Teddy Bridgewater New York Jets
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Here’s your go-to source for the top quarterback options on the free agent market in 2018. Who could the New York Jets go after? Let’s discuss.

With the 2018 offseason rapidly approaching, YOU need to have the information so your team can make the correct decision if they’re in the quarterback market. In this edition, we’ll be evaluating the different tiers of quarterbacks that are going to be available this offseason, just in case the New York Jets decide to go that route.

There’s the upper echelon. That’s where you’re going to have to cough up a ton of money and convince a passer that you’re the right fit. Usually, these kinds of quarterbacks never make it to the open market, which makes 2018 pretty unique.

The next tier after that is for the bargain hunters out there. This select group of passers won’t be as expensive as the sirloin steak on the menu, but still could be pretty delicious.

After that, you have the snack phase. This won’t fill you up like the main course, but it’ll hold you over until it’s time for that main course. These are the stop-gaps, commonly referred to as band-aids or temporary fixes.

Not everything is always as it appears. Sometimes you have the infamous ‘mystery meat’. Where you think to yourself, “what the hell did the lunch lady just put on my plate?”

Are you going to eat it? Maybe, if you’re hungry enough. That’s our next tier, when you see the prospects you’ll have mixed feelings. You aren’t exactly sure what you’re buying, but sometimes you don’t have other options.

While the final tier is via the trade market. This is supposed to be free agent options, but this is the ugly stepsister to free agency, so she deserves to get invited to the dinner table too. These are younger than stop-gaps and potentially could hold you over for multiple years.

These are perfect options for those teams that are a bit conflicted. Do we embrace the tank? Or compete for the playoffs? 2017 New York Jets, I’m looking at you. Without further ado, let’s dust off the cover and open the 2018 quarterback bible:

The cream of the crop:

Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins

  • Unrestricted free agent in 2018

The prized gem of the 2018 free agent quarterback class. The opinions on Kirk Cousins have varied over the years, especially with him receiving the franchise tag in the past two seasons. I should warn that there’s a 1% chance that the Washington Redskins could tag Cousins for a third time.

With that would come a price tag of $30m and change. A prohibitive number to say the least and most expect the Redskins to release him to the open bidding table. Cousins has proved to be a top-15 quarterback in the league. But because of the rarity of this situation, he’ll likely become the highest paid player in NFL history.

With the scarcity of good quarterbacks and the increasing premium for the position, it’s going to be a ridiculous contract. But the Jets should strongly consider jumping into the deep end of the pool. They’ll have the money to make the move, but will they?

The decision will come down to two things. Do the Jets want to win now? If yes, then Cousins is the obvious choice. If the Jets like one of the top college quarterbacks then they can draft and develop their own guy, something they’ve struggled with over the years. One way or another the Jets will ‘solve’ the quarterback issue this offseason.

Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

  • Unrestricted free agent in 2018

A future Pro Football Hall of Fame quarterback is a pending free agent? This is madness! Although the New Orleans Saints play this season has probably changed the mindset of management. There’s a strong chance that the Saints will re-sign him so he never sees the bright lights of free agency.

But if he does make it to the open market, he’s the best band-aid out there. I honestly think this could be the ideal way for the Jets to go. Sign Drew Brees to a two or three-year deal, draft your own quarterback and develop him under Brees.

Which means Brees can help the Jets win right now and plan for the future so when his time is up, the Jets can smoothly transition to their future franchise quarterback, well in theory anyway. There have been nine seasons in NFL history where a quarterback has thrown for over 5,000 yards, Brees is the owner of five of those seasons.

Only three quarterbacks have thrown for over 70,000 yards in their career: Brett Favre, Peyton Manning, and Drew Brees. That’s some pretty elite company. The Jets learned this season that they have more talent than others thought. A good quarterback can cover a lot of holes on a team, the Jets haven’t had that luxury in half a century.

Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers

  • Unrestricted free agent in 2018

There were a lot of question marks around Jimmy G and his limited experience when he got traded to the San Francisco 49ers. But since entering the starting lineup, Jimmy Garoppolo has been electric. It seems like the 49ers have found their franchise quarterback. How could they not stick with Garoppolo?

NFL Insider Adam Schefter suggested that perhaps the 49ers could have other plans via ESPN:

“If the 49ers do not sign Garoppolo to a long-term deal, they could use a franchise tag on him and then dangle him to the highest bidder in a trade. If they were to do that, other teams would be interested, sources said, and they could possibly get back more than the second-round pick they surrendered.”

They essentially stole Jimmy G from New England for a second round draft choice. Heck, another quarterback on this list was traded almost traded for a second and a third (more on that later).

Although if he reaches free agency, the Jets should be all in, however unlikely that is. The only realistic way that the Jets or any team could land the talented youngster is by trading the farm for him. Even that’s not a guarantee because the 49ers have to like what they see and may just keep him all for themselves.


