Jay Cutler

Top 2018 NFL Free Agents By Position: Offense

NFL free agency will get underway on Wednesday, March 14th, and while the list of free agents will change between now and then, we do have some idea of who will be available when free agency kicks off. The frenzy is right around the corner and it’s time for us to break down the outlook for each position. We’ll start today on offense, before getting to defense and special teams later this week.

Listed below are our rankings for the top 15 free agents at each offensive position. The rankings aren’t necessarily determined by the value of the contracts that each player is expected to land in free agency, they are simply the players we like the most at each position, with both short- and long-term value taken into account. Restricted and exclusive-rights free agents are not listed here since they are unlikely to actually reach the open market. The same goes for players who have been franchise tagged or transition tagged.

We’ll almost certainly be higher or lower on some guys than you are, so we encourage you to make your voice heard in our comments section to let us know which free agents we’ve got wrong.

Here’s our breakdown of the current top 15 free agents by offensive position for 2018:


  1. Kirk Cousins
  2. Drew Brees
  3. Case Keenum
  4. A.J. McCarron
  5. Sam Bradford
  6. Teddy Bridgewater
  7. Colin Kaepernick
  8. Josh McCown
  9. Mike Glennon
  10. Drew Stanton
  11. Jay Cutler
  12. Chase Daniel
  13. Ryan Fitzpatrick
  14. Brock Osweiler
  15. Tom Savage

There were many difficult calls when putting this list together, but ranking Kirk Cousins as the No. 1 QB available was not among them. Cousins is the best quarterback to reach free agency in recent history and he’ll become the highest-paid player of all-time – at least, for some period of time – in mid-March. Who will make history with Cousins? That’s anyone’s guess right now. The Browns have more cap room than any other team, but a recent report from Adam Schefter of ESPN.com listed the Broncos, Cardinals, Jets, and Vikings as the final suitors for Cousins. Of those four, the Jets have the most money to work with, but they’re concerned about the Vikings winning out and Cousins’ desire to win could point him in another direction. If the Broncos and Cardinals want in on the Cousins sweepstakes, they’ll have to get creative with the books.

Drew Brees is included here, but by his own admission, he’ll be re-signing with the Saints rather than testing the open waters of free agency. Unless the Saints lowball their franchise QB, it’s hard to see him leaving New Orleans.

Case Keenum put together a tremendous season for the Vikings, but he doesn’t have a history of success beyond 2017. There will be plenty of interest in Keenum, but only after QB-needy teams strike out on Cousins. The incumbent Vikings could re-sign Keenum, but right now, it seems like they are intent on exploring the Cousins waters first.

There isn’t a ton of footage on A.J. McCarron, which made his placement on this list awfully tricky. We know this much: McCarron did well in place of Dalton in the home stretch of the 2015 season and his former offensive coordinator Hue Jackson was salivating at the chance of landing him before the Browns bungled the trade with the Bengals. McCarron’s relative youth is a plus (he won’t turn 28 until September) and his lack of experience can be looked at as a positive. Unlike some of the other names on this list, he hasn’t run up his NFL odometer.

What will NFL teams make of Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Bradford this offseason? Not long ago, both seemed like quality starting options. However, there are serious injury questions about both players and any team signing them will either look to backstop them with another decent option or ask them to come onboard as a QB2. With that in mind, one has to wonder if Bradford would consider retirement if asked to hold the clipboard for another signal caller. Bradford has earned upwards of $110MM over the years in the NFL, so it’s safe to say that he has enough money in the bank to call it quits if he wants. For now, he’s intent on playing.

Colin Kaepernick‘s placement on this list is sure to draw some strong reactions from his fans and detractors alike. Looking purely at his football ability, there’s no question that he belongs on someone’s roster. At minimum, Kaepernick profiles as a high-end backup, even after a year out of the game.

Quarterbacks coaches have long believed that Mike Glennon is capable of great things, due in part to his height. At 6’7″, he can see over any defensive line, but he hasn’t done much on the field to prove that he is a quality Week 1 starting option. Josh McCown, who is a decade his senior, edges him here for his surprisingly strong performance in 2017 at the helm of a weak Jets offense.

