The QB Carousel Will Be Dizzying in 2014

A recent slowdown in teams changing quarterbacks from season to season certainly will not continue in 2014. Here's a look at nine teams that could be in the market for a new franchise man and whip the offseason into a full-on frenzy

By
Jim Trotter
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Sam Bradford (left), Matt Schaub (center) and Jay Cutler could find themselves on the market in 2014 in what could be one of the busiest offseasons for quarterbacks in recent memory. (Getty Images)
Sam Bradford (left), Matt Schaub (center) and Jay Cutler could find themselves on the market in 2014 in what could be one of the busiest offseasons for quarterbacks in recent memory. (Getty Images)

Patience is not a word associated with NFL teams and starting quarterbacks. All you have to do is look at how often teams change their Week 1 starters from one year to the next. As an example, from 2006 to ’11 the number of franchises making changes were 13, 13, 10, 11, 10 and 12. On average, that’s a third of the 32-team league each year.

But the carousel appeared to be slowing the past two seasons, when the figure dropped to nine teams in 2012 and only six this season. Finally, clubs could exhale. Or so we thought.

Cue the circus music and stand back, because one of the developing storylines for 2014 is that there could be nearly twice as many new opening-game starters at quarterback as there were this year. Normally I’d rant about how silly it is to look at 2014 when we’re only at the midpoint of the current season. However …

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When you consider how important the position is in today’s game because of the rules changes/enforcements that have opened up the passing game; when you think about how teams have to make quicker judgments on quarterbacks because the new collective bargaining agreement limits rookie contracts to four years instead of five or six; and when you look at what transpired over the past couple weeks … it’s hard to not pull out the binoculars.

Consider: In Week 7, St. Louis Rams quarterback Sam Bradford was lost for the year to a torn ACL and Chicago’s Jay Cutler was sidelined for at least four weeks with a torn groin. That same week, Minnesota’s Christian Ponder was benched in favor of Josh Freeman, who had only joined the team the previous week; of course, in Week 8, the Vikings went back to Ponder after Freeman had a bad debut and suffered a concussion. And let’s not leave out the Browns, who promoted former third-stringer Jason Campbell ahead of 2012 first-round pick Brandon Weeden before Week 8.

Bradford, Cutler, Ponder and Freeman started for their teams in Week 1, but it’s reasonable to think that won’t be the case for them or a handful of other quarterbacks next season. They stand to be released, allowed to leave as free agents or relegated to backup status because of inconsistent/poor performances, money issues, health concerns or age. Or all of the above. Another factor is that next year’s draft is believed to be deep at quarterback, and teams are more willing to start rookie signal-callers because of the recent success of Andrew Luck, Robert Griffin III and Russell Wilson, who went to the playoffs in their first season, and the flashes of promise from Geno Smith and E.J. Manuel this year.

“Supply and demand” is how one general manager explained it, speaking on the condition his name not be used. He continued, “When you find your franchise QB you keep them under contract as long as you can. Problem is, how many franchise QBs are there when you look at 32 teams? Certainly less than half of that, so you’re looking at somewhere in the neighborhood of at least 16 teams playing musical chairs.”

This year’s changes occurred in Arizona (from Kevin Kolb to Carson Palmer), Buffalo (Ryan Fitzpatrick to Manuel), Kansas City (Matt Cassel to Alex Smith), Oakland (Palmer to Terrelle Pryor), San Francisco (Alex Smith to Colin Kaepernick) and the Jets (Mark Sanchez to Geno Smith). What changes could be on the horizon in 2014? Here’s a look (teams listed alphabetically):

Chicago Bears

This one could be interesting. Cutler is an elite talent who was on pace for a career year before his injury. But he’s also taken a team to the playoffs just once since entering the league in 2006. If he looks for a mega-payday, I wouldn’t be surprised if first-year general manager Phil Emery and coach Marc Trestman chose to look elsewhere.

Cleveland Browns

Weeden was thought to be the long-term answer after being drafted 22nd overall in 2012. But that was before a new management and a new coaching staff were brought in—and before he completed just 56.2 percent of his passes and confirmed he has trouble going through read progressions in a timely manner. The Browns have two first-round picks next year, and one of them undoubtedly will be used on a quarterback.

Houston Texans

Matt Schaub is just 46-40 as Houston’s starter the past seven years. More notable is that he’s 1-1 in the postseason, missed six games with a foot injury in 2011, struggled down the stretch in 2012 and is on pace for a career-worst season this year, during which he threw pick-sixes in four consecutive games, a league-record. He’ll be 33 next season and will count $14.5 million against the cap, which isn’t huge by quarterback standards but could be unnecessary if the team believes youngster Case Keenum, who will get a second straight start in Week 9, is a capable replacement. 

Jacksonville Jaguars

Like Cleveland, Jacksonville has changed management and coaching staff since drafting Blaine Gabbert 10th overall in 2011. Gabbert has been a major disappointment, to say the least. This year alone he has thrown seven interceptions with only one touchdown. He’s clearly not the answer; Chad Henne will start again this week even though Gabbert is healthy. Jacksonville (0-8) definitely will wind up with a high draft pick, if not the first pick overall, in May. It’s hard to image it won’t use the selection on a QB.

Minnesota Vikings

Minnesota used the 12th pick in the 2011 draft on Ponder, but it clearly no longer believes in him. If it did, it wouldn’t have started Freeman only one week after Freeman joined the team. That being said, Freeman might not be the answer, either. He’s on a one-year deal and was atrocious in his debut, though the staff and management deserve much of the blame for rushing him onto the field before he was ready.

