Patriots could be diving into the quarterback market
Joe Flacco will be the first starting-caliber quarterback to switch teams this offseason when the Ravens trade him to the Broncos on March 13, the first day of NFL free agency. Case Keenum will be the second, when the Broncos trade him to the Redskins. But they certainly won’t be the last.
Flacco and Keenum are two of 10 starting-caliber quarterbacks taking a spin on the carousel this offseason. Included in that list are three rookies expected to go in the first round of the draft — Kyler Murray, Dwayne Haskins, and Drew Lock.
By my count, six teams will need a new starter for 2019, and at least four teams (including the Patriots) will be looking for a young QB they can groom behind their current veteran.
Let’s take a look at the other eight starting-caliber quarterbacks, and which teams make the most sense for them:
1. Kyler Murray
The skinny: Murray is most likely going No. 1 overall in the draft.
Which teams make sense: Really only two — the Cardinals and Raiders. I’m sure a dozen other teams would like to get in on Murray, but few teams other than the Raiders have the high draft picks or ammunition to make it worth the Cardinals’ while. The Raiders are looking to make a big splash for 2020 when they head to Las Vegas, and nothing would be splashier than making a big trade for the No. 1 pick and Murray. The likeliest scenario is the Cardinals keeping the top pick and using it on Murray, but the Raiders have the ammo — the No. 4 pick, and three first-rounders this year — to make the Cardinals listen.
2. Dwayne Haskins
The skinny: A classic drop-back passer at 6 feet 3 inches and 220 pounds, Haskins will likely be the second QB taken off the board, even though some scouts rank him ahead of Murray.
Which teams make sense: The teams that most immediately need young quarterbacks are the Giants, Jaguars, Broncos, Dolphins, and Redskins. The Giants have the highest draft pick of the bunch at No. 6, but the Jaguars (No. 7) and Broncos (No. 10) could always trade up ahead of them. The Dolphins (No. 13) and Redskins (No. 15) are less likely. Watch out for a wild card such as the Lions (No. 8) or Bengals (No. 11).
3. Josh Rosen
The skinny: Assuming the Cardinals draft Murray, they have an interesting conundrum with Rosen. Obviously, Rosen becomes relegated to backup status. And it would behoove the Cardinals to trade Rosen and recoup value for him. But if they start shopping Rosen now, the other teams will know that the Cardinals are taking Murray, and will low-ball them on Rosen. Peter King quoted one unnamed general manager this past week stating that Rosen might only be worth a third-round pick.
But the Cardinals used the 10th overall selection on Rosen, and gave up multiple picks to get him. And while Rosen didn’t have a great rookie year, he still has plenty of value. He just turned 22, showed some promise on a terrible team, and is owed just $6.24 million over the next three years (plus team control for a fourth, option year) — a cheap rate even for a backup, let alone a potential starter. If the Cardinals can’t get at least a first-round pick for Rosen, they should hold onto him as Murray’s backup for a year.
Which teams make sense: I was surprised to see the Redskins make a play for Keenum, because Rosen makes a lot more sense. The Skins need a cheap quarterback, as Alex Smith will count $20.1 million against Washington’s cap in 2018, and $21.4 million in 2019. Keenum will only cost the Redskins $3.5 million in 2019, but Rosen is even cheaper, and younger, and has a much higher upside. The Skins still could/should make a play for Rosen, but now other suitors could emerge — namely, whichever teams don’t get Haskins among the Dolphins, Jaguars, Giants, and Broncos.
And Rosen is so cheap that he’d be a great candidate to sit for a year or two behind Tom Brady, Drew Brees or Philip Rivers before taking over.
The Patriots should dangle the 32nd overall pick and see what happens.
4. Derek Carr
The skinny: It’s only a matter of time before the Raiders dump Carr. It could be this year, for Murray. It could be next year, when they head to Vegas.
Which teams make sense: The problem in trading him this year is that Carr’s contract limits his number of suitors. He’s due $20 million in salary, which isn’t too unwieldy for a starting quarterback, but eliminates a team such as the Redskins, who need a cheap quarterback, or the Giants and Broncos, who aren’t going to pay big money to both Carr and Eli Manning/Flacco.
