JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – The quarterback carousel began to turn earlier than expected when the Kansas City Chiefs traded Alex Smith, who led the NFL in passer rating in 2017, to the Washington Redskins.
Smith was expected to be available this offseason because Kansas City used a first-round draft pick on Patrick Mahomes last April. What does this mean for the Jaguars offseason plans?
There are several possibilities.
First, the Jaguars may have already decided that they are sticking with Blake Bortles as their quarterback for 2018. If that's the case, the Smith trade doesn't change anything. That's the most likely scenario.
However, if the Jaguars' evaluation of the position continues, there could be an impact. Smith's landing spot means that Kirk Cousins will not re-sign with Washington. He will be seeking a contract that would make him one of the highest-paid quarterbacks in the league. Is he worth that kind of a contract? Somebody will likely say yes. There are several teams in the market for a quarterback, including the Bills, Broncos, Browns, Cardinals, and Jets.
Those teams now have one fewer quarterbacks to chose from. Add to that list, the Vikings, who have a glut of players at the position, and things could get interesting when free agency arrives on March 14.
If the Jaguars are planning on being in the quarterback market in March, their choices could include Drew Brees, although the likelihood of New Orleans letting Brees finish his career in another city seems doubtful. Eli Manning could be available and Tom Coughlin has expressed his fondness for Manning as a person on numerous occasions. One or more of the Vikings quarterbacks will likely be available, since Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Bradford and Case Keenum can't all be the Minnesota starter. San Francisco traded for Jimmy Garoppolo and is likely to sign him to a long-term deal, although he hadn't agreed to terms as of Wednesday morning. The Bills could be saying goodbye to Tyrod Taylor.
The Smith trade knocks Washington out of the cadre of teams in the quarterback derby. So let's match some teams up with quarterbacks:
Buffalo has Bartram Train alum Nathan Peterman on the roster and, as of Wednesday, Taylor was still on the roster, although rumors circulate that the Bills could move on. If they do, would they feel confident to turn the ball over to Peterman? He certainly can develop, but when given the chance as a rookie, he struggled with interceptions. The Bills' other option is the veteran backup Joe Webb.
Cleveland holds the first and fourth picks in the draft. It would be very surprising if they did not plan on taking a quarterback with one of those picks. Let's assume the Browns know that they'll pick a quarterback in the first round. They can be patient with him as they let DeShone Kizer play as a second year man. They don't have to acquire a veteran quarterback this offseason. If they do, they would likely look to one of the Vikings' castoffs.
The Broncos seem to be the most likely landing spot for Cousins. Team President John Elway has shown that he is aggressive when it comes to bringing in players at his old position. The Broncos do have some salary cap space and are not tied in to long-term salary cap implications with any of the quarterbacks on the teams' roster. Denver also holds the fifth pick in the draft, where they are likely to select either a quarterback or left tackle if they don't trade the pick.
The Cardinals will lose Carson Palmer to retirement. Blaine Gabbert, former prospect Matt Barkley and veteran backup Drew Stanton remain on the roster. All will not survive until training camp. They need to add someone. Would Taylor fit here? Would Arizona offer a big contract to Cousins?
And then, there are the Jets. With Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty joining Josh McCown on the roster, there is an obvious need. They hold the sixth pick of the draft. There are at least four quarterbacks who could go in the first round and it wouldn't be surprising if the Jets chose one. Still, the draft is in April and free agency begins March 14.
If the Jaguars coveted Smith as their top quarterback target, then they must cross him off the list and decide of their second-choice is a better option than Bortles. The bottom line is that the trade of Smith has kick-started the quarterback market. If the Jaguars want to get involved, they will need to do so sooner rather than later.