Every great NFL team sticks with one quarterback over long periods of time. Just ask New England Patriots icon Tom Brady, who won his five Super Bowls over a five-year span. Or the San Francisco 49ers, whose dynasty was created by quarterback Joe Montana. Thanks to his dominance in San Fran for over a decade, the 49ers became the team of the ’80s and much of the ’90s.
And when you take a look at some of the NFL’s worst teams (hello Cleveland Browns, Chicago Bears and New York Jets), you’ll notice how these teams change starting quarterbacks every year. That’s just what a bad football team does. As of now, most teams seem to have a quarterback who is hands-down their starter for the long-term future. But a handful of teams need to start looking for a new one.
Here are eight of those squads, along with the quarterbacks they should try to land.
16. Jacksonville Jaguars
The Jaguars have been spending nearly a decade looking for a franchise quarterback, and they’ve been hopeful for a while that 2014 first rounder Blake Bortles could fit the bill. But as of now, Bortles hasn’t shown many signs that he’s capable of growing into that franchise player that they’re hoping of.
Jacksonville is finally looking up, thanks to a top-notch defence and a promising offence that includes Allen Hurns, Allen Robinson and Leonard Fournette. But the Jaguars should strongly consider looking at a better option, in order to maximize their championship window. Bortles has been way too inconsistent and doesn’t seem capable of cutting down on the turnovers. He’ll likely be a mediocre quarterback at best, and the Jaguars shouldn’t take any chances. If the opportunity presents itself, they should look for another quarterback.
15. Who They Should Get: Drew Brees
As of now, there’s no indication that the New Orleans Saints are prepared to move on from franchise quarterback and future Hall of Famer Drew Brees, but they should. Even though he’s tossing 30 touchdowns and 4,000 yards a season, Brees’ Saints continue to be mired in mediocrity. They have made the playoffs just once since 2012, and have only two playoff victories since winning Super Bowl 44 eight years ago.
The Saints need to rebuild and think about trading Brees. If that’s the case, the Jaguars and Brees would be a perfect fit. He joins a rising team and would be the final piece that can make them a Super Bowl contender. Furthermore, the Jaguars have plenty of cap space to take on his contract. Brees has been loyal to the Saints, but if both sides are smart about this, they’ll deal him away to a championship contender. That team could be the Jaguars.
14. New York Giants
It seems crazy to think the New York Giants would cut ties with Eli Manning, who has led this team to a pair of Super Bowl championships. But Manning turns 37 years of age in January, and his brutal start to the 2017 season is an indicator that he’s nearing the end of his days as a starter.
Hey, Joe Montana left the 49ers, Brett Favre left the Packers and Peyton Manning left the Colts. Is the idea of Eli finally leaving the Giants far fetched? Not at all. This team needs a major roster makeover. It’s tough to see the Giants committing their future to an aging Eli, even if he’s led them to the promised land twice. If 2017 ends on a disaster note, the Giants may have to move on from Eli and begin a rebuild.
13. Who They Should Get: Patrick Mahomes
Despite being taken to the playoffs by Alex Smith in three of his first four years with the Kansas City Chiefs, the team felt compelled to find his replacement. So they traded up and drafted Texas Tech quarterback Patrick Mahomes with the 10th selection in the 2017 NFL Draft.
But Smith has gotten off to a blistering start with the Chiefs in 2017, once again reaffirming himself as their franchise quarterback of the long-term future. The Chiefs have a championship window that’s open for a few years, so keeping Mahomes around until Smith is done as a starter doesn’t make sense. The Giants need a quarterback, but they probably aren’t bad enough to nab one of the top prospects in the 2018 Draft. They should package a couple of second round picks to the Chiefs and develop Mahomes to succeed Eli as their franchise signal-caller. It’s a win-win.
12. Cincinnati Bengals
No matter how you feel about Andy Dalton, most of us can agree that the Bengals need to hit the reset button. This team made the playoffs every year from 2011 to 2015, and yet never won a playoff game. Dalton has had the chance to take Cincinnati to the promised land, but it hasn’t happened and probably never will.
Head coach Marvin Lewis will get fired or likely retire after this season (his contract year). The Bengals aren’t going to contend any time soon, so it’s time to trade core players like Dalton, A.J. Green and Geno Atkins. If not, this team will be mired in mediocrity for years to come. Dalton is 30 years of age this season, and isn’t going to get any better for the Bengals. They know they have an underachiever on their hands, so it’s time to move on and find a better quarterback.