Low risk, high reward guys:

Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota Vikings

  • Unrestricted free agent in 2018

All three Vikings quarterbacks are on this list…go figure. This is one of my favorite names on the list. Teddy Bridgewater’s career arc was on the upward trend before he faced a near career-threatening injury.

While the stats don’t jump off the page at you:

  • 2014: 64% completion percentage, 2,919 yards 14 touchdowns and 12 interceptions, 85 QBR
  • 2015: 65% completion percentage, 3,231 yards 14 touchdowns and 9 interceptions, 88 QBR

He’s a young (25) talented pocket passer. Bridgewater still has the potential of a first-round pick. He’s essentially a seasoned rookie and, if healthy, could be the biggest low risk, high reward prospect in free agency.

AJ McCarron, Cincinnati Bengals

  • Unrestricted free agent in 2018

My first question is, how in the hell did the Cincinnati Bengals almost get a second and third-round pick in 2018 for their backup quarterback? This guy has thrown 133 passes in his short career. He boasts a 2-1 record as a starting quarterback, and throw in some postseason action where he almost led the Bengals to their first playoff win under the Marvin Lewis era.

But let’s look past the NFL career and look back at college. He was a game manager for the Alabama Crimson Tide. What do you pay a guy like that?

The interest in AJ McCarron will be based purely as a backup plan for teams if they can’t get one of their top guys. In limited action, he hasn’t shown anything that portrays a franchise quarterback.

Average quarterbacks are being paid in the $15-17 million per year ballpark, which is crazy, but it’s the market. So maybe you can get McCarron for a three-year, $30 million total deal with incentives and opt-out clauses to protect yourself.


Stop-gaps:

Jay Cutler, Miami Dolphins

  • Unrestricted free agent in 2018

The Jets avoided Jay Cutler like the black plague the last offseason when they had the chance, but can they resist the urge two years in a row? Hopefully, for the Jets, they can. Cutler showed this season that he’s the same player he’s always been. An inconsistent emotional hot head who isn’t talented enough to cover his attitude issues.

Only four games this season did Cutler avoid throwing an interception. While three times he threw for at least two interceptions this season.

If any team brought him in he’d be a band-aid. Usually, short-term fixes can provide veteran leadership and can mentor a young quarterback. I wouldn’t let my young impressionable passer within 37 and a half feet of Cutler.

One thing I wouldn’t rule out is Cutler going back to Instagram retirement. He came back for a $10m price tag, who else would be willing to pay that? I’m going to guess not many.

Eli Manning, New York Giants

  • Under contract through 2019 ($16 million cap hit next season)

This entire section is dedicated to short-term fixes. A path the Jets have chosen more times than not over the years: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh McCown, Brett Favre, etc. Most Jets fans have seen enough and would rather have a franchise quarterback. A little easier said than done I’m afraid.

The easiest path for the Jets is bringing in one of these veteran quarterbacks who can help this team win right now. Who else than a New York favorite in Eli Manning. While he’s been a turnover machine his whole career, he does have the hardware.

Two Super Bowl rings and two Super Bowl MVPs against none other than the New England Patriots. He could bring stability and leadership to the position. Would the Giants new regime ditch him?

He’s still under contract, but with the Giants possessing a premium pick, they certainly could look to usher in a new era. Manning said he’d be willing to stay and compete, but I don’t know if Manning could handle being a backup and holding the clipboard after winning championships for this organization.

Carson Palmer, Arizona Cardinals

  • Under contract through 2018 ($14 million cap hit next season)

While the warm and dry climate is good for the elderly, would Carson Palmer be willing to migrate north for the right offer? He’s 38 years old and is quite brittle. He has had issues finishing seasons, not Josh McCown bad, but you get the picture.

In three out of the last four seasons, he has failed to go the distance without some sort of injury. Although the one year he did it was a career year that led the Arizona Cardinals to the NFC Championship game back in 2015.

So maybe he still has some of that magic in his old biceps. He’s a poor man’s Drew Brees. Limited mobility, big arm, consistent when on the field. Palmer has maybe a year or two left in the tank.

Another candidate to potentially retire after the season. What happens with Bruce Arians will likely be attached to Palmer. The Jets have that connection with Todd Bowles and his time with the Cardinals as their defensive coordinator, something to keep an eye on if the Cardinals decide to move on.

Josh McCown, New York Jets

  • Unrestricted free agent in 2018

The old tried and true, why not grab the last band-aid in the back of the medicine cabinet? Heck, it’s the one right in front of their face and perhaps the surest thing.

He’s already built a rapport with the team and the Jets know what he can bring to the table, but was 2017 a fluke? A career year at 38 hardly seems like a repeatable offense. McCown will be 39 by the start of next season.

He obviously still has the fire in his gut and he doesn’t want to end his career on injured reserve. This would be my favorite band-aid that would potentially be available for the green and white.