Oakland Raiders

Third-year pro Terrelle Pryor won the job this year even though that was not the organization’s plan (Oakland traded for Matt Flynn and designated him the starter coming into training camp). Pryor has had flashes of promise, even in defeat; but the staff believes he still has a ways to go as a passer before it can commit to him long-term. The fact that GM Reggie McKenzie tried to sign Josh Freeman after the Bucs released him speaks volumes that the Raiders are not completely satisfied at the position.

Michael Vick could be relegated to the bench in a backup role—and not necessarily with the Eagles—in 2014. (Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)
Michael Vick could be relegated to the bench in a backup role—and not necessarily with the Eagles—in 2014. (Al Messerschmidt/Getty Images)

Philadelphia Eagles

Michael Vick isn’t the long-term solution. He’s in his 11th season, will be 34 next year and hasn’t played a full season since 2006, his last year with the Falcons. Father Time is undefeated against aging players, but he’s Mike Tyson vs. Michael Spinks when it comes to aging players who rely on their legs more than their arm.

St. Louis Rams

This might be the most interesting case of the offseason. Bradford was selected No. 1 overall in 2010 but had yet to play at a franchise level in his first three seasons. This year he was enjoying his best statistical season before an ACL tear in Week 7 against the Panthers brought his campaign to an end. Some of Bradford’s struggles have been due to a lack of perimeter playmakers his first couple seasons; this year the Rams have suffered in the running game and with unimaginative play-calling. Bradford’s base salary is $14.015 million next year and $12.985 million in 2015, and of course he faces a long offseason of rehab. St. Louis has two first-round picks in next year’s quarterback-rich draft and will have ammunition to trade up if they choose. They also could look to deal Bradford.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Third-round rookie Mike Glennon replaced Freeman as the starter late last month, and the organization hopes he can be the long-term solution. But here’s the issue: Because Glennon is limited athletically, inconsistent on the deep ball and completing just 58.5 percent of his passes, Tampa Bay would be foolish to pass up a shot at an elite college prospect with a high draft pick. At 0-7, the Bucs are currently battling 0-8 Jacksonville for the top pick in the 2014 draft.

We’re months away from knowing what will happen, but there’s no doubt the carousel is being oiled for use.

14 comments
ChristopherGriffin
ChristopherGriffin

Vick will be starter or back up for KC,SF or Arz those are teams that suit his skill set.

streamingchurchesonline
streamingchurchesonline

I agree the Birds will need a new QB. Vick best days are long gone. I hope we don't get carried away too much into what the Eagles/Foles did against the Raiders. The Eagles are 5 years removed from a good QB. Great article...

TheHip1
TheHip1

The Raiders will ride TP until the excitement wears off which could be a long time. He keeps progressing in confidence and poise. The days of one year and done head coaches and QB's are over in Oakland and there is light at the end of a long tunnel with DA at the helm and TP under center. With the cap space next year this team has a chance to be very good. Who would have guessed a defense that has 10 new starters (11 if you count the flip from left to right side for Lamaar Houston) would be top 10 good? The Silver & Black are nearly back and don't need retread QBs like the three pictured above.

boogieman7167
boogieman7167

Bradford's not going anywhere fisher already said he will be the starting QB in 2014 . how ever they may benefit from such a QB rich draft . they should get  2 early draft picks  Washington and theirs   they might just do what they did with the RG 3 trade  a teams the needs a QB and trade one of their draft pick   for more draft picks.

George
George

cutler's agent is Bus Cook - (dirtbag).  It's ALL about money for Cook and jay cutler.  

Cook wants Flacco $$ for a qb that ain't worth it.  Even if the McCaskeys / Emery put the franchise tag on cutler, Cook is sleazy enough to hold him out - and  jay is famous for throwing tantrums & pouting as well as not returning phone calls when he feels "slighted" / unappreciated (see Denver)

Jeff George spent a significant time wearing silver & black, and since cutler is the new millennium Jeff George, I wouldn't be surprised to see him go out wearing the same uniform.  cutler is about cutler - not the team.

decredico
decredico

cutler goes to tennessee to replace locker, who is a stiff

HarshRealities
HarshRealities

There is an abundance of QB talent coming out of college in next years draft.

koby12
koby12

Cutler is most likely going to be franchised for 2014 then given the payday or become a free agent in 2015. That's the word around the city here. 

34rocks
34rocks

@George  is your first name Jeff?  It seems you have spent a lot of time inside Halas Hall and know Jay Cutler real well....NOT.....

JoeHercik
JoeHercik

@George 

You seem not to know much about Cutler or the Bears so i am guessing your not from Chicago. Cutler has his quirks but he he is a hard nosed tough player who can play through alot of pain and takes a beating. No one should get Flacco money and his season after he got that big money will show why that wont happen again. I am guessing they will Franchise him to see how he does another year in with the new staff and thats fine. The Bears wont have a good enough draft pick to get a decent QB that can come i and start and with what is going to be out there he is the best option.

JoeHercik
JoeHercik

@koby12 

Exactly. They will give hi a second year under the new coaching staff and then make the decision. They dont have a good enough pick for a ready to start draft QB and have other needs. What will be on the QB scrap heap doesnt make much sense so Cutler won't be going anywhere for atleast another full season.

anon76
anon76

@koby12 

Can't imagine he's being blamed for only 1 playoff appearance in 7 years- pretty hard to take a team to the playoffs when you're planted on your back.  If he can't produce after he heals up, I'd doubt he'd ask for a King's ransom, and as long as he continues to play as well as he did pre-injury I can't imagine the Bears will cut him loose.  (Kind of doubt Bradford's going anywhere, either).

George
George

@JoeHercik @George You may be right, but I think, based on Bus Cook's rep and cutler's past behavior, if the Bears try to franchise him, he and Cook will hold out / demand a trade.  

If I was Emery, I'd be shopping him around right now.  Time for the Bears to cut bait on quitler.

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