With two solid showings in the preseason under his belt, Teddy Bridgewater has become a trade target for teams seeking a temporary upgrade that can provide a bridge to their next franchise quarterback… or at the least a reliable backup. The New York Jets have made it clear that Sam Darnold is their guy come Week 1, and Josh McCown proved last year that he can be a more than adequate #2. The Jets took a bit of a gamble signing Bridgewater to a one year, $6 million deal ($5 million non-guaranteed P5 base salary, $500k signing bonus, $500k workout bonus) that included an additional $9 million in incentives based on performance and percentage of playing time. These incentives (for example: $250k for every game he plays 50% of the snaps) effectively discourage the Jets from starting him. The gamble appears to have paid off whether the Jets ultimately decide to keep Bridgewater as a backup, especially considering that Josh McCown is 39 years old, or if they end up trading him for what could be a decent return.
2017 was the year of the backup QB. NFL teams understand now more than ever the importance of depth at the most vital position on the field. The Eagles proved that teams with stout defenses and a bevy of weapons can recover from the loss of an MVP-caliber QB if their backup is above average. The teams I selected as Bridgewater’s potential destinations all share one thing: a strong need for an upgraded QB2.
New York Giants – The Giants appear to have no reliable backup quarterback for Eli Manning, as Davis Webb’s two lackluster preseason performances have not inspired any confidence. While 4th round pick Kyle Lauletta has shown flashes and may develop into a quality quarterback, the adjustment from Division I-AA University of Richmond to the NFL will take some time. The Giants decided against jumpstarting a rebuild this offseason and instead are attempting one last push before Eli (37 years old) retires. It would be foolish with all they have invested in this offense, including consecutive first round draft picks in Evan Engram and Saquon Barkley, to allow it all go to waste should Eli get hurt.
The division rival Eagles obviously showed how crucial a good backup QB can be. But it doesn’t have to be a miraculous Super Bowl run; Teddy Bridgewater subbing in for Eli for a hypothetical 2-4 week injury could be the difference between a playoff berth or an early trip to the golf course in a highly competitive NFC East. Eli Manning carries a $22.2 million cap hit into 2018, which is the final year of his deal that includes guaranteed base salary. On the third day of the league year in 2019 he will earn a $5 million roster bonus, but if he is cut before then the only dead money the Giants will carry on the cap is the final $6.2 million of his signing bonus. The aforementioned Davis Webb and Kyle Lauletta are carrying a combined 2018 cap hit of just $1,528,456.
What likely prevents this move is the fact that the Giants have very little cap room, with just $1,481,401 currently available, and with Odell Beckham Jr. still seeking a new deal. However, Odell’s 5th year option currently counts for $8,459,000 against the cap for 2018 and that number could be reduced with a new deal that has a small base salary amount for 2018. This would certainly be a great concession for Odell and his agent to make that benefits both parties in the long run. Cutting former first round pick and major disappointment Ereck Flowers is certainly an option as well after the Giants signed Nate Solder to a huge deal to become their new starter at LT. One big factor that cannot be forgotten: Giants new head coach Pat Shurmur was the Vikings offensive coordinator the last two seasons and obviously knows Bridgewater well.
New Orleans Saints – If there is one surefire way to determine that a franchise does not believe they have their quarterback of the future on the roster it is playing him on special teams, which is exactly what the Saints did with Taysom Hill in 2017. Hill, an undrafted free agent out of BYU (where he was plagued by injury), has been referred to as the “heir apparent” to Drew Brees. Place me firmly in the camp that believes comments like these coming from the Saints are more an effort to boost Hill’s confidence than anything else. Rumors that the Saints were seriously considering drafting Lamar Jackson only bolster this belief.
Hill threw two interceptions on his first two drives in the Saints latest preseason game against the Arizona Cardinals, and while an argument could be made that one of them was more WR Cam Meredith’s fault, the second one was downright ugly. Hill displayed the athleticism that has caught the eye of the Saints with three carries for 43 yards, but he had a paltry 4.53 YPA on his fifteen passes. Suffice it to say, he is not the heir apparent to Drew Brees in New Orleans.