McCown would also be fine with being a starter for a few weeks to warm the seat for an incoming rookie. On top of that, he’s got the perfect attitude for the position. Regardless of what the Jets ultimately do at the position, they should consider McCown as a spot starter or a veteran backup.


Mystery men:

Case Keenum, Minnesota Vikings

  • Unrestricted free agent in 2018

BUYER BEWARE. Players don’t have career years when they’re 29, going on 30 (in February). It’s been a magical season for Case Keenum. The Vikings could win the whole thing, but that shouldn’t change anything.

Keenum is the steal of the century with a one-year deal for $2 million and will likely command at the very least $10-17 million per season. There are enough teams out there with quarterback deficiencies that will be willing to cough up some dough.

There are enough other options for the Jets that they should stay clear of Keenum. Perhaps he’s finally discovered who he is as a player and maybe can have a late-career renaissance.

The Vikings have an interesting and rare decision to make with all of their quarterbacks set to become free agents. They can go with the guy they drafted (Bridgewater), the guy they traded for (Sam Bradford) more on that later, or Keenum. It’s a tough choice and they all have pros and cons, the Jets should consider all of that before diving into this pool.

Sam Bradford, Minnesota Vikings

  • Unrestricted free agent in 2018

I’ve always had a weird affinity for Sam Bradford. I’ve just always seen that potential from his Heisman Oklahoma days and even sparingly in the NFL. We saw that Week 1 of this season when the Vikings opened up the season in the Super Dome against the New Orleans Saints:

84% completion percentage, 346 yards, three touchdowns, and a 143 QBR. 

Unfortunately, that would be the only time he showed that promise this season. Bradford has played seven seasons in the pros, in five of those seasons he didn’t complete the full season. That’s concerning in any scenario, but particularly when you’re about to hand a guy a long-term deal and a lot of guaranteed money.

It would be a risky play for the Jets, but he has shown the ability to be a franchise quarterback. This is probably too big of a risk and the Jets should go a different direction. Let another team take the risk.

Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo Bills

  • Under contract through 2018 ($16 million cap hit)

This was the initial veteran that most Jets fans had their eyes set on. Tyrod Taylor takes care of the football. He’s never had a season where he’s thrown for double-digit interceptions. Some would also argue that perhaps he doesn’t take chances down the field and that’s why his interception numbers are so modest.

But just think for a minute, if he’s so special why would the Buffalo Bills let him go? This is an organization that has had quarterback issues since the good old Jim Kelly days.

Taylor has underrated mobility, takes care of the football, and seems to be pretty calm, cool, and collected. I like quarterbacks who kind of have that Eli Manning like demeanor. Never get too high or too low.

The Bills would have to release Taylor or trade him (less likely, everyone knows they’ll release him eventually due to salary cap ramifications). Also with Buffalo armed with multiple first round picks, they’re likely set on drafting their own quarterback.


Potential trade options:

  Alex Smith, Kansas City Chiefs

  • Under contract through 2018 ($17 million cap hit next season)

Fortunately, the Jets have a lot of avenues to get their quarterback: the draft, free agency, and yes even trade. If you can remember the Jets were actually interested in Alex Smith back when he was with the San Francisco 49ers.

After the 2012 season, the 49ers rode the Colin Kaepernick wave and traded Smith away to the Kansas City Chiefs for a second-round draft choice. Before the trade Smith had only thrown for over 3,000 yards just once. Since joining the Chiefs, Smith has thrown for over 3,000 yards every season with Kansas City (five) and even over 4,000 yards for the first time in his career in 2017.

If we played the word association game that happens at the Psychiatrists office, if I said Alex Smith what would you say? Likely game manager.

That term has a negative connotation in 2017. People say it’s a bad word in football terms.  I say it’s a good term. The Chiefs have won at least nine games every season that Smith has started, that tells me playoffs. All this kid does is win and I would take that on my team any day.

Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins

  • Under contract through 2020 ($17.5 million cap hit next season)

The collective, “oh yeah that guy still plays for the Miami Dolphins” is circulating the league. While Jay Cutler signed a one-year deal, he’s likely gone. So what do the Dolphins do?

I doubt they cut him, which is potentially an option. More likely though, they’d entertain offers for the receiver turned passer. Will the real Tannehill please stand up? He has shown glimpses of Pro Bowl potential, but he has also shown potential to be a bust.

Completely unaware in the pocket at times, but underrated mobility and athleticism through the roof. As a former top 10 pick, he would command an interesting market because opposing NFL teams always have the mentality that they can “fix” a guy.

The 2018 NFL Draft is absolutely loaded with quarterbacks. For those picky eaters, there’s a bunch of different flavors available this offseason. There are seasoned quarterbacks, one-year wonders, and even mystery men. The Dolphins could look to get themselves a new passer or at worst, stay put with Tannehill and ride that wave.

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