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Jay Cutler On 2018: “I Want To Play Football”

The Dolphins seemed to sign veteran quarterback Jay Cutler as more of a place holder until Ryan Tannehill returned from injury in 2018. However, it looks like Cutler is intent on suiting up once again for a team next season.

jay Cutler (Vertical)

When asked by reporters on Wednesday about his football future, Cutler simply responded, ““I want to play football” (via Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald on Twitter).

Cutler will be entering his age 35 season in 2018, but will be a free agent after signing a one-year contract with Miami in training camp. The veteran signal caller’s openness to keep playing is rather surprising given that he was already set to retire as a broadcaster after a long 11-year career with the Broncos and Bears. His play has been inconsistent for a majority of his time in the NFL, but only appeared in five games in 2016 because of a shoulder injury.

This season has shown more of the same with Cutler throwing 19 touchdowns to 14 interceptions. He’s only completing 62% of his passes and has accumulated a QBR of 43.3 in the 13 games he’s played in this season. These are not quality starting QB numbers and I wouldn’t expect Cutler to be very sought after on the open market with how many promising signal callers are becoming available this offseason.

We’ll just have to wait and see whether Cutler follows through on his intentions, but it appears even if he does, it’ll likely be with another organization as the Dolphins already have their presumptive starter returning in Tannehill.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

East Notes: Giants, Collins, Cutler, Jets

A day after referring to Eli Apple as “a cancer,” Landon Collins has attempted to walk that back. While that might be difficult, the All-Pro Giants safety issued an apology (on Twitter) today and confirmed he did so in person in a meeting with Apple and Steve Spagnuolo. The interim HC confirmed the meeting, via Paul Schwartz of the New York Post (on Twitter).

I met with Coach Spags and Eli this morning and I apologized for the things I said yesterday,” Collins said. “I never stop supporting my brother/teammate Eli and the rest of my teammates as we move forward. Just want him to know I’m always here for him.”

On Tuesday during a radio interview, Collins said Apple “needs to grow up.” Wednesday’s apology marks the latest chapter in a weeks-long saga involving the two defensive backs. Earlier this month, Collins said he’d talked to Apple — who has taken a step back this season — and told media the cornerback’s issues were mental and that he was dealing with “significant” personal struggles. Apple then denied Collins spoke with him, and the third-year safety — according to NJ.com — had to be restrained by teammates as he attempted to confront the second-year corner. Apple has not been suspended like Janoris Jenkins or Dominique Rodgers-Cromartie were, but he’s been benched and reportedly nearly left the Giants’ facility because of a harsh film-room session earlier this season.

Here’s the latest out of the Eastern divisions.

  • Josh McDaniels remains linked to Patriots exec Nick Caserio regarding GM/HC arrangements, but Mark Maske of the Washington Post reports the New England OC could also be interested in pairing up with Louis Riddick as a GM. Riddick interviewed for the Giants’ GM job last week, although Dave Gettleman is viewed as the favorite. McDaniels and Caserio were a sought-after tandem last year, with the 49ers having shown interest in bringing them to the Bay Area.
  • Adam Gase said Wednesday he has not spoken to Jay Cutler about him returning to the Dolphins in 2018, Barry Jackson of the Miami Herald notes. Jackson adds the Dolphins remain committed to having Ryan Tannehill return as their starter next season, but he reported last week the Fins would be open to Cutler coming back as the backup. Cutler will start this weekend’s regular-season finale against the Bills.
  • Davis Webb will rise to the Giants‘ No. 2 quarterback role and take Geno Smith‘s place as Eli Manning‘s backup, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com tweets. It will be the first time Webb suits up as an NFLer. Smith will be inactive Sunday, and Webb could see time off the bench in the game under the format Ben McAdoo broached with Manning upon benching him earlier this year. Spagnuolo, however, said (via Schwartz, on Twitter) there are “no guarantees” the third-round rookie makes his NFL debut against the Redskins.
  • The Jets are likely to land a pick in the lower part of the top 10, and Brian Costello of the New York Post ranked the most- to least-likely scenarios involving offseason quarterback plans. Most likely is a setup where the Jets draft Josh Allen with their first pick and re-sign Josh McCown to continue his better-than-expected stopgap work. Costello notes the Jets’ top competition for the Wyoming passer could be the BroncosJohn Elway trekked to the Potato Bowl in Boise, Idaho, last week to observe Allen in person. The Jets, though, have put in the most work on Allen to this point. Gang Green’s No. 2 scenario? Kirk Cousins, whom Costello recalls the team showing interest in after Smith was sucker-punched in 2015.

