As we head into the stretch run of the 2017 NFL season, we can begin to gauge which quarterbacks on the bubble are going to be back for the 2018 campaign, and which ones are destined to be canned as the starter. For some, it's been a wild ride so far this season, and for others, their status as a future backup was just a matter of time, but no matter the case, we're going to be seeing a fair amount of quarterback shakeup next season.
This isn't a surprise. It's the most important position on the field, and most teams are only as good as the player they have under center. For better or worse, the NFL is now a quarterback-driven league. The good news is that there are many replacements that will be available for most of these teams, whether it's in-house, off the free agent market, or in the draft next offseason. Let's take a look at which quarterbacks will soon be on the starting QB chopping block, and which ones will be the next man up.
Ranked below are the 8 NFL quarterbacks most likely to lose their jobs, and 8 candidates to replace them.
16 Eli Manning (New York Giants)
In recent shocking news, the Giants have decided to bench Manning, presumably for the rest of the 2017 season. One would think that this is going to signal an exit from New York in the upcoming offseason, which would immediately make him the best available quarterback on the free agent market.
Manning hadn't previously missed a start for the Giants since taking over in 2004, and he's been as reliable as they come from an availability perspective. True, he's going to turn 37 before next season, but you can bet that the promise of a consistent, proven quarterback is going to have some team paying out to acquire his services. Unless the Giants turn a 180 and decide to keep him, Manning seems destined for a new team in 2018.
15 Replaced By: Davis Webb
The in-house replacement for Manning, and the Giants' 3rd-round draft pick from this year, Webb is a bit of an unknown, but if New York can gain a franchise quarterback from a player already on their roster, it would be a very lucky break. It appears that Geno Smith is going to be getting the bulk of the playing time in lieu of Manning to start, but Webb will have to get some looks as well. He's a younger player with more upside, and they need to see what they have in him.
Barring a demonstrated inability by Webb to be an NFL player, it's likely we'll be seeing him start for New York in 2018. He was a fairly sizeable investment, and definitely not just a shot in the dark late-round player. The Giants will have to put forth their due diligence, and give Webb a chance to start for at least one season.
14 Trevor Siemian (Denver Broncos)
Siemian opened up the season as the Broncos' starter. That won't be the case next year, as the 7th-round pick predictably fizzled out midway through the year. The return of Brock Osweiler gave Denver a temporary stopgap for a few weeks, but he also showed that he was just an average player with little upside. Siemian getting beat out for playing time isn't a surprise, even though Denver spent a draft pick on him.
There's not even a guarantee that he'll land with another team in the offseason to compete for playing time under center. Siemian is a 7th-round plater with a 7th-round skill set, and at best looks like he'll be vying for time as a backup in the future. In any event, he certainly isn't the future franchise quarterback for the Broncos, though it would have helped them to get one on the cheap.
13 Replaced By: Paxton Lynch
The Broncos spent a 1st-round pick on Lynch, and they're going to give him ample time to see show that he belongs for the long-term. He's already made his first NFL start, and although he hasn't proven that he's the answer quite yet, you can bet that he's going to get plenty of opportunity.
The Broncos, and more specifically John Elway, aren't going to let a 1st-round pick be shorted on time. It was a huge investment to draft Lynch, and at the time they clearly saw something in him that was worth such a high pick. While other young quarterback have eclipsed him in development, all hope is not lost. Lynch will be under center for the Broncos in 2018 for his first full season as a starter.
12 Alex Smith (Kansas City Chiefs)
A hot start to Kansas City's season has since seen their offense be woefully ineffective in recent weeks, and Smith at quarterback is a major reason why. Of course, Smith has always been just a solid, not great, player during his tenure in the league. The Chiefs recognized this by drafting a quarterback in this year's draft, and it's only a matter of time before Smith is relieved of his starting duties.
High accuracy and little playmaking ability can only preserve a starting role for so long. Under Smith, the Chiefs have usually been good, but hardly ever great, always faltering in the playoffs to teams with more dynamic quarterbacks. They'll want to change that in the near future, and Smith's time with the team seems to be nearing it's end.
11 Replaced By: Patrick Mahomes
There's no question about it; Mahomes will be the next starter for the Chiefs, as soon as Andy Reid deems him ready beyond any doubt. Likely, that will mean he'll be starting on opening day in 2018. The Texas Tech product has a big arm, and infinitely more playmaking ability than Smith does, so it won't be surprising to see him take over the reigns next season.
How much success he'll have is still up in the air, but you have to figure that Andy Reid will be happy to have a quarterback who is capable of expanding the playbook more, and is more of a big-play threat. Mahomes should have ample opportunity to succeed in Kansas City, beginning next season, and beyond.
10 Case Keenum (Minnesota Vikings)
Don't be fooled by Keenum's ascent to the level of a good NFL quarterback this season; more often than not, it's a mirage if a player has struggled for the past six years of his career. Look, there's no questioning what Keenum has done this year has been admirable. But the odds are that he's not going to end up as the full-time starter for the Vikings on an annual basis.
A strong showing in the playoffs could change that, but it doesn't take a genius to know that he's been carried by a really good, if not elite defense in Minnesota. There's a reason why Keenum flamed out with the Texans and Rams; he's just not a very good player. At least not to the point of making franchise quarterback money and remaining consistent year after year.
9 Replaced By: Teddy Bridgewater
Finally recovered from the devastating injury he suffered in the offseason of 2016, Bridgewater could be starting for Minnesota right now, but bringing him back mid-season would complicate the quarterback position far too much for a team that is all but guaranteed to be in the playoffs. Next season however, is a different matter entirely.
