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To Pay Or Not To Pay: A Tale Of Three Free Agent Quarterbacks

Geoff Burke-USA TODAY Sports

These three potential free-agent QBs have been very good this season, but are they worth signing long-term?

It is said the starting quarterback is the most important position in sports, and perhaps the greatest challenge a NFL team can face is finding a long-term, viable franchise quarterback. While many teams will look outside their organization (whether in free agency or the draft) to try to find their quarterback, however, for three teams in particular, a decision needs to be made about whether their current quarterbacks are worth re-signing as their contracts expire at the end of this season. First up:

Kirk Cousins, Washington

Washington has had a (relatively) good season, going 9-7 and winning the NFC East. All season long their starter has not been former Offensive Rookie of the Year Robert Griffin III, but instead Kirk Cousins has been at the helm, despite being picked in the fourth round the same year Washington picked RGIII second overall. Cousins had a strong season for Washington, throwing for 4,166 yards and 29 touchdowns, with only 11 interceptions. His success is not necessarily unexpected, as last year he just about matched RGIII in yards and more than doubled his touchdown total in three fewer games played. 

Cousins has displayed significant talent going back to his days at Michigan State, and has really thrived in the starting role for Washington this year. The question is, with his contract expiring after this season, do you pay him like a franchise quarterback?

Well, a franchise quarterback with similar stats on a team that has not made the playoffs since 2008 recently signed a four-year, $77 million contract (Ryan Tannehill). 

If you want to compete in the NFL, you need a legitimate starting quarterback. Washington could have one, if they can shell out the dough.

Conclusion: Sign. Franchise Tag if necessary.

Brock Osweiler, Denver Broncos

For a few years now, Denver has been Peyton Manning‘s team. This year, however, Peyton’s struggles and injuries have meant eight appearances for the 6’ 8” Osweiler. Osweiler spent the first three seasons of his career sitting behind one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, and has apparently picked up a thing or two. Despite only 30 NFL passing attempts before this season, he has more than held his own, throwing for 1,967 yards and helping lead Denver to the No. 1 Seed in the AFC and a first round bye, with a final record of 12-4.

Osweiler is an interesting case, however, because of both the uncertainty of Peyton Manning’s future, and his lack of a substantial body of work in the NFL. Will the 39-year-old Manning return after 17 seasons and more than 250 career starts? He has been battling a foot injury all season, and Osweiler has looked capable in his stead, but is only 305 career passing attempts enough to prove anything? 

Like his exit in Indianapolis, Peyton Manning might have to make the decision for everybody. If he wants to come back, Osweiler has earned the right to test free agency to try to get a starting job elsewhere. If Manning makes the decision many people think he will and he decides to retire, John Elway and the Broncos may have no other choice but to re-sign Osweiler.

Conclusion: Sign if Manning retires, let him go if Manning returns.

Sam Bradford, Philadelphia Eagles

Sam Bradford has played in at least 14 games in three of his first five seasons. This season, his fifth, was his best statistically; he set a career-high in yards, and set the Eagles’ single-season completion percentage record at 65.0%. When the Eagles traded for Bradford, he was on the last year of his rookie contract, and the Eagles did not extend him before or during the season, so he is set to become a free agent. 

Many people before the firing of Chip Kelly were speculating that perhaps Colin Kaepernick or Robert Griffin III or even Paxton Lynch would be better fits for Kelly’s system than Bradford. But now that Kelly is gone, more speculation has opened up about Bradford returning to Philadelphia. At only 28 years old, Bradford has franchise QB potential. But would he want to stay? We know who Bradford’s choice for head coach is, having spoken out strongly for OC Pat Shurmur on Sunday.

Bradford is most definitely better than Mark Sanchez, who is currently under contract with the Eagles through next season. However, it will be up to the new head coach and the restructured front office in Philadelphia to determine if he is the right quarterback for the future of the Eagles. One way this could happen is by placing the franchise tag on Bradford, keeping him in Philadelphia for at least one more season and allowing whomever takes the Eagles job to make a determination of their own on the future of Bradford and the quarterback position in Philly.

Conclusion: If Shurmur is named head coach, sign. If not, franchise tag.

Edited by Emily Berman, Coleman Gray.

Who held the Eagles' single-season completion percentage record prior to Sam Bradford?
Created 1/6/16
  1. Donovan McNabb
  2. Ron Jaworski
  3. Michael Vick
  4. Mark Sanchez

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