Dolphins Haven’t Ruled Out Keeping Jay Cutler

The Dolphins are committed to having Ryan Tannehill serve as their starter next year. However, they have not ruled out the possibility of retaining Jay Cutler as his backup, two sources with knowledge of the situation tell Barry Jackson of The Miami Heraldjay Cutler (Vertical)

Of course, there’s no guarantee that Cutler wants to return for another NFL season, whether its as a backup or a starter. Before Tannehill’s injury, Cutler had planned to serve as a color commentator for the NFL on FOX. The 34-year-old (35 in April) may want to pivot back to the broadcast booth, particularly if he’s being offered backup QB money that is roughly in line with what he’d make on TV. This year, the Dolphins paid him $10MM — significantly more than he was going to make as an analyst.

Jackson posits that Cutler would want a deal that matches or tops Nick Foles‘ two-year, $11MM pact with the Eagles if he were to serve as a backup. A salary of ~$6MM per year would be on the high side for a No. 2 QB and Matt Moore could instead be re-signed for significantly less.

Ultimately, Cutler’s performance in the final two games of the season weigh heavily on his future in Miami. He’s produced better work at times down the stretch than he did during a rough start, but the 12th-year passer’s still put together an inconsistent campaign. Cutler’s best game came in Week 14, when he threw for 263 yards and three touchdowns in a home upset of the Patriots. The Dolphins are 6-6 in his starts.

Cutler also has encountered injury trouble that could play a role in his decision to pursue a 13th season. He spent time in concussion protocol and suffered a rib injury. Both maladies induced one-game absences.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

Dolphins QB Jay Cutler Will Start Sunday

Dolphins quarterback Jay Cutler has cleared the NFL’s concussion protocol and will start Sunday against the Broncos, head coach Adam Gase told reporters, including Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald (Twitter link).jay Cutler (Vertical)

Miami will turn back to Cutler following a start by backup Matt Moore in Week 12, a loss to the division rival Patriots in which Moore completed 23 of 34 attempts for 215 yards, one touchdown, and two interceptions. No matter who is under center going forward, the Dolphins aren’t likely to be contending for playoff spot, as the 4-7 club has only a 1% chance of securing a postseason berth, per FiveThirtyEight.

Cutler, who also missed Week 8 with a ribs injury, has struggled in his first season with the Dolphins. He ranks near the bottom of the league in most quarterback metrics, grades as the No. 33 quarterback among 37 qualifiers per Pro Football Focus, and isn’t throwing the ball down the field, as his 7.8-yard average depth of target ranks 32nd in the NFL.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.

AFC Notes: Gordon, Bolts, Cutler, Steelers

Browns receiver Josh Gordon declared himself ready to go despite having another week before he is ready to be activated, according to ESPN’s Tony Grossi.

It’s been awesome. It’s been a joy. It’s been fun. It’s been exciting,” Gordon said Friday. “I think I knocked that rust off prior to getting back to the building. I think I accomplished that. First day of practice, [I was] able to adjust pretty quickly.

Anyone worried about Gordon needing time to round into shape hasn’t kept up with his comeback. The former All-Pro receiver has been working out constantly and looks ready to go when the team can activate him in Week 13.

