Best Landing Spots for NFL QBs Nick Foles and Joe Flacco Next Season
Before your NFL Sunday was hijacked by Lamar Jackson and Cody Parkey and their respective collisions with Murphy's Law, NFL Network's Ian Rapoport reported that the services of a pair of Super Bowl-winning veteran quarterbacks are likely to be available this offseason.
Foles is still focused on Philly's latest improbable playoff run, while Flacco is busy cleaning out his locker following the Ravens' season-ending loss to the Los Angeles Chargers. But let's jump ahead by looking at potential landing spots for the only two quarterbacks not named Tom Brady to win Super Bowl MVP in the last six years.
Potential Front-Runner: Miami Dolphins
There's a decent chance a number of teams will find themselves playing musical chairs with quarterbacks this offseason, and the Miami Dolphins are likely to participate if they decide to part ways with veteran Ryan Tannehill.
That's exactly what they'll do, according to Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald, who reported last month that "the Dolphins are prepared to move on from Tannehill after seven seasons instead of paying him the $19 million he’s owed each of the next two seasons and carrying a $26.6 million cap hit next season."
None of that money is guaranteed.
A recent shakeup probably indicates Dolphins owner Stephen Ross is growing impatient following an 18th consecutive season without a playoff win, so I'd expect Miami to instead look to upgrade with a veteran like Flacco or Foles.
Why it's attractive: The Dolphins don't have to rebuild. They have plenty of talent on offense and several high-quality defensive players on the rise. I suppose Miami is also a fun place to live.
Potential turn-offs: They play in a division that includes the New England Patriots, and even fellow divisional bridesmaids Buffalo and the New York Jets are on the fast track with promising young franchise quarterbacks. They're also projected by Spotrac to enter the offseason with less than $14 million in salary-cap space.
Flacco or Foles?: Eric Bieniemy is a head coaching candidate in Miami, and the current Kansas City Chiefs offensive coordinator would probably install an offense similar to the one Foles runs under Bieniemy's former boss, Doug Pederson. Foles also makes more sense considering that he's younger (29 vs. 33) and the Dolphins aren't on the brink of a championship.
Another Potential Front-Runner: Jacksonville Jaguars
Coming off a rotten season but still just a year removed from a run to the AFC Championship Game, the talented but increasingly impatient Jaguars are likely done with quarterback Blake Bortles.
He'll probably be released with a post-June 1 designation, per Rapoport.
Considering the Jaguars have immediate Super Bowl aspirations, they won't likely be willing to draft and groom Bortles' replacement.
Why it's attractive: On paper, the Jaguars are one of the best teams in the NFL, and the front office is legit with Shad Khan running a no-nonsense show alongside top football guy Tom Coughlin.
Potential turn-offs: The window might be closing, and they aren't expected to have any cap wiggle room this offseason. The Jaguars would probably have to overextend themselves to pay a big-name veteran quarterback with Bortles' dead money still collecting dust.
Flacco or Foles?: Flacco might be more willing to take a pay cut in pursuit of another championship. After all, the man has made $148 million in his career.
Wild Card: Denver Broncos
Could Denver Broncos general manager John Elway cut bait on Case Keenum after just one season?
"Case is our quarterback," Elway said at his season-closing news conference, per Mike Klis of 9News.com, "right now."
There's a chance the Broncos turn to the draft for a signal-caller while giving Keenum a chance to start the second season of his two-year, $36 million deal, but there's also a chance a frustrated Elway bites if/when Foles or Flacco become available.
He would still save $11 million in cap space by releasing Keenum one year into his deal, and the Broncos don't appear as though they're willing to wait much longer to become a contender again.
Why it's attractive: The Broncos have plenty of young weapons on both offense (Phillip Lindsay, Royce Freeman, Courtland Sutton, Garett Bolles) and defense (Bradley Chubb, DeMarcus Walker), not to mention veterans Emmanuel Sanders, Von Miller and Chris Harris Jr. And even with Keenum on board, they're projected to enter the offseason with over $35 million in cap space. Plus, they're a widely respected organization with a great facility, tremendous home-field advantage and a superb fanbase.
Potential turn-offs: You'll be stuck in a division with Patrick Mahomes and the Kansas City Chiefs as well as a Los Angeles Chargers team that isn't going away. Plus, Elway doesn't have a great track record, and they're still looking for a new head coach.
Flacco or Foles?: There's no reason to believe one quarterback would be a better fit than the other in this case, but you'd have to imagine teams would generally prefer Foles—he's had a lot more recent success and is four years younger than the soon-to-be 34-year-old Flacco.
Easily Overlooked: Cincinnati Bengals
Cincinnati Bengals owner Mike Brown doesn't like paying players to play elsewhere or not to play at all, but he no longer owes a dollar to quarterback Andy Dalton. The Bengals can release Dalton and save his entire $16.2 million cap hit in 2019.