11. Who They Should Get: Lamar Jackson
If the Bengals are looking to draft their quarterback of the future, Louisville standout and 2016 Heisman Trophy winner Lamar Jackson should top their wish list. Considering the Bengals probably won’t land in the top-five draft positioning, they may have to trade their way up to pluck Jackson.
Jackson is one of the top dual threat quarterbacks in recent memory, and the scouts are high on him. The Bengals could have a strong offence with Jackson and running backs Jeremy Hill and Giovani Bernard. He projects to be an early or mid-first round pick, and should be there for the Bengals. To make a rebuild work, you have to get your franchise quarterback early and develop him. The Bengals simply have to cut ties with Dalton and make a play for Jackson.
10. Arizona Cardinals
Following Kurt Warner’s retirement in 2010, the Arizona Cardinals struggled to find a franchise quarterback. But head coach Bruce Arians was able to help Carson Palmer revive his career in 2013, reforming into one of the game’s top all-around passers. Unfortunately for the Cardinals, injuries and age contributed to a miserable 2016 season for Palmer. He’s been off to a terrible start in 2017, and it’s unlikely the 37-year-old turns it around at this point.
Arizona has too many talented players to be this mediocre. Patrick Peterson and Tyrann Mathieu form one of the NFL’s best defensive units, while Larry Fitzgerald, John Brown and David Johnson lead an explosive offence. The Cardinals can’t rely on an aging Palmer to carry them to that next level. It’s time to look for someone else.
9. Who They Should Get: Sam Bradford
Bradford never lived up to his full potential with the St. Louis Rams, despite being drafted first overall in 2010. He was traded to the Philadelphia Eagles in 2015, but Bradford once again struggled to reach his ceiling. But after Teddy Bridgewater tore his ACL which caused him to all of 2016, the Minnesota Vikings traded for Bradford.
He had a strong season with Minny, tossing 3,877 yards and 20 touchdowns with just five interceptions. But Bradford is a pending free agent, and the Vikings appear to be keen on making Bridgewater their franchise quarterback. This is where the Cardinals should step in and sign Bradford. He’s still young and showed he can be a No. 1 quarterback with the right resources. Arians is known for being a quarterback guru, so he could groom Bradford into being the starter on a championship-caliber team.
8. Cleveland Browns
Between 1999 and 2016, the Cleveland Browns used a whopping 26 different starting quarterbacks. Most of them have been draft busts, including Tim Couch (drafted first overall in 1999), Brady Quinn, Brandon Weeden and Johnny Manziel — all late first round selections.
But for once, things are looking up for the Browns. Jamie Collins and 2017 first rounder Myles Garrett will soon form one of the game’s top defences, but the Browns just need that one quarterback to finally get things going again. Head coach Hue Jackson is a terrific offensive-minded head coach; he just needs the right player to work with. For the Browns, they should look on acquiring a somewhat experienced backup who’s ready to be a starter. This team has made it clear they can’t find a quarterback in the draft. So let’s avoid that route altogether.
7. Who They Should Get: Jimmy Garoppolo
Garoppolo looked incredible in his 1.5 games as the New England Patriots starter in 2016, when Tom Brady was suspended for his alleged involvement in DeflateGate. The 2014 second rounder has been mentored by Brady and Bill Belichick for a while now, and looks all but ready to become a starter.
Garoppolo is in the final year of his contract, and he will surely look to gain a starting job somewhere. This is where the Browns come into play and offer him a contract he can’t refuse. Perhaps a three-year deal worth $30 million would be a good starting point. Garoppolo is 26 and can’t wait around until Brady retires. You know he wants to start now. The Browns apparently looked at trading for Garoppolo this past offseason, but a deal couldn’t be reached with the Patriots. There’s no doubting they should be able to sign him this offseason, should they go that route.
6. Denver Broncos
The Broncos rode the NFL’s best defence to a Super Bowl 50 championship. Though Peyton Manning was washed up and well past his prime, his mind and veteran presence was valuable in helping the Broncos capture their third Super Bowl in franchise history. Even if he wasn’t the same legend we were used to watching, Denver needed The Sheriff to win a championship.
