Community Tailgate

Community Tailgate: Where Will Ndamukong Suh Sign?

We recently graded defensive tackle Ndamukong Suh as the best free agent remaining on the market, but the only reports we have heard on him this year have concerned teams who are not interested in his services rather than teams who are.

For instance, despite a positive meeting with Suh last year, the Titans are not expected to consider signing the three-time First Team All-Pro this year. And although Suh enjoyed a strong season with the Rams in 2018, Los Angeles is not expected to renew the partnership.

Rumor has it that Suh’s asking price is the major deterrent for clubs who may otherwise be interested in his services. As the No. 2 overall pick of the 2010 draft, when the old CBA was in effect, Suh landed a massive rookie contract from the Lions that included $40MM in guaranteed money, and his six-year, $114MM free agent deal with the Dolphins ratcheted him further up the career earnings leaderboard.

Even Suh’s one-year contract with the Rams paid him $14MM, so he has never had to “settle” for less than an eight-figure annual income. The 32-year-old is surely content to wait out the market until a team becomes more willing to meet his asking price due to injury or poor performance, so it may be awhile before this situation resolves itself.

We tabbed the Seahawks, Cowboys, Broncos, and Vikings as potential fits, and Minnesota would perhaps be the most likely destination if the club had more cap space. But unless the Vikes make several significant moves to free up some room, they will not likely be able to give Suh anywhere close to the money he wants.

Whoever does get the Nebraska product will add a player who will instantly upgrade the D-line. Suh may not be the same player he once was, but he showed in 2018 that he still has plenty to offer, and the only two games he has missed in his nine-year career were due to suspension rather than injury.

So where do you think Suh will ply his trade in 2019? Let us know in the comments, and feel free to offer a guess as to the contract he might get.

Community Tailgate: How Will DeMarcus Lawrence Saga End?

We heard several days ago that negotiations between the Cowboys and franchise-tagged pass rusher DeMarcus Lawrence are at an impasse, and the circumstances behind that impasse are the stuff that offseason drama is made of.

Lawrence, who willingly played out the 2018 season under the franchise tag, does not want to go year-to-year anymore, and he has made it abundantly clear that he wants a long-term deal. The Cowboys are happy to give it to him, but they do not value Lawrence’s skill-set quite as highly as Lawrence himself does. Dallas reportedly would give Lawrence a contract that would make him the highest-paid 4-3 defensive end in football, which would mean an AAV of over $18MM, but Lawrence is seeking a pact that would pay him at least $22.5MM per year (of course, if Lawrence were to sign his franchise tender, he would earn over $20.5MM this year and be eligible for free agency again in 2020).

In fairness to the Cowboys, Lawrence is simply not worth that kind of commitment. The market for premium players in the NFL is reset each time a new extension is signed, so if Player X signs a $100MM pact in August, Player Y, who is good but perhaps not as good as Player X, could very well land a $110MM deal in September. But sometimes, the gulf between Player X and Player Y does not justify that type of raise.

Aaron Donald‘s contract with the Rams, which he signed just last August, pays him $22.5MM per year. Lawrence is not the kind of game-changing talent that Donald is, nor is he as impactful as Khalil Mack, who signed a $23.5MM/year deal right after Donald got his payday. To be sure, Lawrence is an excellent player, but he is just not on the same level.

Further complicating the issue is that Lawrence is trying to leverage the shoulder surgery that he needs in order to continue playing into the type of contract that he wants. Lawrence wants to wait to have the surgery, which carries a four-month recovery period, until he gets his extension, and the Cowboys obviously don’t want to play along with that plan. If Lawrence wants to be ready for the start of the 2019 season, he would have to go under the knife by early May at the latest, and if he postpones the procedure, he may only be hurting himself in the long run.

We would like to know from our readers how you think this saga will play out. The safe money in these types of scenarios is always on the two sides reaching an accord, but that does not always happen. Theoretically, the Cowboys could give Lawrence permission to seek a contract with another club and then trade him to that club if he reaches an agreement, but it is difficult to imagine another team being willing to meet Lawrence’s contract demands and cough up draft compensation to acquire the soon-to-be 27-year-old.

