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9 quarterbacks who could be available via trade this offseason

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Divisional Round - Minnesota Vikings v San Francisco 49ers Photo by Thearon W. Henderson/Getty Images

It seems as though the 2020 offseason could be headed in the direction of the craziest quarterback market we’ve ever seen. Whether it’s the inflated value of a good quarterback on his rookie contract or the inflated statistics of QBs in the modern game that may make them look better than they are or the inflation around franchise quarterback contracts, unprecedented movement may be coming.

Or could this really all just be due to one player hitting the market, the domino known as Tom Brady?

There are even more potential reasons for what could become a headline of, “QB Carousel Goes Off Rails, Throws Good Players As Far As Vegas, Tampa Bay. Derek Carr Missing.”

Maybe it’s the 2021 collective bargaining agreement negotiations. Maybe it’s the fact that Brady is still a viable option at 43, the first player to ever claim that. Or that it trickles down to Philip Rivers at 39, also potentially searching for a new home and not considered past his usable abilities. But then again ... do we even really understand any more what “good abilities” even are for a QB?

The average team passer rating was 90.4. In 2013, that number was 86. In 2009, it was 83. That was when Drew Brees, age 30, completed an unheard of 70.6% of his passes, led the NFL in passer rating at 109.6, and QBR at 83.4. Him, Sean Payton, and Pete Carmichael changed offenses around the league forever and elevated the bar on their way to a Super Bowl championship over Peyton Manning, who himself posted a paltry rating of 99.9 that season.

Three years later he was in Denver and as the Broncos quarterback, averaged 44 touchdowns and a rating of 107.8, including his 2013 mark of 115.1 ... which didn’t even lead the NFL that season. That title belonged to Nick Foles and his 119.2 rating with the Philadelphia Eagles.

Can you believe that just six years ago, Chip Kelly was considered an NFL offensive genius? Well, maybe he was in the sense that he helped show the league that you could even make Foles look like a Hall of Fame-level player at efficiency, which Doug Pederson eventually used to ride Foles to three straight playoff wins and a Super Bowl championship in 2013.

Pederson had been pretty used to the concept of inflating efficiency, having been Andy Reid’s offensive coordinator in Kansas City for three years and turning Alex Smith from a 28-year-old disappointment with a ceiling of 18 touchdowns to a Pro Bowl QB averaging 21 and seven over his three seasons under Pederson.

And as you know, Pederson would leave for Philly, Smith would get traded to Washington, and the Chiefs would turn to Patrick Mahomes, the most efficient quarterback in league history at this moment. Not to overreact, because I’m not quite calling Mahomes the GOAT after two seasons as a starter, but you can’t argue that his first two seasons have once again set a new bar.

In 2009 you had Brees.

In 2013 you had Manning.

In 2019 you have Mahomes.

And now last season’s “league average” type quarterbacks were something between Kyler Murray, who as a 22-year-old rookie on 2018’s worst team posted 20 touchdowns, 12 interceptions, and rushed for 544 yards, and perhaps as high as Aaron Rodgers, who has now thrown six interceptions in his last 1,166 pass attempts over the last two seasons.

Yes, Rodgers may now be a league-average QB, and some would argue he’s even below that because of his now-mediocre 7 yards per attempt. But of the top 32 QBs, 7 Y/A ranked 17th ... average.

And the league’s best Y/A mark was 9.6, which was a full yard better than second place. That figure was the seventh-highest of all-time on a minimum of 250 pass attempts, and the highest we’ve seen in the league since Kurt Warner went for 9.9 Y/A in the year 2000. And that number was posted by Ryan Tannehill.

Yes, the league may have set a new bar for efficiency and it is entirely possible now that you don’t need a future Hall of Famer to give you really good passing statistics. He could be a rookie. Or a 40-year-old veteran. Or a castaway from another franchise.

