2015 NFL Predictions: Which Teams Need to Make a Change at Quarterback?
The NFL has been said to be a passing league time and time again, as you really only notice franchise quarterbacks when your team doesn’t have one. It’s been proven that teams can make the playoffs and even win Super Bowls with less than elite options under center, but you at least need some form of stability at the position to succeed. Several NFL teams can’t say they have it at the moment and come free agency and the draft, could be thinking about making a big change. Let’s take a look at the teams who have the most to think about heading into next season, as well as what they should do:
Buffalo Bills – Tyrod Taylor
Taylor has been pretty good in his first full season as a starter, as he helped the Bills to a solid 8-8 finish despite missing some time with a knee injury. He definitely is still rough around the edges as a pocket passer, but he emerged as one of the league’s better dual threat quarterbacks and also flashed brilliance as a passer. His own GM has openly criticized him and pondered his future, but Taylor should have a chance to remain as the team’s starting quarterback next year. Not bringing in a young prospect out of the draft would be a bad move, however.
Miami Dolphins – Ryan Tannehill
A lot of people are down on Tannehill due to another losing season, but he led the Fins to a big week 17 win over the Patriots and put up a career high in passing yardage this year. There was a ton of toxicity around Tannehill due to a lot of coaching changes, and it does still remain to be determined if he’s the answer under center. Statistically speaking he’s been getting the job, done, though, and his contract suggests he’ll still be the guy in 2016. It’s unlikely that Miami seriously considers moving on. Instead, they’ll work to bring in new coaches that believe in him and can maximize his talent.
New York Jets – Ryan Fitzpatrick
The Jets ran out of Fitzmagic in week 17, as they missed the playoffs despite a very solid 10-6 run. In other years, Gang Green would be in and Fitzpatrick would be a hero for a very sound season that saw him put up a career high 31 passing touchdowns, but he’s only a stop-gap solution at 33 years old. Fitzpatrick isn’t necessarily the future and he folded in week 17, but he was and is a very stable option until the Jets can find their next passer of the future. That’s not Geno Smith, so look for New York to hang onto Fitzpatrick and go after a nice, young prospect in this year’s draft.
Cleveland Browns – Johnny Manziel
Manziel showed solid progress as a quarterback on the field this year, but his nominal positive steps in football may not be enough to keep him in Cleveland. Manziel has not been able to avoid being an off field distraction, as this year he had one run-in with the law and was caught partying multiple times. With the Browns likely to drop their GM and coaches, it could be a clean sweep with him being shipped off somewhere (Dallas?) in a trade. That would put the Browns in perfect position to grab Paxton Lynch early in the 2016 NFL Draft.
Houston Texans – Brian Hoyer
Hoyer has not been amazing as Houston’s starter, but he ended up proving to be the better option over Ryan Mallett and has done enough to get the Texans a division crown and playoff appearance. Houston probably needs to draft a quarterback of the future in the upcoming draft, but due to solid success with Hoyer, he’s probably earned one more year on the job. The Texans haven’t really invested in the position in Bill O’Brien’s first two seasons, though, so spending an early pick on a young passing prospect is highly advised.
Denver Broncos – Peyton Manning
Manning is completely done with the Broncos and likely done in the league after seeing his play and body tail off over the year. It’s still possible he returns and leads the Broncos on a playoff run, but he’s run out of gas and simply has little left to give anyone. The big question will be whether the Broncos buy Brock Osweiler as the future. He’s been decent enough to suggest he could be, but shaky enough that they can’t afford to go into 2016 without a backup plan. Look for them to cut ties with Manning, insert Osweiler as the 2016 starter and draft a young quarterback to potentially groom behind him for a year.
Philadelphia Eagles – Sam Bradford
Chip Kelly is gone and Bradford could end up following him, as his first season in Philly generated very mixed reviews and he is scheduled to hit free agency. He still has upside as a pocket passer and probably never fit Kelly’s system, so it’s not impossible to think Philly’s new regime sees value in him. It’s probably best for both sides to start over, however. Bradford has a few spots he could choose from, while the Eagles may just want to draft a new passer in April. A number of quarterbacks like RG3, Colin Kaepernick and Jay Cutler could also potentially be available for trade.
Washington Redskins – Kirk Cousins
RG3’s tenure is over and as shaky as Cousins was to start 2015, he ended up proving he’s a bit of a gamer. It could just be a one-year wonder type of showing, but Cousins ended up looking like a perfect fit for Jay Gruden’s balanced offense. That should turn into a solid contract, oddly making Cousins the Redskins franchise passer as RG3 exits D.C.
Chicago Bears – Jay Cutler
Cutler is on the books again for a hefty salary, so the only way he’s not with the Bears next year is if he gets traded. That’s entirely possible with playoff level teams like the Bills and Jets possibly being a quarterback away from taking the next step, but he really wasn’t the problem at all in Chicago this year. In fact, he was pretty good and kept a seemingly bad and always banged up Bears team rather competitive. Instead of worry about quarterback, the Bears should focus on improving their defense and retaining Alshon Jeffery during the off-season.
St. Louis Rams – Nick Foles/Case Keenum
Nick Foles was a trade disaster and Keenum is a replacement level talent at best. If Jeff Fisher indeed gets one more year to figure things out, he needs to find a way to figure out the quarterback position and neither of these guys can be involved. The reality is the Rams have a stud running back and a borderline elite defense and they just need a competent quarterback to guide their offense. Making a trade for someone like Jay Cutler or signing Ryan Fitzpatrick away from the Jets could be smart, but they just can’t sit on what they currently have.
San Francisco 49ers – Blaine Gabbert
Colin Kaepernick played his way out of the Bay Area, while former bust Gabbert surprisingly looked quite good down the stretch for a very bad Niners team. Gabbert was poised and got some wins while displaying a lively arm, nice athleticism and improved awareness. It’d be awfully gutsy for the 49ers to stroll into 2016 thinking he’s their savior, but he’s still young and has some upside to tap into. He’s also on the cheap, so San Francisco could keep him for one more year as they groom whatever passer they get in this year’s draft.