If Lawrence refuses to come to the table, the Cowboys could rescind the franchise tag, which would make Lawrence an unrestricted free agent. But at that point, the market may not be as robust as he would like it to be, especially if he has not had the surgery yet. He could end up having to settle for a one-year pact for less than he would have earned under the franchise tag.

The guess here is that Lawrence and the Cowboys agree to terms on a multiyear pact that will pay Lawrence about $19MM per season, and that the agreement will come in the next few weeks so that Lawrence will be ready to go come September. It appears that Dallas has the leverage, but the club obviously does not want to risk losing a key player while also creating animosity in the locker room and alienating future free agents.

But what do you think the team should do, and what do you think will ultimately happen? Let us know in the comments section.

Community Tailgate: Le’Veon Bell

Nothing’s transpired on the Le’Veon Bell front going into the Steelers’ Week 3 game, continuing one of the most unique sagas in modern NFL history.

Steelers brass bracing for a lengthy Bell absence looks accurate at this point, with no near-future debut date in sight for the two-time All-Pro running back. Rather than angle for more money in his Steelers walk year, Bell is taking a self-preservation stance in avoiding as much punishment as possible in hopes of securing a landmark free agency accord as a result.

But is he making the right decision? Bell will have lost out on more than $2.5MM by the end of Week 3 and stands to lose out on millions more if he pushes the holdout to the Week 10 deadline.

The Steelers placed the ball in his court. They aren’t going to rescind his franchise tag. They don’t plan to trade him, which would essentially place another team in their predicament as the employer of a rental player, and will not set a precedent of enhancing his prorated franchise tag number (once set at $14.5MM).

For now, probably the second-best player on a team that entered the season with the second-best odds at an AFC title is out of the picture despite being presumably healthy. Meanwhile, the Steelers are struggling at 0-1-1. While they aren’t exactly in must-win territory just yet, that time may be fast approaching. But the traditional organization caving to Bell by authorizing any kind of raise seems highly unlikely. And James Conner fared well in Week 1, when Pittsburgh’s game script was not thrust into the pass-heavy mode Week 2 required.

Bell’s banking on recouping the funds he’s currently losing, and then some, with major guaranteed money (which didn’t appear to be on the table from the Steelers, though reports vary on what guarantees were offered in July) come March.

He will be a coveted commodity as a free agent, but at 27 (in February) and with high mileage on his odometer regardless of when he resumes his Steelers career, can Bell expect to land a Todd Gurley– or David Johnson-level contract? Gurley signed his near-$15MM-per-year/$45MM guaranteed megadeal when he had 786 career carries. Johnson inked his three-year, $39MM accord with 429 career totes. Bell will begin his 2018 season with 1,229. That’s a substantial difference from not only his high-dollar ball-carrying peers but from backs who comprised recent free agent contingents. Teams could be leery of Bell slowing down in his late 20s as a result.

Some execs are not viewing the sixth-year player’s holdout as a smart move for his future. But then again, he’s going to draw interest because of his past production. And he’s obviously less likely to suffer an injury while away from the Steelers than playing in games. Although, Bell already has a serious knee injury on his NFL medical sheet — an MCL tear in 2015. The old-school workloads the Steelers gave him during his years as their starter, in addition to his past with injuries (which also includes maladies in the 2014 and ’16 playoffs), will Bell get what he wants come March?

Can these circumstances reach one-year, prove-it deal proportions? Or will Bell cash in due to some teams — headlined by the Colts and Jets — holding cap space and a lack of backfield options on his level? And how will this holdout affect his stock when it does come time to hit the market? What effect does this have on the Steelers’ 2018 hopes? Weigh in on this issue in the comments section.

Community Tailgate: Safety Market

With every team slated to open training camp this month, the strange quagmire that is the safety market remains crowded with proven performers. Three of the top four players from PFR’s free agent safeties list in March are still available four months later.