Tom Savage is the only other QB on the roster. The Saints are another team far too heavily invested in making a deep playoff push the next two seasons as Drew Brees’ career comes to an end to have it all collapse should Brees miss time. The NFC South is just as competitive as the NFC East, if not more so. Every game matters. The Saints’ defensive overhaul last season was very successful, and the Saints traded away their 2019 first round pick to move up for UTSA Edge rusher Marcus Davenport. Like the Giants, the Saints do not have a ton of cap room, due in part to a very questionable contract for free agent LB Demario Davis, which earned a spot on Jason’s “Worst of bad NFL contracts” list here. Regardless, trading for Bridgewater is something the Saints should certainly consider.
Denver Broncos – Paxton Lynch receiving a downpour of boos in Denver following another bad performance against the Chicago Bears in the Broncos’ most recent preseason game is just further confirmation that the QB situation behind Case Keenum is not in a good place. Perhaps no team in the NFL last year had an uglier QB carousel than Denver, completely derailing what is otherwise a very solid team at most positions on the offensive and defensive side of the ball.
Keenum was signed to put an end to the disaster that was the Trevor Siemian/Brock Osweiler/Paxton Lynch trio. However, should Keenum go down, the Broncos will have to turn to Chad Kelly, the last overall draft pick in 2017. Kelly has impressed thus far in preseason and is certainly talented; an injury and character concerns killed his draft stock more than anything he ever did on the field. Nevertheless, Denver would be smart to ensure that their contingency plan if Keenum misses some time is better than two young, unproven quarterbacks (Lynch may be proven… proven he is indeed not an NFL caliber QB).
The Broncos have some cap room to work with, about $9.8 million. This team is also on the “too good to let a bad QB ruin their entire season” list.
Dallas Cowboys – This might make the most sense of any team on this list as the Dallas Cowboys currently have Cooper Rush, an undrafted free agent out of Central Michigan, as their #2 QB. Much like the division rival Eagles, the Cowboys have an elite offensive line that can make life easy for an above average quarterback. Dak Prescott may have suffered from a sophomore slump, or he may have sorely missed Ezekiel Elliott in the backfield, but whatever caused his struggles the fact is he was not great in 2017. Prescott clearly has the full trust and support of the coaching staff and front office in Dallas, but another rocky start may put that into question.
The big offseason storyline in Dallas was obviously the loss of Jason Witten to retirement and the release of Dez Bryant. The two accounted for a whopping 45.1% of Dak Prescott’s targets in 2017 and were replaced by a blocking tight end in Geoff Swaim (nine catches in three seasons in Dallas) and former Jacksonville Jaguars WR Allen Hurns. The Cowboys also drafted Michael Gallup, a wide receiver out of Colorado State, who has been impressive in camp and the preseason lining up in Dez’ old spot as the ‘X’ receiver. Replacing nearly half of Dak’s targets while losing the ultimate security blanket that was Jason Witten is no small task. With all of these new pieces working to build on their chemistry and skills in Dallas, a highly accurate quarterback like Teddy Bridgewater at the very least would provide a great benefit in practice.
The other big offseason storyline in Dallas has been the Cowboys’ pursuit of Seattle Seahawks safety Earl Thomas. With Cowboys safety Xavier Woods suffering an injury against the Bengals that reportedly may cause him to miss time in the regular season, adding a safety is likely their top priority, as it may be the most glaring weakness on the roster. This development may prevent a move for Bridgewater. The Cowboys may also elect to go with a cheaper option at safety which would leave room for Bridgewater. A move for Thomas would require a trade and likely a big new contract, something that has been extremely rare for safeties this offseason. There are plenty of theories for why this is, my personal belief is that all NFL teams have drastically reduced the value of safeties given the new lowering-the-helmet rule. It’s hard to justify spending top dollar on a position that the NFL rule book appears to have all but eliminated from the game (enough on that tangent, though I could certainly go on).
