NFL free agency truly is a frenzy. You can guess potential market value and where guys might go all you want, but the truth of the matter is, it all goes out the window once the starting gun for the legal tampering period begins.
Which, like, can we talk about that for a second? Former New England Patriot and now Oakland Raider offensive tackle Trenton Brown "agreed to his deal" nine minutes after the legal tampering period began. He and the team obviously talked before the starting time. It's just kind of funny when giant contracts from guys that have league-wide interest are announced as done deals so soon after what should be the first time you're allowed to talk to a guy. The NFL is corrupt and pro football is rigged: A Netflix Original.
Brown wasn't the only one to get a pay day on the opening of the tampering period. Players like Kwon Alexander, Landon Collins and Tyrann Mathieu also cashed in big time, which was sort of unexpected given the safety and linebacker money market last year. But the biggest contract of the day went to a player who plays the most important position in the game: quarterback Nick Foles. On the first day of the tampering period, the Jacksonville Jaguars put their money where they mouth was that they had had enough of the Blake Bortles era over the last five years, as they signed Foles to a 4-year, $88M deal that can go north of $100M with incentives, and a deal that included $50M in guaranteed money.
That, is a lot of money -- an amount I'm not sure the Jags had to give up to secure Foles, honestly, as it seemed like they were his only suitor.
But, the Jags said they made their statement, they got their guy, and they have full confidence in him to be the quarterback they need him to be over the next, let's say three years, at least, just to be safe.
But that now begs the question: What now happens with this quarterback class in the 2019 NFL Draft?
Let's go back a few weeks to a time and a mindset that was the precedent before the Combine kicked off. As we know, draft classes go as quarterbacks go, and even with a less-than-stellar quarterback pool, this year was going to be no exception as of about a month ago. Viewing the NFL landscape, I would say there were four teams that were in desperate need of a quarterback that could have determined the quarterback market in the draft: Washington, Miami, Jacksonville and Denver. I would also say there were two potentially needy teams in the Giants and the Raiders, but both of those teams have guys in place that they can deal with, so I did not assume their desperation level to be on the same par as those other four.
But, since that time, a lot has happened. Let's break it down team-by-team.
Let’s start with the Jaguars.
The Jags were a team that had options. The narrative around them was that Dwayne Haskins seemed more like their target guy -- a Tom Coughlin guy -- and getting him at No. 7 overall seemed pretty realistic. But the talk on Haskins to the Jags cooled a bit, even before free agency. At the Combine, Jags head coach Doug Marrone talked extensively about how he loves a quarterback who can bring a mobility factor to the offense and make things happen with their legs. That’s not Haskins at all; that’s Kyler Murray. So then we started toying with the idea of Murray in the Jags offense.
But Jags said it themselves that they gave Foles the kind of contract they did because they wanted to let the locker room know that he’s their guy – essentially saying he’s not a transition quarterback. To me, that tells me they're out on a quarterback in the first round, at least for this year.
Now let’s talk about the Denver Broncos. The Broncos were not happy with their situation with Case Keenum as their guy, so they shipped Joe Flacco in for a fourth round pick and then shipped Keenum out for a sixth. Now, does the 34-year-old Flacco put up a barrier prohibiting them from taking a quarterback at No. 10 overall? No, but it may mean they’re not as desperate.
If you’ll look at the rest of what the Broncos did in free agency, they signed a defensive back in Kareem Jackson, signed an offensive tackle in JaWuan James, and aren’t done yet, it appears. These kind of moves will allow the Broncos to be flexible to pick best player available in the first round, and at No. 10 they'll have a full plate of options. Could that be a quarterback? Yes, But are they as desperately in on this class as they were a month ago? I say no. That changes things.
Miami is the one team that hasn’t made a move to adjust their quarterback position, and they appear to still be all-in on what they need to do to get a quarterback from this class. But, even with that said, if the teams around them who previously needed a quarterback don’t have that drastic of a need anymore, Miami can potentially afford to stay put at No. 13 and maybe even get a guy like Haskins or at least Drew Lock. That’s a way different outlook than the one we had before free agency, and the catalyst for it was Foles in Jacksonville. Before the tampering period, I would’ve told you that if Miami wanted a quarterback worth a damn in this class, they had better get up into the Top 10. Now I’m not so sure they have to.
Finally let’s examine Washington’s situation. Is Case Keenum their long-term guy? No, I don’t think so. But Keenum operated best under a heavy play action system in Minnesota, and he’ll get that once again in Washington, especially when Derrius Guice is back and healthy. That wasn’t the case in Denver. The Broncos asked him to run a much more vertical offense that he was not comfortable with.
So when you look at Washington’s situation, $36M is going to Alex Smith, who won’t be playing, but Keenum’s new contract only goes $3.5M against them, so that is a good move to offset Smith a bit. Does this affect their desperation for a quarterback? I still think it does. I don’t think Washington will be as aggressive in getting a quarterback anymore, especially given the fact that they needed offensive weapons before losing Jamison Crowder. Even with a down quarterback class, I don’t think you can sit at No. 15 and realistically plan to draft one. That makes me think they aren't planning to.
If you take all that into account, and if you factor in that the Giants and Raiders are likely not high enough on any of these quarterbacks to take them in the Top 10, I think free agency gave us a clearer picture of how the NFL really views this 2019 quarterback class – not favorably.
Can Murray still go No. 1 overall? I guess anything can happen. But if you're watching the rest of the league jump ship on this quarterback class, why force one at No. 1 if you're the Cardinals? This also has an impact on potential return on trading back. Price for picks and desperation go hand-in-hand.
And if Murray DOESN'T go No. 1, well then quarterback selections could end up looking a lot different than any mock draft you've read to date.