While other positions feature some key players unsigned as well — like Dez Bryant, Johnathan Hankins, Bashaud Breeland and Colin Kaepernick — the glut of safeties resides as the most interesting because most of the original UFA market’s best players are unattached as camps near.

Eric Reid, Tre Boston and Kenny Vaccaro appeared at Nos. 1, 3 and 4 on Dallas Robinson’s top UFA safeties list, and no member of this triumvirate is yet 28 years old. Both Reid and Vaccaro started for five seasons, with Boston being a full-time first-unit presence the past two years and intercepting five passes for the Chargers last season. Pro Football Focus placed both Boston and Reid in a tie for 30th among safeties last season. While Vaccaro struggled in 2017, he rated as one of the league’s better safeties in 2015 and ’16.

Due to Reid’s involvement in the protests during national anthems the past two seasons, his unattached status hovers over this contingent. The one-time Pro Bowler took one visit, meeting with the Bengals, only it did not go well when Mike Brown reportedly asked the 26-year-old defender if he would continue to kneel during the anthem (this was prior to the NFL’s new anthem policy forcing players to either stand or remain in the locker room during the song’s playing). Reid subsequently followed Kaepernick’s lead by filing a collusion grievance against the league and has not received any other known inquiry about his services since the Bengals summit.

Boston and Vaccaro have, each visiting the Colts. Boston also met with the Cardinals, while Vaccaro spoke with the Dolphins and was scheduled to visit the Jets earlier this offseason. Boston was not pleased with how his visits unfolded. At this point, it’s likely that both players — and some older UFAs like Tyvon Branch or T.J. Ward — will have to wait for preseason injuries or accept low-value, one-year pacts from teams if they are to play in 2018.

Of course, some safeties — like Tyrann Mathieu, Morgan Burnett, Bradley McDougald, Kurt Coleman and Ron Parker — did sign this offseason. But the money was not on the level of previous safety classes.

Excepting Mathieu’s one-year, $7MM deal, five 2017 UFA safeties’ contracts top anyone from this year’s market in terms of average annual value. Tony Jefferson, Barry Church, Micah Hyde, Johnathan Cyprien and T.J. McDonald all signed for at least $6MM per year in 2017, with most of those players not having the resumes of Reid or Vaccaro. Burnett signed for $4.7MM per year, and Coleman received $5.4MM AAV. With the cap having risen by $10MM, the deals completed this offseason were not in stride with the growth.

Theories have surfaced about why this gridlock’s occurred. Obviously, Reid has the most explosive belief about what’s transpiring. Michael Thomas, a special-teamer/safety who signed with the Giants for two years and $4MM, agrees collusion has affected the market. An anonymous agent concurred, saying the likes of Boston and Vaccaro are collateral damage from teams avoiding Reid. An ex-defensive coordinator said this position, despite this being a prime passing era, is not evaluated consistently by teams.

So, which theory is accurate? Is there another explanation for several prime-years safeties being overlooked? Will this be the new normal for this position, one that’s seen four players sign for at least $10MM AAV since Earl Thomas‘ then-record $10MM-per-year deal, or will 2018 be an outlier? Weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section!

Community Tailgate: Rodgers’ Contract

With Kirk Cousins‘ and Matt Ryan‘s landmark deals completed, the market is seemingly set up for Aaron Rodgers to reset it. He seems to agree, if an airport encounter with Thomas Dimitroff is any indication.

But now that those dominoes have fallen, and the QB market’s per-year ceiling has been raised by $3MM as a result, what will Rodgers’ deal look like?

Cousins ushered the NFL into new territory with a fully guaranteed contract. The Packers’ starting quarterback’s accomplishments dwarfing the Vikings’ new one, he will certainly command more money. But the Packers may not be eager to structure Rodgers’ deal this way — a three-year, fully guaranteed agreement — since he’s under contract through 2019 on his current pact.

Green Bay has Rodgers signed to what became an incredibly team-friendly contract (five years, $110MM), and while it’s virtually impossible to imagine Rodgers getting to the 2019 season on his current deal and the leverage that would come with that position, his through-’19 accord wouldn’t seem to line up with a Cousins-type deal.