The Dolphins make the most sense if they miss out on a rookie. Miami is moving on from Ryan Tannehill, and Carr’s contract is fairly reasonable — $20 million this year, $19 million next year, then $39 million between 2021-22.
Carr doesn’t turn 28 until later this month, so his best football could still be ahead of him. The Jaguars are also an option for Carr, but they appear to have their sights set on another veteran.
5. Nick Foles
The skinny: Foles is the top unrestricted free agent on the market, and is hoping to land in the $20 million range.
Which teams make sense: The Jaguars are at the top of the list after hiring Foles’s former quarterbacks coach in Philadelphia, John DeFilippo, as their offensive coordinator. Miami could also be an option.
6. Drew Lock
The skinny: The Missouri quarterback is projected to be the third one drafted, potentially among the top 15 picks.
Which teams make sense: Again, whichever teams among the Giants, Broncos, Jaguars, Dolphins, and Redskins miss out on Haskins and/or Rosen. Lock, like Rosen, is intriguing because he will be so cheap — a four-year contract worth $14 million-$16 million depending on draft position, plus a fifth-year option.
7-8. Ryan Tannehill, Blake Bortles.
The skinny: Tannehill and Bortles are good enough to be on a roster this fall, but will probably have to settle for backup roles and backup money (Bortles has $6.5 million guaranteed this year).
Several teams could use a veteran backup, including the Bills, Ravens, Texans, Cowboys, Eagles, Buccaneers, Rams, and Seahawks. The best landing spot might be Carolina, where Cam Newton is coming off shoulder surgery and has questions about his availability to start of this season.
League not likely to alter OT rules
Back in late January, after the Patriots defeated the Chiefs in the AFC Championship game without the Chiefs touching the football in overtime, NFL competition committee chairman Rich McKay told the Globe that “the right thing to do” would be for the league to at least discuss its OT rules this offseason.
And last weekend at the Combine, Chiefs GM Brett Veach told Pro Football Talk that coach Andy Reid is in fact working on a proposal that would change the rules to guarantee each team a possession in OT. Since 2012, a touchdown on the opening possession of OT ends the game, but a field goal keeps the game going.
“I think everybody wants a chance for guys to do what they do,” Veach said. “I don’t really see the downside of having that, especially when you have a player like Pat Mahomes. It would have been a lot of fun. I think people, if they weren’t already tuned in for a great game, would have turned on that overtime.”
Of course it was a bummer that Mahomes didn’t get a chance to step on the field in overtime. But I’m skeptical that the NFL will change its OT rules, for two reasons:
■ McKay, the head of the competition committee, said in January that he likes the current rules. And he doesn’t say that lightly — McKay is the CEO of the Falcons, who lost Super Bowl LI to the Patriots without Matt Ryan ever seeing the field in overtime.
“I came back [from the Super Bowl], we had a discussion, even internally with our coaches and everybody else, and that didn’t change our position,” McKay told the Globe.
Not to say that McKay’s word is the only one that matters, but it will be hard to get the competition committee, and therefore the owners, behind changing the OT rules if McKay isn’t for it.
■ Health and safety reasons. Guaranteeing a possession for each team would add plays to each game. And since 2017, the NFL has been about shortening overtime and reducing plays, in the name of player safety (and in the name of avoiding future litigation).
In 2017, the NFL shortened overtime from 15 to 10 minutes, with player safety given as the main reason.
“I think we looked at the number of snaps and felt like it was excessive,” McKay said in 2017. “We’re not comfortable with the idea that you could play a Sunday night game or Sunday afternoon at 4 game, go into overtime, play 15 minutes, pick up an additional 18 to 20 snaps, and then potentially play a Thursday night game.”
McKay said in 2017 that NFL head coaches were overwhelmingly in favor of shortening overtime.
“Ten minutes seems long enough,” the Ravens’ John Harbaugh said two years ago. “Usually by 10 minutes, you’re just trying to survive the last five.”
Another coach in favor of shortening overtime just two years ago in the name of player safety? You guessed it, Reid.
