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The approach to rebuilding an NFL franchise continues to evolve. Before, the quarterback position served as the natural starting point. Now, teams are more willing to improve the supporting cast before acquiring a franchise signal-caller.
Sashi Brown discussed the process he initiated as the former executive vice president for the Cleveland Browns with The MMQB’s Albert Breer.
“It should definitely be a contemplation and a point of discussion,” Brown said of waiting a year to draft a quarterback prospect. “Now, if you find a quarterback who’s smart and durable and athletic and poised and can make all the throws, if you’re at the point where you meet all the criteria, you should probably just take him.
“But those are rare.”
Brown tore down the Browns roster while building enormous amounts of draft and financial capital. The team went 0-16 in the short term. However, it’s now the league’s “it” team after general manager John Dorsey capitalized on the advantages Brown built.
A measured approach makes sense on three levels.
First, teams might not be entirely sold on this year’s quarterback crop, as Brown alluded to. Second, the possibility of ruining a young quarterback before he’s matured and ready to take the reigns is a deterrent. Third, the window to exploit a rookie contract at the game’s most important position is vital to a quick turnaround.
Certain franchises, like the New York Giants and Washington Redskins, can’t punt another year at the quarterback position. But other organizations will smartly take a look at where they stand and decide they can wait at least another year before investing in another quarterback.
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The Cincinnati Bengals received a much-needed fresh start this offseason by hiring new head coach Zac Taylor after 16 years of Marvin Lewis. Usually, a major shakeup in the front office or coaching staff also signals a change at the game’s most important position.
I was in the AFC for a long time so we had a lot of crossover with Andy. I’ve always thought very highly of him. I think he’s a great fit for what we’re going to do. He’s really smart. He’s accurate. He can get the ball out on time. So I think he’s gonna fit this offense to a ‘T’ and I’m excited to work with him.
The Bengals aren’t positioned well if they are seriously interested in selecting a quarterback prospect. However, they are in the mix since Duke’s Daniel Jones revealed during a SiriusXM NFL Radio interview that he had a meeting scheduled with the franchise.
With a pick just outside the top 10 and a roster unfit for developing a raw prospect under center, the Bengals aren’t positioned well if they are seriously interested in selecting a quarterback. The top two prospects—Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray and Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins—may very well be off the board. The Denver Broncos, with the 10th overall pick, remain in the quarterback market, as well.
If Taylor’s preferred choice isn’t available, there’s absolutely no reason to force the situation. The Bengals can just as easily move on from Dalton next year based on his current non-guaranteed contract.
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A recent trend developed where quarterback-needy teams acquire a veteran bridge option to pave the way for a rookie investment.
Last year, the Cleveland Browns, New York Jets, Buffalo Bills and Arizona Cardinals followed the pattern. Some situations worked better than others. But the idea is simple and logical: Don’t rush a young quarterback into the lineup before he’s ready. Individual maturation and readiness vary. An organization can ease the transition with an experienced signal-caller leading the way until the time for a change is reached.
The Denver Broncos could very well become the latest example after trading a fourth-round pick to acquire Joe Flacco. Or, the organization could go in the opposite direction.
Despite interest in multiple prospects this offseason, general manager John Elway doesn’t want a situation where uncertainty surrounds the quarterback position, according to Yahoo Sports’ Charles Robinson.
“From what I’ve been told, the Broncos know there’s going to be a game where Joe Flacco has 180 passing yards, and they don’t want to turn this into, ‘Put the kid in. Put the kid in. Put the kid in,’” Robinson said.
Denver doesn’t view Flacco as a short-term option.
“I think there’s a lot left with Joe,” head coach Vic Fangio said at the NFL owners meetings, per Jon Heath of USA Today‘s Broncos Wire.
“He throws the ball with ease, meaning it’s just natural … And he’s hungry. Joe wants to do well. I think a lot of players, they lose their stinger before they lose their talent, and Joe’s stinger is still sharp.”
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Two capable starters are already on the Los Angeles Chargers roster.
Philip Rivers is a fringe Hall of Famer who’s coming off arguably the best season of his career, though his age plays a role in all of the organization’s decisions.
Rivers turns 38 in December. His shelf-life is limited, so it makes a lot of sense to select a quarterback to groom as his successor.
But the team signed the 29-year-old Tyrod Taylor in free agency. Taylor is a multi-year starter and a 2015 Pro Bowler. More importantly, he’s an ideal fit as the team’s backup. Taylor spent three seasons with head coach Anthony Lynn as a member of the Buffalo Bills. During the 2016 campaign, Lynn served as team’s offensive coordinator.