Ryan’s contract structure — five years, $150MM — would make more sense for the Packers, and that certainly would be the floor for the two-time MVP that’s probably the most valuable commodity in the NFL. Rodgers is only entering his age-34 season and recently said near-future retirement is not in the cards for him.

The 2005 first-round pick had to wait until his fourth season to start, and top-tier QB peers like Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger are much closer to retirement than he is. The Packers’ long-term future can still include the two-time MVP, and thus a perpetual Super Bowl window. And with those future Hall of Famers out of the picture at some point, Rodgers could have an even bigger opportunity to burnish his legacy.

Assuming the Packers follow the Falcons’ blueprint here, how much can Rodgers justifiably earn? The quarterback market moved rather slowly after Rodgers signed his extension in spring 2013. Entering the summer of 2017, the NFL hadn’t yet seen a $25MM-per-year player. But now that the market’s rapidly escalated, it sets up well for Rodgers to transport salaries further north.

Ryan’s $30MM AAV comprises approximately 17 percent of the league’s $177MM salary cap. Rodgers’ $22MM-per-year deal actually represented a greater percentage of the $123MM cap (18 percent) in 2013. An 18 percent chunk of the current cap is nearly $32MM, which would be quite reasonable. But with the cap rising, and Rodgers’ value being displayed via his absence last season, he could obviously ask for more. Is any kind of Packers-friendly discount, for the purposes of the franchise optimally building around him, in the cards? The cap’s steady rise and Rodgers’ 2013 contract becoming outdated (currently 10th among QBs) may nix that logic quickly.

Is a contract that is tied to a percentage of the salary cap a viable scenario? If a player was going to pursue that, Cousins may have been the one — a free agent franchise-level passer in his prime. But Rodgers’ immense importance to his team may make him a logical candidate for such an attempt. It would prevent his deal from becoming a bargain as the cap climbs toward (and eventually exceeds) $200MM in the next few years, but the Packers would obviously be hesitant about this type of player-friendly structure.

So, what will Rodgers’ next contract look like? He seems likely to exceed Ryan’s $94.5MM fully guaranteed figure, but by how much? Is he going to push for a $35MM-per-year deal and take the quarterback market to another stratosphere, or is a pact somewhere in between that and Ryan’s AAV where this will end up? Weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section!

Community Tailgate: Where Will Dez Bryant Play In 2018?

Dez Bryant sits atop PFR’s most recent ranking of the top 10 offensive players still available on the free agent market. Still just 29, he is a three-time Pro-Bowler with one first-team All-Pro nod to his credit, and he was targeted 132 times last season. Though he is clearly no longer the player he was earlier in his career, the fact that he has only piqued the interest of just one team — the Ravens — since he was released by the Cowboys is a surprise.

Of course, the timing of his release was a bit unfortunate. He was cut over a month after free agency opened, and at that point, most of the WR1/WR2 vacancies had been filled, and teams did not have as much money to spend. Plus, with the draft right around the corner, clubs were devoting more attention to collegiate prospects than anything else.

Baltimore did offer Bryant a three-year, $21MM pact, but he turned it down, as he prefers a one-year deal that would enable him to boost his value and give himself one more shot at a big-money contract (if he had his way, he would also sign on with an NFC East team). Outside of the Ravens’ offer, however, the only news on Bryant is that teams are not interested in him, even on a league minimum deal. There are a number of clubs that still make sense as a potential landing spot — like the Packers and Bills — but those teams have generally indicated that they do not plan to pursue the former first-round selection.

Bryant was never a gifted route runner, and his earlier success stemmed largely from his athleticism and his ability to make contested catches. As he has gotten older and dealt with injury problems, his physical advantages have evaporated to a large degree, and that reality, combined with his perceived attitude issues, is doubtlessly scaring teams away. But still….no interest at all?

