly in the playoffs. Trubisky gives the Bears one of the game's premier scramblers, but his resume also includes decision-making gaffes, a handful of ghastly interceptions and too much inconsistency. That's understandable with a young quarterback who made just 13 starts at North Carolina, but Trubisky remains one of the NFL's work-in-progress starters.
Dallas Cowboys: Most Cowboys fans want to see Dak Prescott listed front and center in the SET FOR YEARS TO COME section above. After all, team owner Jerry Jones announced in November: "Dak is the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys. He's young, and he's going to get extended." I'm not sure why that needs to happen this offseason, but I'm not a Texas billionaire rolling across America in a high-octane party bus. Jones is also the guy who admitted after the 2014 NFL Draft: "I get madder every day about missin' (Johnny Manziel)." This came with Tony Romo still attached to a deal that contained $55 million in guarantees -- and just two seasons before Jones publicly regretted not trading up to grab flameout Paxton Lynch. Instead, Dallas landed Prescott in the fourth round -- a fortuitous turn of events, but also a reminder of Jerrah's history of sporting a wandering eye for signal-callers. Prescott is likely zooming toward a new deal, but let's see where we are by November.
Denver Broncos: The Broncos remain in play to draft a quarterback, but the veteran-heavy depth chart now includes Joe Flacco ahead of a "shocked"Case Keenum, who didn't expect John Elway to pull off a deal for Baltimore's starter. Flacco is owed $18.5 million in 2019, making it clear the Broncos will shop or flat-out release Keenum and his $21 million cap hit. Flacco is a clear upgrade over Keenum, but the 34-year-old veteran is hardly a lock to stay healthy or keep the job beyond the coming season.
Oakland Raiders: Jon Gruden made it clear that no player -- star or scrub -- was safe during his first year on the job. After trading away pass rusher Khalil Mack and No. 1 wideout Amari Cooper, it was fair to wonder if the Raiders coach hoped to start over at quarterback, too. Instead, Carr remains the starter after his $20 million salary became fully guaranteed earlier this month. The safe money is on Carr earning another year to prove he's the guy. Gruden, though -- with five first-rounders over the next two drafts -- has a shot to hand-pick a rookie of his own. Kyler Murray, anyone?
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Bruce Arians has said all the right things about Jameis Winston as his starter. Still, this is the only QB1 who was both suspended and benched in 2018. Entering the final year of his deal, Winston faces intense pressure to eliminate the mind-numbing turnovers and convince the Bucs -- despite their public poetry -- that he's worthy of a monster new deal. In his favor, Winston is still just 25 years old and fits well inside this aggressive Arians-led attack.
Tennessee Titans: The debate over whether Winston or Marcus Mariota was the better overall pick in 2015 has grown depressing and largely meaningless. After generating just 11 touchdowns and eight picks over 14 appearances in 2018, Mariota is playing for his job.
STARING DOWN FATHER TIME
New England Patriots: I'm done doubting Tom Brady and finished wasting words on whether or not he'll soon fade into oblivion during his fifth decade on Planet Earth. The Patriots took fair heat for trading away Jimmy Garoppolo two Octobers ago, but keeping the backup would have cost $23 million under the franchise tag while putting New England back in the same dilemma this offseason. Coming off anotherSuper Bowl title, Brady and the Patriots are committed to each other for at least another year -- if not another nine.
New Orleans Saints: The search for an heir to Drew Breesdates back to 2015. It sounds absurd today, but there was a time when Garrett Grayson was seen as that figure, a failed project which gave way to the team's open desire for Patrick Mahomes. With Teddy Bridgewater hitting free agency, the Saints are left with just Taysom Hill behind the 40-year-old Brees. Hill is a pure fascination as a jackknife magic-man who helps the team all over the field, but he won't stop the Saints from eyeing this draft for a genuine contingency plan. Brees is locked in for 2019, but the beyond is a mystery.
THE WILD CARDS
Cincinnati Bengals:Andy Dalton is a perfectly adequate, middle-of-the-road, milquetoast answer under center. Why not keep drafting passers and give your ginger-haired starter some competition? Marvin Lewis went out of his way to avoid that plan, but new coach Zac Taylor was hired to devise bold new plots on offense. A rookie signal-caller should not be out of the question.
Detroit Lions: General manager Bob Quinn made it clear the Lions would think about picking a passer at No. 8 in the draft, saying: "If there's a quarterback out there that we deem could help us this year or in the future, we'll never close the door on that." That's how you wind up in the wild-card tab of this wayward essay. Matthew Stafford is hardly Detroit's biggest issue -- instead, he's a solid veteran who just turned 31 -- but the Lions have made just three playoff appearances, all losses, during his decade as starter.
New York Giants: The team's openness to another long year with Eli Manning under center makes zero sense. After passing up the chance to draft Sam Darnold last offseason, the G-Men must boldly rethink their team-building plan at quarterback. Whether that means adding a rookie to compete for the job or making a serious run at Nick Foles -- assuming he escapes Philly's franchise tag -- it's time for a new look in Gotham.
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