The Dolphins, at least statistically, might not find a veteran quarterback better than Ryan Tannehill this offseason, but they’re ready to move on, because, well, they now know that he’s not the guy to lead them to anything meaningful. More importantly, the owner knows it.
So who’s the best option to replace him – at least for a year or so - while a rookie draft pick is developed?
I asked two respected longtime NFL executives and got different answers.
One of the executives said, without question, it’s Teddy Bridgewater. But another said he would be eyeing Nick Foles as a one or two-year bridge starter.
Additionally, the Dolphins likely will seriously explore using a first or second-day draft pick on a quarterback.
But unless Miami trades a ton to move up from 13th for Ohio State’s Dwayne Haskins (who hasn’t declared for the draft), none of the handful of other first or second day QB draft prospects might be ready to start immediately, a group that includes Duke’s Daniel Jones, Missouri’s Drew Lock, West Virginia’s Will Grier and perhaps NC State’s Ryan Finley.
Oklahoma’s Kyler Murray hasn’t said if he will pursue an NFL career or stick with plans to play baseball.
Regardless of whether a high pick is used on QB, a veteran starter needs to be added as a stopgap, and four are logical options:
1) Bridgewater. An impending free agent, he struggled in his first start in three years on Sunday, going 13 for 22 for 118 yards, one touchdown and one interception in a 33-14 loss to Carolina. Bridgewater likely would have interest in Miami, but he lost one supporter when Adam Gase was fired.
2) Joe Flacco. Very likely to be cut or traded by Baltimore. He’s had a passer rating between 80 and 84 each of the past four seasons, well below Tannehill’s this season. He could be one-year stopgap.
3) Case Keenum. Another potential one-year stopgap. Denver can save $11 million in cap space by cutting him. His numbers (18 touchdowns, 15 interceptions, 81.2 rating) are worse than Tannehill’s but he would be cheaper.
4) Nick Foles. When he’s good, he’s very good, including the final two games of this season (63 for 82 for 692 yards, six touchdowns and two picks in wins against Houston and Washington) and a 115 rating, six touchdowns and one pick in last year’s Super Bowl run. The Eagles will save $18.6 million against the cap by cutting him. He’s better than his 88.5 career passer rating suggests.
One potential option was removed when Tampa Bay announced it’s retaining Jameis Winston. The Dolphins might pursue Derek Carr if Oakland is willing to trade him. If none of those materialize, Ryan Fitzpatrick and Josh McCown and perhaps Tyrod Taylor would be stopgap alternatives.
Though Bridgewater had thrown two passes in three years before Sunday and has pedestrian career stats (29 touchdowns, 23 interceptions, 85.9 passer rating), former Texans and Redskins general manager Charley Casserly said he’s the best veteran available option in a post-Tannehill era.
“There is upside there,” Casserly, who works for NFL Network, said by phone in the days before his start Sunday. “In talking to the Vikings, they thought the guy’s arm was stronger now than before [his knee injury that sidelined him in 2016 and part of 2017]. They thought his deep ball accuracy was better than before. That’s why I would say, yes, there’s upside.
“I saw him in preseason and I like him. He’s probably the No. 1 quarterback on the market. When he got hurt, I thought he and Derek Carr were [comparable] prospects at that point.”
But a high-ranking respected veteran personnel executive with another team said he would prefer Foles if he were running the Dolphins, because “he’s been accurate and he knows how to win. I’m not sure Bridgewater makes you better. Foles, to me, is clearly better.”
I asked another longtime NFL executive, who preferred Bridgewater and requested anonymity, about the others. Some feedback:
“With Flacco, you have to be worried about the injuries, and he’s been up and down. He started off this year having his best season in years, but then got hurt…. Case Keenum is a .500 quarterback, if that. He obviously caught lightning in a bottle with Minnesota but they had a lot of good players and a hell of a defense….
“Fitzpatrick is going to give you some good games and then some horrible games. He’s more of a backup than a stopgap. With Foles, he wasn’t playing well in the beginning of the year and then had a good game against Houston and people jump on the bandwagon. I’m not sure how many teams will jump on that bandwagon. He’s a guy you take for a year or two and get another quarterback you really build with.”
All of these would be stopgaps. The Dolphins know their quarterback of the future likely will come from the 2019 or 2020 drafts. Keep in mind that 2020 draft might offer better QB options than the 2019 draft.
But Miami cannot go into the 2019 season without a legitimate starter on its roster, and it’s unlikely to be Tannehill.
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