As always, players will sustain injuries, players will underperform, and front office executives will reassess their roster on a daily basis. Bryant will find a job, even if he has to accept a contract not at all to his liking. But we would like to know your thoughts on the matter. Why is no one willing to entertain the notion of signing him right now, where will he ultimately end up, and what does the future hold for the Oklahoma State product who was one of the most exciting players in football not too long ago?

Community Tailgate: Giants’ Barkley Fit

With the draft four days away, the prospect of Saquon Barkley becoming the first running back to go off the board in the top two since Reggie Bush has steadily increased. The Giants/Barkley noise has intensified.

The Giants hold their highest pick since 1981, when they chose Lawrence Taylor at No. 2, and have a quarterback who is set to play his age-37 season in 2018. With all but one QB likely to be available to Big Blue at No. 2, it could be argued — as some in the organization appear to have done — the Giants should not forgo a chance to add a possible Eli Manning successor only to draft this year’s best running back prospect. They have not held a top-five selection since the Manning trade 14 years ago, so it can’t be considered a lock they’ll have this opportunity again soon.

New York also has needs on its offensive line, at cornerback and on its front seven, putting a trade-down decision in play. A Bradley Chubb pick would go about meeting need and value if he is the No. 2 choice, but Barkley may well be the No. 1 prospect on the Giants’ board. And Dave Gettleman, who held key decision-making positions when the Giants used a No. 7 pick on Ron Dayne (2000) and a No. 32 choice on David Wilson (2012), does not look to believe running backs aren’t the commodities they used to be. (At least, he’s not saying so publicly.)

The Giants also need a better answer in the backfield. Jonathan Stewart is nearing the end of his career, and Paul Perkins and Wayne Gallman may be backup types. As a player who’s been rated by some high-profile draft experts as being a better prospect than Ezekiel Elliott, Barkley would surely take care of that and join an offense that would have Odell Beckham Jr., Sterling Shepard and Evan Engram (and if Dez Bryant gets his way, Dez Bryant) at the skill spots. The Penn State superstar being in that mix could change the equation for the Giants, who ranked 26th in rushing offense and scored just 15.4 points per game (31st in the league) last season. Elliott sure made an impact for the Cowboys as a rookie, but he had a much better offensive line in front of him.

The Jaguars invested a No. 4 overall pick in Leonard Fournette a year ago. He’s Jacksonville’s unquestioned starter going forward, but the Jags saw third-rounders Alvin Kamara and Kareem Hunt have superior rookie seasons. Devonta Freeman was just a fourth-round pick, and Jordan Howard went in the 2016 fifth round. Le’Veon Bell, a second-rounder, is gunning for a No. 1 receiver-level contract And this running back class is viewed as another strong group, and intriguing ball-carriers will be available on Day 2.

ESPN’s Todd McShay was definitive in his stance that Barkley will be a Giant, and the franchise’s interest in him appears to be genuine. PFR readers overwhelmingly believe that’s what will happen. The Giants had one of the 2000s’ best backfield options in Tiki Barber, but they won a Super Bowl the year after he retired and won another four years later when they ranked last in rushing. This franchise has deployed successful backs since Barber, in Brandon Jacobs and Ahmad Bradshaw, but Big Blue has shown it hasn’t necessarily needed a top-tier back to thrive in the recent past.

So, should the Giants use their top offseason resource to draft Barkley? Is he worth the team bypassing a possible long-term quarterback option when the running back position has seen its value take numerous hits this century? Or would the Giants be reaching if they took a quarterback who might not play until 2020 over a well-reviewed running back who could have an Elliott-esque effect on their offense this season? Weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section!

Community Tailgate: Fifth-Year Options

A few of the NFL’s best players find themselves in contract predicaments due largely to the CBA, and their courses of action could become major issues for their respective teams.

Thanks to the fifth-year option, Odell Beckham Jr., Aaron Donald and Khalil Mack — and many others from a talented 2014 first-round contingent — are tied to the franchises that drafted them for two more seasons as part of their rookie contracts. Despite several of these players having outperformed their deals, none more than the aforementioned trio, these performers are all attached to 2017 salaries far below their market values.