The Vikings took Bridgewater as a 1st-overall selection, and they aren't going to see him go to waste. He'll more than likely be under center for the 2018 season, and then the Vikings will determine whether he's worth a long-term contract. Bridgewater has earned the right to retake the starting job, as he looked to be developing well before the horrific injury that kept him out of action for a season and a half running.
8 DeShone Kizer (Cleveland Browns)
The Browns seem to have whiffed on another quarterback draft pick, and Kizer is likely destined for the bench before long. Actually, that's already happened several times this season, and he's been taken out in favor of Cody Kessler and Kevin Hogan. Not a good look for head coach Hue Jackson.
Cleveland of course, has had quarterback issues going back to 1999. They passed on both Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson, further emphasizing the fact that the new ownership group doesn't seem to have improved in personnel evaluation. Kizer may be a good runner, but his arm talent is just so-so, and he has poor accuracy. Yet another change is likely coming.
7 Replaced By: Sam Darnold
If Cleveland lands the 1st-overall pick in next year's draft, they're likely going to use it on a quarterback, simply because they really have no other options. They've tried to skimp on the position in recent years, and it clearly hasn't been to their benefit. Many believe that Darnold is the best overall prospect at the position, even if he may have a year or two of development before he really hits his stride.
There's been talk of Darnold wanting to stay at USC for his senior season if the Browns are projected to take him. While nobody can blame him if that turns out to be the case, there's still a ton of time between now and the draft to change his mind. The promise of a seven-figure contract has swayed players before, and until it becomes a reality, it's best to assume that he'll be playing in the NFL next season.
6 Carson Palmer (Arizona Cardinals)
Palmer's time in the league is just about finished. He's struggled with injuries for the past several seasons and the most recent one seems to be the dagger. He's an aging quarterback who had a brief resurgence in Arizona, but ultimately age caught up to him, and now the Cardinals are looking for a new leader under center.
They'll most likely have to draft one, as their really is no suitable in-house replacement. They could opt to sign one in free agency, but there's usually a cap on how good those players are. If Bruce Arians expects to keep his job, he'll have to hit on this next quarterback acquisition.
5 Replaced By: Josh Rosen
The Cardinals will likely be drafting out of Rosen's projected range in the draft next year, but this is the player that they should be targeting. They'll have to trade picks and move up, but it would be well worth it for a team that won't get an elite quarterback otherwise. Any other pick they make will be a sizable risk, and to some Rosen is the most NFL-ready quarterback in the draft next year.
Overall, this may be a longshot, but the Cardinals' current strategy of skimping on the quarterback position and trying to cut corners hasn't worked. They need to pay up for a big long-term upgrade, and Rosen is their best option. The UCLA product should have a very good NFL career ahead of him.
4 C.J. Beathard (San Francisco 49ers)
Though he was a 3rd-round pick, Beathard has already cemented himself as a mediocre player at best, and clearly not the option for the 49ers long-term quarterback solution. He's proven to be a weak-armed and inaccurate passer with limited acumen for the position as a whole. In short, he's not an NFL starter, and will likely be a backup going forward.
When San Francisco traded for Jimmy Garropolo at the deadline, it pretty much cemented that Beathard was going to be out as the starter sooner rather than later. As exhibited in his rookie year, he just isn't an NFL-caliber starting quarterback. Thankfully for the 49ers, better options should be coming down the pike.
3 Replaced By: Jimmy Garoppolo
In what was the biggest move of the 2017 trade deadline, the 49ers notched Garoppolo from the Patriots, for the expense of a 2nd-round pick. It was a surprising move to say the least, as New England had previously not shown interest in trading the young backup to Tom Brady. Nonetheless, it appears that the 49ers seem committed to at least giving Garoppolo the chance to start in 2018, and earn his place as the team's franchise quarterback.
Whether Garoppolo will end up living up to that billing is a complete shot in the dark. He obviously saw limited playing time in New England, and many players moving out of the "Belichick Bubble" have struggled to adapt on new teams. San Francisco needs the upgrade at quarterback, but whether he's the "guy" or not is still yet be determined.
2 Blake Bortles (Jacksonville Jaguars)
Against all odds, the Jaguars actually have a chance to make the playoffs this season, and they're doing it with sub-par quarterback play. The emergence of rookie running back Leonard Fournette has given Jacksonville a truly dominating run-game, and their defense has also produced as one of the league's best. They're only missing a quarterback from this equation at the moment.
Bortles has been a pretty big disappointment for a former top-5 pick. His decision making has been erratic, and barring one season where he put it all together, his production has simply been subpar. With a new regime headed by Doug Marrone in the coaching staff, don't be surprised if and when the Jaguars decide to make a move for a new franchise quarterback this offseason.
1 Replaced By: Eli Manning
The major factor in this decision, if it ends up coming to fruition, would be the presence of former Giants head coach Tom Coughlin in Jacksonville's front office. Make no mistake about it, Coughlin wants to win now. He knows Manning better than just about anyone in the league, and knows that he'd be ready to step in right away and learn the system. With a high-quality running game and defense, there's a chance that a 37-year-old Manning could be carried to another good season.
The Manning situation as a whole still has a ways to go before being resolved one way or another, but if he does leave like expected, you can expect the Jaguars to make a big push. Coughlin will personally want to see this happen, and if they feel they can win big in 2018 just with the Manning addition, then we'll probably see this come to fruition.
Bortles is likely gone automatically, and Manning is a natural fit to take his place, as the Jags attempt to develop a younger quarterback for the long-term.