Keep these facts in mind as I lay out for you nine quarterbacks who could be available in trade this offseason. Six of them were unquestioned starters, for the most part, last season. Three of them signed relatively expensive deals last year. Two of them were high draft picks still on their rookie contracts. One of them went to the Super Bowl last year. One of them went to the Super Bowl this year.

Some of these names will sound crazy but then compared to the reality we’re living in — a salary cap over $200 million, Kirk Cousins getting $30 million per year, Gardner Minshew being relatively the same as Aaron Rodgers, and teams potentially cutting ties with 28-year-old Pro Bowlers for a 43-year-old — it’s not crazy. What is crazy might be believing that a QB can help you win a Super Bowl these days because he threw three times as many interceptions as touchdowns.

That’s efficiency compared to yesterday, but not so much compared to his peers today. Teams now rotating potential Hall of Famers and current Pro Bowlers is not crazy, the world we’re now living in is.

Ryan Fitzpatrick was ninth in the NFL in QBR. Case Keenum was 15th in passer rating. Lamar Jackson led the NFL in touchdowns and was 26th in pass attempts. Tannehill posted a higher net yards per pass attempt mark than any season Peyton Manning ever had with the Colts.

The world is crazy. And that crazy world could potentially deal any of these nine quarterbacks. I will only be brief in my words on each quarterback and then we’ll decide which are worthy of further study as more times passes.

Hopefully in that amount of time passing, the average passer rating hasn’t gone up to 100.

(“But Ken, you’re saying that the LA Chargers should trade for these guys? You are so stupid! I hate you! You’re not my real writer! I’m running away!!” No, I’m not saying that the Chargers should trade for any of these guys. I’m simply informing you that these players may be available. And also think of your mother and how upset she’d be if you were gone.)

Josh Rosen, 23, Dolphins

Though Rosen has the least amount of street cred, he also might have the most potential. He turns 23 next Monday and he’s only thrown 502 pass attempts; in both opportunities he was playing for the team ranked 32nd in overall DVOA. Think about that: with the Cards and Dolphins, Rosen has now spent both of his career seasons on the worst team in the league.

We talked about efficiency and rookies like Murray and Minshew though, so it is concerning that Rosen has been as bad as he’s been: 12 touchdowns, 19 interceptions, 5.7 Y/A, 63.5 rating. And it’s not as though you’d be comfortable trading for him and starting him if you wanted to compete next season. He may be in the best position now if he’s just Miami’s backup for whoever they draft — but not even Arizona wanted to do that with him and Murray.

The Cards spent the 10th pick on him. The Dolphins spent the 62nd. The next team may only need to hand over a sixth rounder? He’s also the cheapest option on the list, even if he’s only proven to be worth his contract thus far.

Cap hit: $750,000 base salary

Joe Flacco, 35, Broncos

Flacco was benched for Lamar Jackson in 2018 and the Ravens turned around their season. He was benched for Drew Lock in 2019 and Denver went 4-1 under him compared to 2-6 with Flacco. I guess the point is that whatever team trades for Flacco is getting a guy you can bench for the future of your franchise. Like, Flacco is there to make things look horrible in comparison to the next guy. Pretty smart move by Flacco, to suck so bad that is.

It’s hard to imagine that Flacco is tradeable though given his 2020 salary. Denver saves $10 million by releasing him and the next team to sign him probably pays something akin to Tyrod Taylor money, which is $7-8 million.

Cap hit: $20 million base salary

Jacoby Brissett, 27, Colts

The Patriots only got Phillip Dorsett when they dealt Brissett to Indianapolis, but maybe Colts GM Chris Ballard could snag a slightly better return than that if he moves him this offseason. Which is looking increasingly likely, if he’s not just released outright.

Brissett signed a $30 million extension in 2019 and will get a $7 million roster bonus on the third day of this league year (it is already guaranteed), but his 2020 base salary is only $6 million. After the season he just had, his second as Indy’s starter, there’s little reason to believe that Ballard believes that he can make the playoffs with Brissett next year.