Beckham did not show for Giants OTAs before reporting in advance of minicamp, and although the superstar wideout has downplayed concerns about his contract going into his fourth season, John Mara categorized this extension as a lower-priority matter right now. That likely wouldn’t be the case if Beckham had been a second-round pick.

Donald gave a non-answer regarding a potential training camp holdout. Though he’s been in talks with the team on a new deal, that situation appears to be dragging. The two-time All-Pro has become the league’s top defensive tackle, but his situation doesn’t leave him the kind of leverage then-UFA Ndamukong Suh had when he set the bar at six years and $114MM.

Despite being the defensive player of the year, Mack looks like he will have to wait until 2018 to secure a long-term commitment from the Raiders. While Reggie McKenzie said Mack will be re-signed — likely for more money than any defender has made — the fact that the player who is probably the Raiders’ best has to wait behind other standouts from his draft class simply because Derek Carr and Gabe Jackson‘s deals didn’t include fifth-year options is a loophole. It affects top talents annually.

Other players like Mike Evans, Anthony Barr and Jadeveon Clowney are part of the above group. But in the case of Beckham, Mack and Donald, these are three elite NFL talents who are tied to modest amounts while lesser players from the ’14 draft are prioritized because they are entering their contract years. Von Miller and Muhammad Wilkerson had to wait five years for their extensions, with teams also having the more lucrative franchise tag to apply as a stall tactic. It worked out for those stalwart defenders, but this system creates drama consistently.

Teddy Bridgewater can be used as an example of it backfiring, although the timing was different. The Vikings declined Bridgewater’s fifth-year option months after his knee injury put his career in jeopardy. While Bridgewater was not eligible for an extension at the time he was hurt, the Vikings almost certainly would have picked up his option in March to keep him around on an $11MM-plus salary in 2018. Now, the quarterback’s camp could be preparing for a battle since a PUP list stay could cause the fourth-year passer’s contract to toll, thus tying him to his Year 4 salary ($2.18MM) for another season. That would be quite the fall after being in line for a possible extension down the road.

Attached to respective salaries of $3.23MM, $3.31MM and $5.94MM, Donald, Beckham and Mack don’t have many courses of action. They could hold out, however, to apply pressure to their teams.

The Giants and Raiders wouldn’t be the same without their superstar 2014 draftees, and while the Rams haven’t made the playoffs with Donald around and are in more of a rebuilding phase now, they would certainly be weakened without Donald’s services. But the players could incur $30K fines per day by doing this. That’s not exactly a harsh deterrent to someone who stands to sign for more than $100MM at some point, but given that such money isn’t assured yet, these penalties would be more severe.

These options have turned out to be quite team-friendly, despite the pay increases that come in Year 5. They also delay a first-rounders’ prospective free agencies as peers chosen in later rounds venture onto the open market, forcing teams to pay for another prime year of service. Robert Griffin III and D.J. Fluker found out how unfriendly the options can be to players after their teams rescinded them free of charge over the past two offseasons.

But this setup is the law until a new CBA emerges. For the time being, fourth- or fifth-year players who feel they’ve outperformed their deals will be thrust into uncertainty the way some of their peers drafted later aren’t.

So, should talents like Beckham and Donald follow through with holdouts to ratchet up the pressure? Or would showing goodwill toward their teams by working until an extension comes be a better course of action? Should teams display more expediency regarding these deals to avoid these situations, in an effort to show future players they are valued? Or are the pay bumps that come in Year 5 enough to justify the delays? Weigh in with your thoughts in the comments section.

