QB Index, Week 10: Previewing offseason QB market

The 2018 quarterback rankings are listed below, but I’m looking ahead in this week’s QB Index. Here are five big questions about the upcoming offseason’s veteran quarterback market:

1) Could the Saints convince Teddy Bridgewater to stay behind Drew Brees?

      ▶ Five big questions for rest of season
      ▶ Top 10 2018 rookie classes
      ▶ Revisiting scouting reports of ’17 RB class
      ▶ NFL midterms: Most exciting player?
      ▶ Week 10 Power Rankings: New No. 1!
      ▶ Carr: Ranking five most clutch QBs
      ▶ Nine second-half predictions

The Saints have a few advantages over other would-be suitors for Bridgewater. It’s possible that the 2018 season could serve as an extended recruiting brochure for Bridgewater, with an inside look at the advantages Sean Payton’s scheme and the Saints’ talent could someday provide him. The Saints can also negotiate with Bridgewater for weeks before free agency starts, which could be necessary to work out what would be a complicated deal.

It’s hard to imagine Teddy B not getting better offers elsewhere, though. It’s rare for a player to pass up short-term money and playing time for some long-term bet on an organization. The Saints have already invested a third-round pick in Teddy, but he wouldn’t play in New Orleans next year, barring a shock retirement by Brees. After a strong preseason showing with the Jets, Bridgewater has to be itching to play again soon.

2) Is Tyrod Taylor doomed to live in bridge-quarterback purgatory?

Baker Mayfield’s backup since Week 3, Taylor is unlikely to get the guaranteed long-term money he once hoped for in Buffalo. But there are worse fates than being a replacement-level starting quarterback for hire, as Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh McCown’s accountants can attest to. Taylor’s contract voids five days after the Super Bowl, at which point he’ll probably become the most accomplished free-agent quarterback available. His disappointing first 10 quarters with the Browns won’t help his value, but the larger question is what bigger names could become available …

3) Will the Bucs trade Jameis Winston?

Winston’s benching in favor of Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t necessarily the end of his 2018 season or his Bucs career. The Bucs could go back to Winston later this season, which would inevitably impact his offseason value. It appears unlikely that coach Dirk Koetter will still be in Tampa next year and general manager Jason Licht could also be in trouble, so any offseason evaluation of Winston will likely be handled by the next leader for the Bucs.

Winston is due $20.922 million in 2019, the last year of his rookie contract (the Bucs picked up the fifth-year option on his deal). That money becomes fully guaranteed on the first day of the new league year in 2019, so decision time will come by mid-March. The one-year commitment could actually make Winston a highly tradable asset if the Bucs were so inclined. While Winston’s off-field and on-field judgment are serious concerns, he has performed like a league-average starter for most of his career. His 7.58 yards per attempt is good for 10th among quarterbacks with at least 500 attempts since 2015, when Winston was drafted, ranking between Philip Rivers and Alex Smith. Winston is still just 24 years old.

Whoever is coaching the Bucs in 2019 may want to work with Winston on a trial basis next year, but there would surely be a market for him if Tampa decided to move on. Speaking of which …

4) Will Jon Gruden stand pat with Derek Carr?

Expect the Raiders to stay in the news all offseason. They are set to have three first-round picks and could wind up with the No. 1 overall pick. They also boast an outrageous amount of cap space to spend on veterans, a number that would only go up if Gruden decided to move on from Carr, although NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported last week that the team’s preferred plan is to build around him.

Gruden gushed about Winston when he was a broadcaster, although the same was true regarding Carr and most young signal-callers. Gruden always seems to love players until eight weeks after he starts coaching them. Carr’s uneven season thus far has been doomed by pass-rush pressure. Carr’s ability to make progress in Gruden’s system down the stretch may prevent his coach’s eyes from wandering in free agency or the draft.

5) What other veterans are playing to keep their jobs down the stretch?

Joe Flacco has played better this season than the previous two, but it still might not be enough to keep his job if the Ravens don’t make the playoffs. Baltimore didn’t draft Lamar Jackson to stay on the bench forever and Flacco’s upside as a league-average QB doesn’t inspire a lot of confidence. With that being said, the Ravens would have to eat a lot of dead money to cut or trade Flacco, who is signed through 2021, after he turns 34 years old in January. The team is in a tough spot, but could decide this is the offseason to make a clean break from the John Harbaugh era. The Ravens are still very capable of sneaking into the playoffs with a strong finish to make this conversation more complicated.