But another team with no other options and only seeing a $6 million base salary could easily pick up the phone.

Brissett is one of the prime examples of inflated numbers, especially TD:INT ratio as he did throw 18 touchdowns vs only six picks. But he averaged only 6.6 yards per attempt and could not get the ball down the field. Consider that he has been the sandwich bread to Andrew Luck’s 2018 season; Luck had 39 touchdowns and 15 picks that year, while Brissett has thrown 31 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in his two seasons as starter combined.

He’s a backup. Indy may hang onto him because he’s a good backup but he should be available.

Cap hit: $6 million base salary

Nick Foles, 31, Jaguars

Speak of the green devil. Foles signed a four-year, $88 million deal with $50 million in guarantees last year. Despite that, Jacksonville would still save $3 million if they trade him and though they’d keep $18.7 in dead money, they could comfortably transition to the Minshew era. Or some other era. Few expect there to ever be another Foles era.

In the last four years, Foles has thrown a total of 468 passes. He’s completed 66.5% for 3,096 yards, 18 touchdowns, and eight interceptions with 6.6 Y/A. Basically, Foles is Brissett if you cut him up and served him to a family of four. He’s the rationed Brissett.

I don’t know why a team would trade for Nick Foles. I don’t know why a team would give him $88 million last year either.

Cap hit: $15.1 million base salary

Derek Carr, 29, Raiders

Rumor has it that LAS VEGAS is ready to accept a scenario in which they part with three-time Pro Bowl QB Derek Carr. I myself have been trying to spread that rumor since 2017. Carr used to be underrated and then he became overrated and now he’s probably properly rated. He’s a completely fine QB. He’s not great. He’s probably not good. Though he is coming off his best season by a long shot: 70.4% completions, 21 TD, eight INT, 7.9 Y/A, 100.8 rating, 63.7 QBR.

These are good numbers and not many people were praising Darren Waller as a number one option headed into the year, not to mention that his next best options were Hunter Renfrow and Tyrell Williams. Wait, is Carr being underrated again?

Probably not. You should read this intro I wrote about inflated efficiency. I can’t remember where it is, let me look for it....oh yeah, it’s at the top of this page.

His season is kind of interesting but the idea of Carr winning playoff games seems unrealistic to me. He could be on a team that wins playoff games a la the 2019 San Francisco 49ers, but he may not be the guy who is responsible a la the 49ers QB.

The Raiders would save $16.5 million by releasing or trading Carr. The acquiring team would pay...

Cap hit: $18.9 million base salary

Mitchell Trubisky, 26, Bears

For the record, I’m posting the age they’ll be the majority of next season.

I don’t know what to say other than I think Trubisky is a really bad starting quarterback. But because he was the second overall pick three years ago, people will have interest in him and believe he can be better. Just a year ago he posted a QBR of 70.8, but maybe that’s just a black eye on the already-spotty record of QBR. That season, Trubisky dumped off 91 passes to Tarik Cohen and nobody on the team had more than 754 yards, which is to say that he doesn’t feel like a player capable of maximizing the talents of really good receivers like Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. He feels like a player who minimizes everyone around him, and the coaching, and that’s why Chicago is probably going to replace him.

Reminder that Trubisky was rated higher at the time of the draft than Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. Keep that in your pocket during every single draft and the way that the QBs in that class are talked about. Keep that in mind this April.

The Bears save about half of his $9.2 million salary if traded. He may be available for as little as a fourth round pick? I don’t know. Would you rather draft a QB in the fourth or use that pick to get a 26-year-old who has thus far proven to be bad but may have a higher perceived ceiling than a fourth rounder? I’m not leading the witness, it’s your choice!

Cap hit: $4.4 million base salary

Kirk Cousins, 32, Vikings

But his contract was guaranteed!! Yeah, guaranteed for his team. That doesn’t have to be the Vikings. However, who wants to pay Cousins his $29.5 million base salary? It would have to be a Brock Osweiler-type deal maybe in which the QB is dealt along with a second rounder, not for a second rounder.

