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Building the free agency/trade QB watch list

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Who might the Giants target if they move on from Eli Manning? Let’s play the name game

NFL: Cleveland Browns at New Orleans Saints
Tyrod Taylor
Chuck Cook-USA TODAY Sports

Last week at Big Blue View we took the first step of addressing the future of the New York Giants’ quarterback room by starting to assemble a watch list of quarterbacks for the 2019 NFL Draft. The list probably needs some additions and names will rise and fall, but it can serve as a good starting point. But the draft class might look very different come February. There are rumors that Justin Herbert and/or Dwayne Haskins could return to school, and a draft class without those two players looks a lot different at the top. What then? Well, perhaps we should assemble a free agency/trade acquisition list to ponder.

So that’s what we will do.

Free agency

At first blush the free agency route might not seem the most appealing option. But there is at least one intriguing option on this list that would merit strong consideration, particularly in light of his recent return to action. Let’s work through this list.

Tyrod Taylor

The Cleveland Browns traded for Taylor well before the 2018 draft, making a move to secure a quarterback who could start the season while their rookie quarterback prepared to take over. That move came sooner rather than later, as the Browns moved to Baker Mayfield during a Thursday night game against the New York Jets. With Mayfield seemingly entrenched as the starter going forward, Taylor might look to move to a starting role with another organization.

There might be two potential stumbling blocks with a move to the Giants, however. First, the Browns could look to re-sign him this offseason, as a steady backup option should Mayfield get injured to struggle during 2019. Second, the scheme fit might not be the best with Taylor in New York. We have spent a great deal of time this season wondering why Eli Manning is passing up opportunities downfield, and avoiding potential throwing windows. Taylor is a good downfield passer, and perhaps very suited for a vertical-based offense. But that comes with a caveat: He is more of a “see-it, throw-it” passer. Making anticipation throws and throwing receivers open is not his strongest trait. That might make a transition to New York’s offense difficult.

Teddy Bridgewater

If the Giants are looking to secure a true starting quarterback out of the free agency class, and not just a placeholder for a rookie or a more longshot, developmental option, Bridgewater is probably the best option. Signed to an inexpensive deal this offseason by the New York Jets, Bridgewater showed that he was fully recovered from his horrific knee injury this past season as he performed very well in New York’s preseason games. So well, in fact, the Jets were able to trade him to New Orleans where he now sits behind Drew Brees and, to a certain extent, Taysom Hill.

The Saints’ quarterback position going forward is a bit unsettled, as Brees is likely nearing the end of his career. However, Sean Payton has been using Hill more and more as an athlete in this offense, giving him some snaps at quarterback on zone read plays, but also aligning him at running back, receiver and tight end. So it might be unclear if Hill is considered their next quarterback, or Bridgewater is, but if Bridgewater is available this off-season and not brought back to New Orleans, the Giants should definitely come calling.

Why? The scheme fit. From watching Manning in this offense it seems that Bridgewater is very familiar with what the Giants are running. We have posited previously that Manning is running a “low-to-high” read offense, which might explain the high number of check downs. This is the type of offense that Bridgewater ran in college. So there would be a schematic familiarity in place as well. Of all of these free agency options, Bridgewater might be the most likely to be a starter for years to come.

Geno Smith

Just checking to see if you are awake. Let’s move on.

Ryan Fitzpatrick

With Jameis Winston suspended to start the season veteran passer Ryan Fitzpatrick stepped into the starting lineup and put up some video game type numbers. In his four starts he completed just over 67% of his passes for 1,356 yards and 11 touchdowns against five interceptions. His Adjusted Net Yards Per Attempt (ANY/A) of 9.66 still tops all 2018 passers, including Patrick Mahomes, although he will shortly fall off that list of rankings because he will no longer qualify based on the number of attempts.

Fitzpatrick would likely be considered a “stop-gap” or “bridge” quarterback in New York, holding the spot until a rookie quarterback was ready to take over the offense, be that quarterback Justin Herbert or someone else. He’ll turn 36 on Black Friday, so getting a year or two out of him might be the best an organization could hope for. But he still shows the ability to manipulate defenders at all levels of the field and made a number of impressive vertical throws for Tampa Bay during his four starts. If the organization does go the rookie quarterback route but wants a veteran presence by his side (perhaps similar to the Josh McCown/Sam Darnold situation) Fitzpatrick would be a good fit.

Brett Hundley

Another pending free agent is Brett Hundley, currently the backup quarterback for the Seattle Seahawks. Originally drafted by the Green Bay Packers out of UCLA, Hundley took over as the starting quarterback for Green Bay last season when Aaron Rodgers was out with an injury. During that time Hundley flashed some athleticism, but his slow processing in the pocket and insistence on staring down his first reads led to some struggles in the passing game.

Hundley is in a fairly good spot right now, behind Russell Wilson, to perhaps learn and develop. But whether he has developed into a viable option as a starting quarterback in New York remains to be seen.

NFL: Philadelphia Eagles at New England Patriots
Nate Sudfeld
Stew Milne-USA TODAY Sports

Nate Sudfeld

At first blush, this might seem like a bit of a stretch. After an up-and-down career at Indiana University Sudfeld was more of an afterthought in the 2016 draft class, when he was selected in the sixth round by the Washington Redskins. But after being released by Washington he signed with the Philadelphia Eagles and has stuck on their roster as their third string quarterback behind Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles, and second overall selection Carson Wentz, who was picked 185 spots before Sudfeld in that 2016 draft.

