(CBS Local/CBS Philly) — The NFL’s new league year begins on Wednesday, March 13th, and teams can begin officially signing free agents at that point (though they can start negotiating on March 11th). As happens every year, some big names will be hitting the market. So over the next few weeks, we’ll be looking at the top free agents available at each position, while trying to pair them with the teams that need them the most.
Today, we start with the most important position in the game, quarterbacks. In most cases, teams look to find their quarterback through the draft, so often, free agency is an afterthought. However, in a year with questionable draft prospects at the position, we could see more movement at the QB spot than normal. Let’s take a look at the top guys.
Nick Foles, QB, Philadelphia Eagles
There is the chance that the Eagles use the franchise tag on Foles in order to try to trade him, but it is unlikely simply because that tag would take up $25 million of the team’s minimal cap space. Foles has had magical runs in each of the last two seasons, getting red-hot in time in to lead the Eagles to a Super Bowl win in 2018 and the playoffs this year.
But, those runs have led people to forget what we already know about Foles. He’s streaky. He is the same quarterback that had the 27-2 TD-to-INT ratio in 2013 and a 13-10 ratio in eight starts in 2014. With the right scheme, Foles can be brilliant, as he has shown in Philadelphia. And he can certainly be a serviceable starter, if you’re able to stick with him through the doldrums.
The Jaguars, Giants, Redskins, and Dolphins all have uncertain quarterback situations, and Foles could be in play. But, if there’s one thing we’ve learned about Foles, it’s that he works best when he has star-level weapons around him. Of those four teams, the Giants have the most star power at the skill positions. Foles would likely do well leaning on Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard, Evan Engram and Saquon Barkley, getting them the ball quickly in space. Though it would kill Eagles fans (myself included). Granted, this is all depends upon the Giants realizing that Eli is no longer a top-tier quarterback, which they have been reluctant to do thus far. Best Fit: New York Giants
Teddy Bridgewater, QB, New Orleans Saints
The fact that Bridgewater has even been able to make it back onto the field at this point is amazing. Now, though, he will be a free agent once again, and this time around there will likely be more interest than just the one-year deal the Jets* gave him prior to last season. He looked rusty in his lone start for them, but he’s still just 27 years old, and he’s completed over 64 percent of his passes in his career.
Bridgewater could certainly fit in the Big Apple with the Giants as well. He likely won’t command the same level of salary as Foles, so Bridgewater could be an option if the Giants are looking to hedge their Eli bet. But, since we have Foles fitting best with the Giants, we’re going to slot Bridgewater in with the Jacksonville Jaguars. As ESPN contributor KC Joyner noted this week:
“The Jaguars do their analytics homework and will know that Bridgewater passed all seven of the all-important Parcells Rules prior to the 2014 draft. They have a Super Bowl ceiling with the right quarterback under center, and Bridgewater’s skills would fit superbly well in Jacksonville.”
Tyrod Taylor, QB, Cleveland Browns
Taylor was replaced by Baker Mayfield when he got hurt in the third game of the season against the New York Jets. Mayfield never relinquished the starting job, and Taylor spent the rest of the season on the bench. However, despite his detractors, Taylor has proven to be a serviceable quarterback for teams in the past.
Taylor’s 1.5% interception rate would rank first all-time among quarterbacks if he had enough passes to qualify for that list. Even last year’s 2.4% rate would rank in the top 25 of that leaderboard. Taylor takes care of the football, even though at times that means taking sacks or throwing the ball away. Still, his skill set could be particularly useful for a team like Washington. The team is unsure if Alex Smith will be able to return for the 2019 season, and Colt McCoy didn’t exactly impress in replacing Smith.
If Washington is uninterested, Taylor could make sense as a backup in Baltimore behind Lamar Jackson.
Outside of those top three guys, the market is thin at quarterback. Ryan Fitzpatrick could certainly bring his “FitzMagic” to a new team, if he’s not re-signed in Tampa Bay. Robert Griffin III will be a free agent available as a backup. But, one of the interesting questions that remains is what the Miami Dolphins will do with Ryan Tannehill. He has two years left on his contract, but the Dolphins could decide to move on from the oft-injured QB. If they do, a team or two could decide to take a look at bringing him in on a one-year “prove it” deal.
(*A previous version of this piece said that Bridgewater signed with the Saints. He signed with the Jets and was traded to the Saints. The error has been corrected.)