Community Tailgate: Derek Carr’s Deal

Derek Carr is now the highest-paid player in the NFL…depending on how you look at it. The “new money” average annual value of Carr’s deal gives him $25MM per year, beginning in 2018 when the contract kicks in. That tops Andrew Luck‘s new money yearly average of $24.769MM, giving Carr the mantle by a slim margin of $271K per season. There’s also the matter of cashflow. Luck’s three-year value ($75MM to $67.6MM) and four-year value ($96.125MM to $87.7MM) tops Carr’s. Any way you slice it, Carr probably won’t be at the top for long anyway since Matthew Stafford is on deck for a new deal and the Lions are not hesitant about making him the highest-paid player in the NFLDerek Carr (vertical)

[RELATED: Derek Carr Discusses Extension]

When asked about his new contract at a press conference earlier this week, Carr explained that he structured the deal with his teammates in mind. The Raiders will soon begin extension talks with right guard Gabe Jackson, linebacker Khalil Mack, and (perhaps a little further down the line) wide receiver Amari Cooper. The way the deal is designed, Carr said, should help the Raiders keep all of those key pillars for years to come.

When looking at the fine print, Carr’s deal isn’t exactly the market-pushing deal that the initial reports would have led us to believe. There was speculation that Carr would push the Raiders for larger-than-usual guarantees or perhaps even a set percentage of the yearly salary cap to account for the team’s ever-increasing revenue. Neither one of those things happened and Carr didn’t exactly shatter the glass ceiling for top quarterbacks.

Jason Fitzgerald of Over The Cap estimates that the quarterback market should really be around $27-$30MM by now rather than $25MM. Because a few QBs like Tom Brady accepted team-friendly deals, the going rate for elite signal callers has not increased at the same rate as the salary cap. Carr’s deal will help out the Raiders and his teammates, but it doesn’t necessarily blaze a trail for his fellow quarterbacks.

Do you like Carr’s decision to structure his deal in a way that suits Oakland? Or do you think the youngster should have pushed for more? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section.

Community Tailgate: Jets’ Long-Term QB Solution?

As Rich Cimini of reported several days ago, Jets quarterback Christian Hackenberg exceeded expectations in minicamp and has narrowed the gap between himself and presumptive starter Josh McCown. Gang Green, of course, is in full tank mode, and the team wants to give Hackenberg a chance to show what he can do in 2017, even if McCown ultimately opens the season as the starting signal-caller.

Jun 13, 2017; Florham Park, NJ, USA; New York Jets quarterback Christian Hackenberg (5) throws during mini camp at Atlantic Health Jets Training Center. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports

That does not mean, however, that the Jets are married to their Hack for the long haul. As Cimini wrote this morning, New York’s rebuilding plan is centered around its selecting a quarterback from the allegedly QB-rich 2018 draft. Players like USC’s Sam Darnold, UCLA’s Josh Rosen, and Wyoming’s Josh Allen are generating the most buzz at the moment, though all are underclassmen and may choose to stay in college in 2018. Nonetheless, assuming (as most do) that the Jets will be bad enough in 2017 to have an early pick in next year’s draft, they could have their choice of elite quarterback prospects.

From a prospect standpoint, Hackenberg does not have the same upside as the above-mentioned collegiate passers, so there is plenty of doubt as to whether he can be a legitimate long-term starter in the league. Further complicating matters, as Brian Costello of the New York Post opines, is that it will be difficult to truly evaluate Hackenberg this year because of the fact that he really has no proven pass catcher to throw the ball to now that the team has cut ties with Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker. Costello, like Cimini, believes Hackenberg showed significant improvement this spring, but if he struggles in 2017, it will be hard to argue that he was given a fair shake.

But now we want you to weigh in on this matter. How do you see the Jets’ long-term quarterback situation shaping up? Do you think Hackenberg will seize control of the job, thereby allowing the team to pursue other options in the 2018 draft (which was mentioned as a distinct possibility several weeks ago)? Or do you think Hackenberg will struggle to produce or just not play well enough to convince the Jets that he is the answer under center?

Or maybe you see an entirely different scenario unfolding. Maybe you see the world through green-and-white glasses and think McCown will keep the team in contention this year, which would be a pleasant surprise for Jets fans but which would not help them in their search for a long-term solution at quarterback. Or do you think Bryce Petty will emerge from the shadows and throw his hat in the ring? Let us know your thoughts in the comment section below.