However, there is as reason the Eagles have hung onto Sudfeld, and perhaps it was clear during Philadelphia’s preseason game against the New England Patriots. Sudfeld is certainly not afraid to be aggressive in the downfield passing game. In that outing he completed 22 of 39 passes for 312 yards and three touchdowns, with an interception. But more importantly any time he saw single-high coverage in the secondary he was able to look that safety off, and was willing to take vertical shots away from the safety’s rotation, as outlined by Michael Kist over at Bleeding Green Nation. He might be a long shot, but if the rest of the options do not pan out he would be worth consideration.

Trade options

If you look at the free agency list and feel, shall we say, underwhelmed, fear not! There are also some potential trade options out there, depending on how the rest of their seasons unfold and how their organizations view the quarterback position going forward.

Derek Carr

The fire sale certainly seems underway in Oakland, with Amari Cooper being traded to the Dallas Cowboys, the Khalil Mack trade earlier this season and reports surfacing that the organization might be looking to move former first-round selection Gareon Conley. Would they also look to move on from Derek Carr? It is possible, if Jon Gruden wants to get a quarterback of his own choosing.

As for a potential scheme fit, Carr has been in a number of systems. Dating back to his days at Fresno State where he operated in more of a spread-based, quick passing game, through some seasons in Oakland where the vertical passing game was the focus, to this season under Gruden and his more West Coast-based system, Carr brings with him some schematic versatility. His high number of turnovers this season might not fit with Pat Shurmur’s aversion to turning the football over, but part of those mistakes could be the surrounding cast.

Ryan Tannehill

How solidified is Ryan Tannehill as the starting quarterback in Miami? After missing the entire 2017 season with a knee injury Tannehill is now sidelined with a shoulder injury and Brock Osweiler is actually playing fairly well in his stead.

Before the injury Tannehill had gotten off to a strong start for Miami in Gase’s short passing game, but his season had cooled thanks to losses at the hands of the New England Patriots and the Cincinnati Bengals, and the threw three interceptions in those two games. Gase’s shallow passing game meshes well with Tannehill, and if the Giants want to add a quarterback who brings some mobility to the table Tannehill is a solid option, even with the lingering injury history.

Jacoby Brissett

Drafted by the New England Patriots in the third round of the 2016 Draft, Jacoby Brissett found himself as a starting quarterback for the Patriots as a rookie thanks to a suspension for Tom Brady and an injury to Jimmy Garoppolo. He then, after a trade to the Indianapolis Colts prior to the start of the 2017 campaign, found himself a starter again thanks to an injury to Andrew Luck. So he is a quarterback with 17 starts to his career, in two different offensive systems, and just turns 25 in December.

During his time as a starter last year there was noticeable improvement from his time in New England as a rookie, and even over the course of his 2017 campaign. He is very good at keeping his eyes downfield to find receivers in scramble drill situations, but what did improve for him last year was the more mental side of the game. He started getting the ball out quicker and quicker each week, which is always a good sign for a quarterback’s development. He is under contract through 2019 and his base salary next season is $890,114 according to OverTheCap.com. Depending on what quarterbacks enter the draft, Brissett might be a very attractive option.

Whether the Colts are willing to part with their Luck Insurance Policy is another question.

Tom Brady

Again, just making sure you’re still awake…

...Okay so yes, Bill Belichick has done crazy things. But there’s a better chance I’m the next quarterback for the Giants than Brady.

Blake Bortles

The Bortles Era in Jacksonville might be coming to a close sooner than we thought. In the wake of his benching last week against the Houston Texans and a heated locker room discussion post game, there was serious consideration given to replacing Bortles going forward with backup Cody Kessler. Head coach Doug Marrone initially declared the quarterback position “open” after the loss to Houston but named Bortles the starter for this week’s game in London against the Philadelphia Eagles. However, the end does seem in sight, especially if you read our friends over at Big Cat Country.

The question is, would the Giants’ even be interested? Bortles’ flaws are apparent and his mechanical inconsistencies continue even after years of them being addressed, tweaked, fixed, or streamlined. Maybe a change of scenery would do him some good, but it won’t fix the flaws that seem to be baked in at this point with him.

NFL: Denver Broncos at Arizona Cardinals
Case Keenum
Matt Kartozian-USA TODAY Sports

Case Keenum

This one makes sense from a purely scheme fit perspective. Obviously, Keenum’s best year in the NFL came under Shurmur’s tutelage. So there would be some familiarity and comfort there between coach and quarterback. Would Denver move on from Keenum so quickly? Remember that they just signed him to a two-year, $36 million dollar deal, so he does not have a long term deal in place. His base salary for 2019 is $18M, with $7M of that guaranteed. If the Broncos decide that it is time to rebuild, rather than retool, they might look to make a change at QB yet again, making the reunion possible.

Kyle Sloter

Similar to Keenum, there is another potential reunion. Sloter, originally signed by the Denver Broncos as an undrafted free agent, moved to the Vikings after being waived by Denver early last season. In his limited action he has flashed arm strength, an ability to make anticipation throws and some aggression as a passer. He’d be a long shot, similar to Sudfeld, but Shurmur knows him and there would be some schematic familiarity as well.