“I think it’s was the right fit for me when I looked at the big scheme of things,” Taylor said during an interview on the Chargers official site. “I looked at the coaching situation with already having a relationship with A-Lynn and some of the other coaches. It’s a talented roster. This is a great team and been a great team for a while now … I’m looking forward to learning from [Rivers].”
Taylor’s final statement is refreshing. The majority of established quarterbacks wouldn’t prefer to serve as a backup. Of course, Taylor wants to start. But he signed a two-year, $11 million deal with the Chargers, which intimates the franchise may have long-term plans for their new signal-caller.
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Miami Dolphins fans won’t be happy to hear their organization should bypass a quarterback this season when journeyman Ryan Fitzpatrick is the team’s only viable option behind center. No other situation best encapsulates the approach Sashi Brown suggested, though.
The Dolphins own the 13th overall pick. They’re not in a position to draft a slam-dunk quarterback prospect. Furthermore, the franchise is in the initial stages of a rebuild and lacks the supporting cast to properly mold a young quarterback.
“We could maybe take one both this year and next year,” general manager Chris Grier said of the team’s nebulous quarterback plans, per the Palm Beach Post’s Hal Habib.
While the Dolphins remain open to the possibility of drafting a quarterback this year, a first-round option appears far more likely in 2020.
“We keep hearing that owner Stephen Ross really, really likes Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa and that getting a high 2020 draft pick is the priority,” the Miami Herald‘s Barry Jackson reported. “There is also Dolphins admiration for Oregon’s Justin Herbert, another option high in the 2020 draft. If Miami doesn’t emerge from the 2020 draft with either of those quarterbacks, it will be considered a disappointment.”
Until then, Fitzpatrick is the team leader Miami wants as it transitions.
“I’ve known about him for a long time,” Grier said, per the South Florida Sun Sentinel‘s Safid Deen. “The one thing you hear over and over and over again is his ability to connect with players offensively, defensively, and lead. I think he’s a great fit for us.”
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The New England Patriots continue their due diligence on quarterback prospects, but no one should expect them to jump at the chance to address the position despite Tom Brady’s advanced age.
As the reigning Super Bowl champions, the Patriots own the 32nd overall pick. Five quarterbacks—Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray, Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins, Missouri’s Drew Lock, Duke’s Daniel Jones and West Virginia’s Will Grier—are potential first-round options. The organization held predraft visits with Jones and Grier, according to the Boston Globe.
While the availability of one or two of those prospects should tempt the Patriots, the organization still operates on a championship standard and other demands take priority.
Tight end, wide receiver and the defensive line each experienced significant losses with Rob Gronkowski‘s retirement and Chris Hogan, Trey Flowers and Malcom Brown’s free-agent defections.
A quarterback with the last pick in the first round isn’t an ideal scenario for a franchise trying to defend their title and an instant impact would be preferred.
Head coach Bill Belichick already tried to soften the blow if the team doesn’t select an offensive skill position with its initial draft pick.
“I’d say the issue in college football is there just is not the same passing game in college football that there is in the NFL, period,” Belichick said, per Pro Football Talk’s Michael David Smith.
The idea of a first-round quarterback as the Patriots’ best option is folly when the team can move forward with Brian Hoyer as a solid backup and a potential developmental option later in the process.
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What looked like a problem area for the New Orleans Saints going into the offseason turned into a strength.
Questions over Drew Brees‘ long-term viability and Teddy Bridgewater’s pending free agency placed the quarterback position at the forefront of the team’s potential need areas.
But the 40-year-old Brees still has one year remaining on his contract and Bridgewater re-signed for another season.
“It’s such an important position,” head coach Sean Payton said, per Pro Football Talk’s Curtis Crabtree. “We felt last year we had one of the better rooms in the league that way and not only just the make up of the room but the talent of the room because Taysom Hill is still in that room … So Teddy brings a lot to the team and I think it’s been a real good fit.”
Right now, Bridgewater is the team’s future at quarterback even if he’s not signed beyond the 2019 campaign. The team’s willingness to trade for him and his decision to spurn the Miami Dolphins show a level of commitment from both parties.
“We feel like we’ve got really good depth there and guys that work well together and it’s a hard position to find,” Payton said.
Bridgewater is only 26 years old and will have two years invested in the Saints system. His desire to remain in the Big Easy rather than join his hometown team speaks volumes.
A year from now, the Saints could be in the exact opposite position, but the immediate need to draft a quarterback isn’t present.