Denver missed the playoffs in 2016, thanks to the ugly quarterback play from Trevor Siemian and Paxton Lynch. Unfortunately for the Broncos, they will keep wasting a good defence unless they find a way to add another quarterback. Siemian is as inconsistent as it comes. Backup Brock Osweiler is better off as, well, a backup. Lynch needs more time to develop, so the Broncos need to find a capable No. 1 starter if they want to win more championships in the Von Miller era.
5. Who They Should Get: Philip Rivers
The Chargers are off to yet another horrific start in 2017, and they won’t be making the playoffs in a loaded AFC West division. So once again, they’ll be restarting in 2018, and they should be looking to trade away Philip Rivers.
There were rumors back in January about Rivers being open to a trade, and the Broncos would make perfect sense. He’d move to a team with offensive talents in Demaryius Thomas, Emmanuel Sanders and C.J. Anderson. The Broncos elite defence would also give a 36-year-old Rivers plenty of opportunities to win a championship.
Rivers remains one of the game’s elite passing quarterbacks, but if he wants a championship, he will have to force the Chargers to trade him. A move to the Mile High City makes all the sense in the world.
4. New York Jets
From Chad Pennington to Brett Favre to Mark Sanchez to Geno Smith to Ryan Fitzpatrick to Bryce Petty to Josh McCown. Man, the New York Jets quarterback list is longer than…the List of Jericho? The Jets have become one of the NFL’s worst teams since reaching consecutive AFC Championships in 2009 and 2010. No matter the GM or head coach, Gang Green has yet to be supplied with a legitimate quarterback. They’ve tried signing and trading for veterans, and i hasn’t worked out.
New York will simply have to bank on getting lucky in the NFL Draft. Luckily, the 2018 class has a handful of top-notch quarterbacks, and only so many NFL teams are lacking a franchise signal-caller. The Jets will surely own a top-five draft pick in 2018, allowing them the chance to take another quarterback.
3. Who They Should Get: Josh Rosen
A great quarterback can single-handedly turn a losing team around. Peyton Manning did it with the Indianapolis Colts, Derek Carr with the Oakland Raiders, Marcus Mariota with the Tennessee Titans, Alex Smith with the Kansas City Chiefs and Drew Brees with the New Orleans Saints.
For the Jets, Josh Rosen should be on the top of their priorities list. The UCLA quarterback was a 2015 Freshman All-American but has seen his value drop a bit after missing most of 2016 with a shoulder injury. That said, Rosen is the legitimate pocket passer the Jets so badly have lacked for 20 years. Rosen would be the top building block to rebuild this franchise around. Josh McCown, Christian Hackenberg and Bryce Petty aren’t going to cut it. The Jets sorely need Rosen to fix this mess.
2. San Francisco 49ers
The 49ers really blew it. Remember the days when they had Alex Smith AND Colin Kaepernick? As it turns out, choosing the latter over the former hurt them big time. Smith has gone on to become nothing but a winning quarterback with the Kansas City Chiefs, while Kaepernick is out of an NFL job.
Kaepernick wasn’t the same when the 49ers parted ways with head coach Jim Harbaugh, and it’s no surprise they’re now on their fourth head coach in as many years. Even though head coach Kyle Shanahan is one of the game’s most brilliant offensive minds, he can’t get by with Brian Hoyer as the 49ers starter. No head coach can, except maybe Belichick. San Francisco is in the midst of a painful rebuilding process. If there’s one team that oh-so-badly needs a quarterback, it’s undoubtedly the 49ers.
1. Who They Should Get: Sam Darnold
Projected by many to be the top pick in the 2018 NFL Draft, Sam Darnold will likely go to the team that winds up with the first selection. And come on, most of us can probably agree that it’ll be the 49ers. This team just has virtually no talent outside of Carlos Hyde, and their tough schedule will ensure that the 49ers win very few games in 2017.
But there is a bright spot — Sam Darnold will be available to them. The USC star won the 2016 Archie Griffin Award and led his team to the Rose Bowl championship in 2017. He’s a major winner, and has everything in his game that should intrigue the 49ers. Darnold is the guy the 49ers want and need. As long as they keep losing, he’ll be trying to follow the footsteps of Joe Montana and Steve Young in San Francisco.
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