“Any time you can give guys a break. It’s a tough sport,” he said then.
So I wouldn’t expect the NFL to reverse course two years later and change the rules to add plays and extend games.
Kraft appears set to put up a fight
■ Robert Kraft may still end up doing what 99 percent of those facing solicitation charges in Florida do: pleading out, taking a small fine and community service, and getting the episode expunged from his record.
But Kraft sure looks like someone ready to put up a huge fight. Just look at the attorneys he has hired — the guy who represented Jeffrey Epstein, a guy from the George W. Bush White House, and a guy from Aaron Hernandez’s legal team.
Why would Kraft fight back so hard when the punishment is so relatively light? No matter the outcome in court, the damage is done, so to speak — the embarrassment of the episode is the real punishment, and that bell can’t be unrung.
One reason to fight would be to prevent the video tape of his incidents from seeing the light of day. Another could be that Kraft believes that getting exonerated in court could lead commissioner Roger Goodell to go light on him in discipline, and/or that it will prevent his Hall of Fame bid for next year from getting torpedoed.
Either way, I’m not expecting much from Goodell or Kraft on the subject when the NFL owners meet in Phoenix March 24-27. Kraft’s court date was conveniently pushed back from March 27 to the 28th, and now Goodell, Kraft, and the rest of the NFL have the perfect cover to not comment on the case until it is adjudicated.
■ There were a whole lot of reports coming out of the NFL Combine last weekend that the Patriots haven’t shown any interest in “X” player, whether it’s one of their own free agents or someone from another team. Of course, that usually doesn’t mean a whole lot.
Just two years ago, Stephon Gilmore had no idea New England was interested in him until March 9, the first day of free agency. Within two hours, he was a Patriot.
The Patriots rarely meet with players or their agents at the Combine, because they don’t like their plans leaking during the weeklong gab-fest. And the Patriots often wait for the market to establish before coming out with an offer.
■ One reason why we haven’t heard an official announcement from Rob Gronkowski about his intentions for 2019? His contract leverage. Announcing that he is coming back for 2019 ruins his leverage if/when the Patriots try to reduce his $10 million in salary and bonuses for this year. The threat of retirement is Gronk’s only trump card.
The new Alliance of American Football isn’t attracting big crowds to its games, but NFL front offices are definitely scouting the games closely. “Big time,” Ravens coach John Harbaugh said. “Our scouts know all the players in the AAF, they’ll know all the players in the new XFL, and we’ll be all over that stuff, I promise you.” Cardinals GM Steve Keim said his team is scouting the league similar to how it scouts the CFL and Arena leagues, and that “I have no doubt that a number of those [players] will be in NFL camps.” Raiders coach Jon Gruden said not only are they scouting every game for players, but “we are evaluating the coaches in that league, as well.” Then, of course, there’s John Elway. “I don’t know exactly what they’re doing. I haven’t followed that closely to it,” said the Broncos’ boss . . . Ole Miss receiver D.K. Metcalf is the new flavor of the week following the Combine, when the 6-3, 228-pounder showed off his shredded abs and ran the fastest 40-yard dash (4.33) in history for any player over 225 pounds. Metcalf is gaining buzz as a high first-round pick, but he reminds me of Stephen Hill, another big, fast receiver who didn’t have great college production but wowed the scouts at the 2012 Combine. Hill went to the Jets in the second round, but flamed out of the NFL after four seasons. While Metcalf is a talented deep threat, he’s not the most well-rounded receiver, and his production in college was inconsistent . . . Jamie Collins signed a massive contract extension with the Browns before the 2017 season, a four-year, $50 million deal. Of course, only the first two years and $27 million were guaranteed, and on Wednesday the Browns released Collins (one factor was that current Browns GM John Dorsey wasn’t the one who signed Collins to the contract). Collins’s plight is a reminder once again that NFL free agency rarely is what it seems . . . And from the Sometimes The Jokes Write Themselves Dept.: The Bears released kicker Cody Parkey this offseason after he missed a 43-yard field goal that cost them a playoff win. The replacement they signed on Wednesday has an unfortunate name for a kicker: Chris Blewitt.