Considering they're already making their first coaching change in more than a decade-and-a-half, this might not be a bad time to attempt to upgrade at the quarterback position. After all, Dalton is 31 and coming off three consecutive poor seasons in his "prime."
So while it's probably unlikely considering the Bengals are cheap and stubborn and they'd almost certainly owe more money to Flacco or Foles than they owe Dalton, we'd consider Cincinnati to be more than a dark horse.
Why it's attractive: Brown is, at the very least, patient and loyal. A.J. Green is also a top-notch No. 1 receiver, and the AFC North could be wide-open. Oh, and Cincinnati will likely have more money to spend than anyone else on this list.
Potential turn-offs: They prefer not to spend that money, and there's a good chance Foles or Flacco would feel less than fully supported there. They haven't won a playoff game since The Simpsons was in its sophomore season.
Flacco or Foles?: Don't look for the Ravens to trade Flacco within their division.
In Case of Emergency: Washington Redskins
The grim reality is there's a chance Alex Smith's career will end the same way as Joe Theismann's. The 34-year-old suffered a gruesome leg injury in November, which led to multiple surgeries, a four-week hospital stay and plenty of doubt about the future of the Washington Redskins quarterback.
Making matters worse, the team owes Smith $41.8 million in salary-cap space the next two seasons, which might make it difficult to replace him with a veteran like Foles or Flacco. Smith would have no reason to retire and forfeit millions of dollars, but the team and player could theoretically come to an injury settlement.
Regardless, if it becomes clear Smith won't be available for much of the 2019 season, Washington would likely at least inquire about any quarterbacks on the free-agent or trade markets.
Why it's attractive: The Redskins have been relatively competitive the last two seasons, despite a slew of killer injuries on both sides of the ball.
Potential turn-offs: Everyone's always hurt, they don't have much money, owner Daniel Snyder is reviled, they appear to be hemorrhaging fans and they're probably the worst team in their division.
Flacco or Foles?: Foles wouldn't likely be traded in the division, so this is probably only a potential landing spot for Flacco if he loses that game of musical chairs with guys like Tannehill, Bridgewater, Dalton, Keenum and/or Stafford.
Dark Horse: New York Giants
We've received mixed messages about Eli Manning's future with the New York Giants, but the team hasn't come out and declared that the veteran quarterback will return in 2019. So for now, the G-Men have to be considered a dark-horse candidate to enter the Flacco or Foles sweepstakes.
The Giants look as though they'll have a decent amount of cap space regardless of what happens with Manning, but they also hold the No. 6 overall pick in the draft. The five teams ahead of them all appear to be set at the quarterback position.
In other words, they might be better off drafting Manning's successor than paying a veteran who wouldn't necessarily provide a big upgrade.
Why it's attractive: The Odell Beckham Jr.-Saquon Barkley tandem is becoming one of the best offensive duos in football, and they have some strong pieces along the offensive line as well as on defense. They played relatively well down the stretch in 2018 and could compete in the wide-open NFC East.
Flacco or Foles?: Again, there's a chance the Eagles wouldn't be willing to trade Foles to a division rival, which means that would likely require him to hit the open market. But Flacco might make more sense anyway because he might be cheaper and willing to take a shorter deal, and you get the feeling the Giants are going to make a run at a signal-caller in the draft.
Mega-Dark Horse: New England Patriots
What if Tom Brady is telling us he wants to play for, like, 738 more years but is actually planning to retire if he wins one more championship? That's been speculated, and it wouldn't be a stunning development.
If by chance Brady wins his sixth ring next month in Atlanta and then decides to walk away, the Patriots—who don't have a succession plan at quarterback after trading Jimmy Garoppolo and Jacoby Brissett last year—would almost certainly be interested in veteran quarterbacks on the market.
You'd think they'd be enticed by Foles (who beat them in Super Bowl LII) or Flacco (the only quarterback without the surname "Manning" who has defeated Brady in multiple playoff games).
Why it's attractive: They're the New England Patriots.
Potential turn-offs: You'd have the largest shoes in the galaxy to fill, with nearly impossible expectations.
Flacco or Foles?: You'd think Bill Belichick would see the younger Foles as more easily programmable, and he certainly has more upside. He's also generally less of a risk-taker, which is probably what the Pats would prefer out of a bridge quarterback.
Excluded for Now: Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tennessee Titans
Some might consider the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and/or Tennessee Titans—who drafted Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota 1-2 in 2015—to be dark-horse candidates to land Foles or Flacco. But the Bucs have stated emphatically—per The Athletic's Greg Auman—that Winston will return in 2019, while there's no indication the Titans are ready to move on from Mariota.
“We’re excited to have him around here for the next couple of years," Titans general manager Jon Robinson said prior to this season, per Jim Wyatt of the team's official website, "and hopefully after the next season we can start to figure something out to keep him around even longer.”
That could all change, especially with the Bucs looking for a new head coach. But for now, it's probably safe to exclude Tampa Bay and Tennessee from the race.