With the bulk of the NFL's free agency period completed, I wanted to look at some of the quarterback signings teams have made.
Old Team: Washington
New Team: Minnesota
Team Grade: A-
For some reason, Washington never fully embraced Kirk Cousins. The team's former GM, Scot McCloughan told a Denver radio station, "I don’t see special. But also, we were still building a roster around him to make him special." So after averaging 4,300 yards and 27 touchdowns in the past three seasons and getting franchise tagged twice, he was finally let go.
Cousins may not have been Washington's idea of a franchise quarterback, but he should be a perfect fit for Minnesota. The Vikings are stacked on both sides of the ball. They have a great offensive line, a stellar pass catching duo in Stefon Diggs and Adam Thielen, and unlike what Cousins had in Washington, a strong running attack. This move should make the Vikings one of the Super Bowl favorites.
Old Team: Kansas City
New Team: Washington
Team Grade: B-
Even though he's four years older, Smith should be a better fit for Washington's offense than Kirk Cousins because of his athleticism. He will also provide stability for a franchise that has been unsure about their quarterback for years. Smith won't have the same caliber of weapons on offense in Washington as he had in Kansas City, but Jamison Crowder, Jordan Reed and Chris Thompson are all good players. The question is, as it always seems to be in Washington, is the front office. The way they handled Kirk Cousins was spotty at best, short-sighted at worst.
Old Team: Minnesota
New Team: Denver
Team Grade: B
Trevor Siemian, Brock Osweiler, and Paxton Lynch all took snaps for the Broncos in 2017 and all were in short, terrible. And after realizing that they were going to be out of the Kirk Cousins sweepstakes, John Elway went to Plan B. Case Keenum is coming off a career year with the Vikings where he threw 22 touchdowns with just seven interceptions and completed 67.6 percent of his passes. His accuracy and propensity to avoid turnovers is probably the biggest reason why Elway made him a Bronco. Siemian, Osweiler, and Lynch combined for 22 interceptions, the second worst total in football.
Keenum's deal is only for two years which tells me that the Broncos are hedging their bet. They can draft a quarterback this April to develop or extend Keenum if he plays the way he did last year. Or maybe they do both. Either way, the Broncos have made the right move for the future.
Old Team: Minnesota
New Team: Arizona
Team Grade: D
I'm sure Sam Bradford is a nice guy, but I don't get this signing.
The Heisman trophy winner has had a string of injuries since he was the first pick of the 2010 NFL Draft. Since Arizona has had some luck in with past reclamation projects Carson Palmer and Kurt Warner, I'm sure they think that the third time with Bradford will be charmed as well. Do the Cardinals doctors know things that other team doctors don't? Last season, Minnesota Vikings coach Mike Zimmer described Bradford’s knee problem as degenerative. Just the thought of that should make any GM think three or four times before signing him.
The Cardinals must have been aware since they signed Mike Glennon as well. But if they are using Bradford as a one year gap, why sign him at all? Why not just use Glennon as the starter and keep that money to pay the players that the Cardinals decided to let go like Tyrann Mathieu?
With the Rams and 49ers making big strides in the NFC West, the Cardinals are going to be looking up again. Larry Fitzgerald deserves better.
Josh McCown and Teddy Bridgewater
Old Teams: Resigned (McCown) Minnesota (Bridgewater)
New Team: New York Jets
Team Grade: Incomplete
The New York Jets dealt the sixth overall pick, two second-round choices this year (the 37th and 49th) and a 2019 second-round pick to the Indianapolis Colts and are clearly looking to take a quarterback. Is it the strong armed but inconsistent Josh Allen of Wyoming? Will it be the dynamic, but inexperienced Sam Darnold of USC? Is it the talented, but aloof Josh Rosen of UCLA? Or is it Heisman winner and mercurial Baker Mayfield of Oklahoma?
Josh McCown is a solid journeyman who has helped and will help any young quarterback the Jets select. Teddy Bridgewater was off to a great start to his career until a devastating knee injury set him back for the last two seasons. But it's hard to see what the Jets are going to do when it's possible that they may have to settle with their second or third choice of the four players I listed above.
Old Team: Cincinnati
New Team: Buffalo
Team Grade: C+
This was probably the quietest QB signing of the offseason, but it could be the one with the most consequence. McCarron has only has three regular season and one playoff start under his belt, but might have the highest upside of all the signings. He's a smart player and in limited action, his stats have been good (66% completion rate, 97.1 quarterback rating, six touchdowns and two interceptions.) And with his cap-friendly number of $3M this season, the Bills won't be extending themselves financially.
But with the Jets trading up in the draft, the Bills could find themselves without one of the top QB prospects when they pick 12th. Nearly every team ahead of them have a need for a quarterback. If don't get a QB to develop in the draft and McCarron's inexperience begins to show, then it will be yet another long winter in upstate New York.
Old Team: Buffalo
New Team: Cleveland
Team Grade: A
With former GM Sashi Brown and his...let's just call it unique take on team building out and the more traditional John Dorsey in, the Browns could be on the rise. But then again, when you've been 1-31 in the last two seasons, there's nowhere else to go but up.
Tyrod Taylor led Buffalo to their first postseason in 18 years last season. He'll be the 28th QB they've started since their return to the NFL in 1999. But he'll be throwing to newly acquired WR Jarvis Landry, promising tight end David Njoku, the (hopefully) clean Josh Gordon, and handing the ball to Duke Johnson and free agent signee Carlos Hyde. Taylor is a solid and at times electric player that will inject some excitement into a franchise that desperately needs it.
But perhaps best of all, the Browns have a number of options from which to choose. With the first and fourth picks they could take any combination of Penn State running back Saquan Barkley, Notre Dame guard Quenton Nelson, NC State defensive end Bradley Chubb, or Wyoming's Josh Allen, considered the best QB prospect in the draft. Or they could trade down from the number one pick and get a king's ransom in return.
For the first time in forever, it feels there is light at the end of the tunnel for the Cleveland Browns. I just hope that bright light isn't an oncoming train...again.