Kansas City and Washington shocked the NFL when they finalized a trade centered around Alex Smith.
Washington ended up giving up a third-round pick and Kendall Fuller for the 33-year-old quarterback. This was a huge haul for the Chiefs considering Smith only had one-year left on his contract, although the two sides have already agreed on an extension.
This was shocking because deals usually aren’t struck right before the Super Bowl, and Washington had Kirk Cousins, who they could’ve potentially franchise tagged for a third year. This move is only the first of many dominoes that we can expect to see fall during the offseason.
It now means that Cousins will be the top free agent quarterback on the market. I’m assuming the 49ers won’t let Jimmy Garoppolo hit free agency after sending a second-round pick to the Patriots in order to get him.
Another doubtful member of the quarterback free agent class is Drew Brees. The Saints suffered a heartbreaking loss to the Vikings in the playoffs, but Sean Payton proved he can keep Brees’ career going in New Orleans. It is doubtful he could go somewhere else with as much of a chance at winning another Super Bowl.
That leaves the Minnesota problem. Sam Bradford, Teddy Bridgewater and Case Keenum are all set to hit free agency. Who the Vikings keep may decide a lot about where other guys will go.
Who will actually hit the open market is still a very big question mark. The Bills seem ready to move on from Tyrod Taylor, but he still has another year on his contract. They would either have to cut him or trade him.
Finally, there is AJ McCarron. Whether he becomes an unrestricted free agent or a restricted free agent will have a huge impact on how and where he goes. As a restricted free agent, teams would have to give up a draft pick corresponding with whatever kind of compensation they attach to him.
Odds are the Bengals would hit him with at least a second-round tender. Of course, as an unrestricted free agent, McCarron could freely be courted and signed by any team without having to give anything to the Bengals.
If McCarron is restricted, we could end up seeing a team trade for McCarron. The value of that trade would be in question. The Browns were willing to give up a second and third-round pick for him at the trade deadline, but that had more to do with the value of his contract with his possible restricted status for the 2018 season. Also, the number of teams in serious need of a starter aren’t that high.
Assuming teams like the Saints and Vikings retain starters, then the list of teams in need of one include the Browns, Jets and Broncos. Now, Cousins is going to end up with one of those teams, so there are really going to be two teams battling it out for McCarron. Odds are one of those teams will be the Browns.
One way or another, there will be a bidding war for McCarron. It will either be to trade for him, or he will be fielding offers from both teams. The thing that will hurt McCarron is he may end up being a bride quarterback for a team like the Browns or Jets, who will likely bring in a veteran quarterback as well as draft one. The idea they will draft one just to throw them in the fire doesn’t seem to exist as both have coaches who can’t afford another losing season.
That shouldn’t hurt his value on the open market though. Mike Glennon got a three-year deal worth $45 million. There are team options for the last two seasons, but either way, the Bears payed him $16 million last year.
Taking that into account, McCarron is either looking at a huge payday, or the Bengals will still end up with a second-round pick for him soon after the decision comes down that he will remain a restricted free agent.
The need for a competent starting quarterback is far too high for the Bengals or McCarron to end up with anything less.