The Jaguars and Broncos guaranteed money to Blake Bortles and Case Keenum into 2019, decisions that could look even more curious if the two starters don’t improve down the stretch. Sticking with Bortles again if the Jaguars miss the playoffs would be one way to turn off a frustrated Jacksonville fanbase, so the Jaguars would be high on my list of teams that could make an aggressive push for a veteran like Bridgewater, Winston or Carr this offseason.

All three Florida teams are worth keeping an eye on. Ryan Tannehill’s latest serious injury — this time to his shoulder — raises more questions about his long-term future in Miami. Coach Adam Gase is overdue to find a quarterback to groom in the draft and perhaps Tannehill could be paired with a rookie if he takes a reduced contract to stay in Miami. The longer Tannehill stays out of the lineup, the harder it is to see the Dolphins counting on him again next year.

So, which other potential movers haven’t we mentioned?

Nick Foles and the Eagles have a mutual option in his contract that is likely to put him back on the open market. I am skeptical about whether teams will view him as a stone-cold starter, but he could fulfill a bridge-quarterback role if he chooses to leave the Eagles nest. … Eli Manning may have to make the uncomfortable decision about whether to retire or keep playing if the Giants finally cut bait. … Ryan Fitzpatrick, who’s due to hit the open market, has earned another year in the league with his latest revival of Fitzmagic. … Jacoby Brissett could be one trade candidate to keep an eye on. Given Andrew Luck’s excellent comeback season, the Colts may decide they’d rather have a draft pick than the final year of their quality backup’s rookie contract.

And now, on to the rankings. The QBs are ranked based on 2018 play alone. The next ranking of all 32 starters comes after Week 12.

1Patrick MahomesQBChiefs
2018 stats: 9 games | 66.2 pct | 2,901 pass yds | 9.2 ypa | 29 pass TD | 7 INT | 137 rush yds | 2 rush TD

2Drew BreesQBSaints
2018 stats: 8 games | 76.3 pct | 2,336 pass yds | 8.4 ypa | 18 pass TD | 1 INT | 25 rush yds | 2 rush TD

3Aaron RodgersQBPackers
2018 stats: 8 games | 60.6 pct | 2,542 pass yds | 7.8 ypa | 15 pass TD | 1 INT | 124 rush yds | 0 rush TD

4Jared GoffQBRams
2018 stats: 9 games | 67.9 pct | 2,816 pass yds | 9.6 ypa | 20 pass TD | 6 INT | 79 rush yds | 0 rush TD

5Matt RyanQBFalcons
2018 stats: 8 games | 70.8 pct | 2,685 pass yds | 8.9 ypa | 19 pass TD | 3 INT | 67 rush yds | 2 rush TD

6Philip RiversQBChargers
2018 stats: 8 games | 67.1 pct | 2,236 pass yds | 9.1 ypa | 19 pass TD | 3 INT | -1 rush yds | 0 rush TD

7Kirk CousinsQBVikings
2018 stats: 9 games | 71.3 pct | 2,685 pass yds | 7.4 ypa | 17 pass TD | 5 INT | 81 rush yds | 1 rush TD

8Cam NewtonQBPanthers
2018 stats: 8 games | 67.3 pct | 1,893 pass yds | 7.2 ypa | 15 pass TD | 4 INT | 342 rush yds | 4 rush TD

9Carson WentzQBEagles
2018 stats: 6 games | 70.7 pct | 1,788 pass yds | 7.9 ypa | 13 pass TD | 2 INT | 89 rush yds | 0 rush TD

10Andrew LuckQBColts
2018 stats: 8 games | 65.8 pct | 2,187 pass yds | 6.4 ypa | 23 pass TD | 8 INT | 63 rush yds | 0 rush TD

11Tom BradyQBPatriots
2018 stats: 9 games | 67.0 pct | 2,494 pass yds | 7.6 ypa | 17 pass TD | 7 INT | 28 rush yds | 2 rush TD

12Russell WilsonQBSeahawks
2018 stats: 8 games | 66.1 pct | 1,791 pass yds | 8.1 ypa | 18 pass TD | 5 INT | 118 rush yds | 0 rush TD

13Ben RoethlisbergerQBSteelers
2018 stats: 8 games | 64.5 pct | 2,560 pass yds | 7.4 ypa | 16 pass TD | 7 INT | 48 rush yds | 2 rush TD

14Andy DaltonQBBengals
2018 stats: 8 games | 63.4 pct | 2,102 pass yds | 7.2 ypa | 17 pass TD | 8 INT | 41 rush yds | 0 rush TD

15Deshaun WatsonQBTexans
2018 stats: 9 games | 64.9 pct | 2,389 pass yds | 8.4 ypa | 17 pass TD | 7 INT | 268 rush yds | 1 rush TD

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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