Cousins is a lot better than Osweiler, but so am I.

(10th in win% is bad if you’re trying to win a Super Bowl...)

He’s perhaps the king of efficiency inflation. Over the course of 16 games against all levels of competition, Cousins is okay. In the playoffs, against good teams, he’s exactly what you expect. He posted a rating of 90.6 with 6.9 Y/A in the 2019 postseason, which is good enough to be average in the regular season, and awful compared to playoff teams against their defenses. He can’t get you over the top but he can plug the gap for a little while.

Not likely a good choice unless you have a ton of cap space and want to rest your QB search or a need to start a rookie.

Cap hit: $29.5 million base salary

Jared Goff, 26, Rams

Not to overstate it, but trading Goff, if it happened, could change everything.

A guy who went number one overall in 2016, a Pro Bowler in 2017 and 2018, an MVP candidate and NFC Champion last season, and a mid-20s QB who has literally everything required of a “Franchise Quarterback,” including the contract extension that hasn’t even kicked in yet. Nobody like this in league history has been traded but he’d be the ultimate sign...

The system is fucking broken.

If Goff can accomplish all those things and be considered expendable at virtually the beginning of his career, how poorly did we judge the numbers? If a team can’t afford to keep a franchise QB they just extended, how unbalanced is the power between a rookie contract QB and one make $25-35 million? Even the fact that we’re talking about Goff being traded is a sign that people are willing to address the idea that a lot of quarterbacks may be overrated and that you can’t even compete when you lock down your best player.

Not that Goff is the Rams best player, but what about the Seahawks and Russell Wilson? Can they still compete with a guy making $35 million? If Goff is traded now, will Patrick Mahomes be traded before his next contract? It sounds insane because Mahomes is so good but is he, at $40 million per year, going to be a better value than a first round pick making $4 million per year?

I’ve never thought Goff was good. I thought he was overrated going into the 2019 offseason and I called him “a bottom-five QB” going into last year. Really. Nothing I ever saw from him matched up with the statistics he was posting and that was an early warning signs: the numbers are misleading. We must re-adjust our perceptions of 32 touchdowns and 12 interceptions.

HOWEVER.

Can Goff improve? Can another coach put him in the position that Sean McVay put him in? Is he capable of quarterbacking a great team to a championship? I’m open to those ideas. And perhaps LA is open to the idea of trading him, which would open $16 million in cap space next season and the team is scrambling to afford all their free agents. The big barrier between that happening though is: who replaces him? Maybe they give that entire $16 million in savings to Tom Brady and give that a one-year go. What a huge risk that would be! What a change in the course of football history!

I doubt it will ever happen! But I addressed it! Exclaim!

Cap hit: $31 million base salary

Jimmy Garoppolo, 28, 49ers

Speaking of overpaid Super Bowl JGs in the NFC West who I never thought were good, the 49ers future with Jimmy Garoppolo is also being questioned by some.

Garoppolo just threw more than 200 passes for the first time in his career and he was pretty okay, completing 69.1% for 27 touchdowns, 13 picks, a 102 rating, 8.4 Y/A, and a 60.2 QBR. That efficiency used to get you MVP consideration on a 13-3 team but he didn’t even make the Pro Bowl and not just cause he had to skip it. Garoppolo throws a little too many interceptions and as seen in the Super Bowl, is fairly incapable of leading a team to victory in the big moments.

Despite how often the Saints game was brought up, George Kittle won that game. The answer was George Kittle.

Based on the way that Shanahan and McVay run their offenses, I was shocked to see both of those teams give big contracts to not only their QBs, but their RBs. In all cases, it was a failure of using cap money. I’m sure they’ll plow ahead with Garoppolo, as the Rams will with Goff, but if the league is ready for change in operations, then maybe San Francisco will take calls and attempt to save themselves $22.4 million by trading him.

Cap hit: $23.8 million base salary

I meant to be briefer. What the hell.