Houston Texans – The Texans may not want to add another QB to their roster with a history of significant knee issues considering what they had to endure after Deshaun Watson went down last season. The loss of Deshaun Watson to a torn ACL (the second of his career) effectively ended the Texans season in 2017 as they went 1-8 in their final nine games with Tom Savage at the helm. The Texans certainly have the talent to make some noise in the AFC South following a productive offseason. Houston added former Arizona Cardinals S/CB Tyrann Mathieu to a secondary that needed some help, as well as former Kansas City Chiefs guard Zach Fulton and former New Orleans Saints guard Senio Kelemete to an offensive line that needed a lot of help.
The NFL has yet to experience J.J. Watt and Jadeveon Clowney sharing the field for an extended period, but there is no question that opposing offensive tackles and QBs are already shaking in their boots. Whitney Mercilus is an underrated pass rusher as well, he could be a nightmare for opposing offenses to deal with if they are forced to pay too much attention to the outside. Add in a healthy Will Fuller for Watson to target opposite Deandre Hopkins and this team could take a major leap in 2018.
I am less high on Deshaun Watson than everyone else on the planet seems to be, maybe (read: definitely) because I’m a die-hard Bears fan and am sick of hearing how Watson should have been drafted ahead of my guy Mitchell Trubisky. All jokes aside, Watson throws a ton of interceptable passes that go unnoticed because Deandre Hopkins is perhaps the best jump ball receiver in the NFL. Watson had a 3.9% interception rate, ranking above only Trevor Siemian and Deshone Kizer for QBs with 200 or more pass attempts in 2017. But most importantly, Watson’s backups are Brandon Weeden (who the Texans released in 2017 because they preferred Tom Savage and Brock Osweiler) and a special teams player in Joe Webb. The backup QB situation alone is enough of a reason for the Texans to take a serious look at making a move for Bridgewater. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt that the Texans currently have more than $34 million in cap space.
Miami Dolphins – Much like the Houston Texans, there is no shortage of knee issues for QBs already in Miami. On the other hand, losing Tannehill in 2017 forced the Dolphins to coax a lazy Jay Cutler out of retirement (for the not so cheap price tag of $10 million) because the backup QBs on their roster were not playable. That is still the case this season, with David Fales and Brock Osweiler currently slated to replace Tannehill should he get hurt in 2018. Fales earned the trust of Dolphins head coach Adam Gase when the two spent time together in Chicago, but he is no more than a solid QB room presence. Osweiler is on his fourth team in two years.
Unlike the first five teams mentioned, I don’t believe the Dolphins have a great shot to make the playoffs regardless of the situation at QB following a potential injury to Tannehill. I am not as bearish on Miami as many other pundits though, and the AFC is not a deep conference in 2018, so anything is possible.
After clearing several big contracts from the books this offseason (Ndamukong Suh for example), the Dolphins have $14.38 million in cap space. The Dolphins appear to believe in Tannehill, but it is impossible to predict the performance of any player coming off an ACL tear. The Dolphins are likely going through a mini rebuild and looking for their next gunslinger. I for one was shocked that they did not make a move in the draft for Josh Rosen, but that’s just one man’s opinion.
Seattle Seahawks – Last but not least the Seattle Seahawks; in my opinion the worst team on this list. Reports surfaced, and were subsequently disputed by some in the Seahawks organization, that Seattle reached out to the Colts offering a 2nd round pick for QB Jacoby Brissett. The compensation seems a bit excessive, but Seattle has made plenty of extremely puzzling moves this offseason, so it wouldn’t come as a total surprise. The Seahawks have holes to address at a ton of positions besides quarterback, but if Russell Wilson were to go down there is no doubt in my mind that backup QB Austin Davis would struggle to win a single game. The Seahawks have clearly shown that they are making a concerted effort to clear the books to focus on the future, but a one-year flyer on Bridgewater would not affect them long term.
If these rumors are true, I’d say this is very scary news for Seahawks fans. There is no indication that Russell Wilson has any plans of leaving when his contract expires in 2019, but this alleged move by Seattle would be the first warning sign. The offer of a second-round pick would be far less confusing if the Seahawks are working on a contingency plan for Wilson. It’s worth noting that this article could have been written about Jacoby Brissett as well, but with Andrew Luck’s health still a question mark I’d be shocked if the Colts traded a promising young QB with two years remaining on his rookie deal.