Here’s more from around the AFC:

  • The Chargers did not escape their Thanksgiving Day bout with the Cowboys unscathed. Kicker Nick Novak sustained a back injury and his status has led the team to possibly tryout kickers next week, Eric Williams of ESPN reports (Twitter link).
  • Staying in Los Angeles, the Chargers also expect rookie wideout Mike Williams to miss time, though it has ruled out an ACL injury, Pro Football Talk’s Charean Williams writes. Williams was carted off the field with an injury during the game.
  • The Dolphins have ruled out Jay Cutler (concussion) for Week 12 vs. New England, ESPN’s James Walker reports (Twitter link). The team will turn to Matt Moore for the divisional bout.
  • Steelers rookie wideout JuJu Smith-Schuster has been ruled out of the team’s Sunday night matchup with Green Bay, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports. (Twitter link). The first-year receiver from USC has been impressive in recent weeks, averaging 17.2 yards per reception and logging five touchdowns on the season. He will miss the game due to a hamstring injury.

AFC East Notes: Cooks, Dolphins, McCown

Brandin Cooks has made the successful transition from Drew Brees‘ top deep threat to Tom Brady‘s, not that it was in too much doubt this could happen. As a result, Cooks would like to extend his Patriots stay far into the future. The fourth-year wide receiver said, via Jeff Howe of the Boston Herald, he would “absolutely” like to play the rest of his career in New England. Multiple obvious caveats come with this statement, though. The first being Cooks’ contract runs through the 2018 season, via the fifth-year option the Pats picked up. After that, it will probably take a high-end WR1 contract to keep Cooks in the Boston area. And the Patriots have not exactly been the kind of team that doles those out. Secondly, Brady’s age naturally makes it a year-to-year proposition the Patriots have a dominant passing game. But for now, Cooks likes where he’s stationed. He’s on pace for another 1,100-plus-yard season, with the 786 he’s at actually putting him on track for a career-high figure.

Here’s more from the AFC East.

  • The Dolphins might have to again turn to Matt Moore on Sunday. Jay Cutler remains in concussion protocol. But the team hopes its starter is cleared Friday or Saturday, with Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reporting (on Twitter) Cutler is on track to face the Patriots. Cutler hasn’t been able to practice much this week, but Adam Gase said he would feel comfortable putting the 34-year-old passer out there because he’s a veteran, Adam Beasley of the Miami Herald notes. Moore has played well in relief of Cutler twice this season but bombed in a 40-0 loss to the Ravens as a starter. Miami’s backup did fare better as a starter in 2016, however.
  • On the Cutler subject, Salguero writes no one in the Dolphins organization pushed back hard enough against Gase’s wishes to bring in the polarizing passer. And while Cutler may not be on Miami’s roster next season, his $10MM contract cost the Dolphins some potential cap-carryover money. Thanks to a roster that has two quarterbacks making eight-figure salaries, the Dolphins have less than $1MM to carry over, and Salguero points out the team passing on Cutler would have made it possible to carry at least $7MM over into 2018.
  • In the expansive piece judging the Fins’ offseason moves, Salguero writes that Lawrence Timmons and Julius Thomas will likely be cut. And Mike Pouncey won’t be automatic to see a seventh Miami season. The Dolphins can save $7MM by cutting Pouncey, who says he’s playing with a damaged hip, in 2018.
  • Josh McCown has made more starts in 2017 than he has in all but two seasons. The Jets quarterback looks set to eclipse his previous single-season high (13 with the 20o4 Cardinals), keeping Christian Hackenberg off the field. But as Manish Mehta of the New York Daily News observes, this productive age-38 season has cost the Jets long-term. McCown’s one-year contract might have been too good an investment since will have the Jets out of franchise-quarterback territory come draft time. Gang Green would pick 12th if the season ended today.

AFC Notes: Bills, Phins, Cutler, Broncos, Jets

Though there weren’t many positives to glean from a 54-24 drubbing by the Chargers, the Bills did receive one bit of good news on Monday. Newly acquired wideout Kelvin Benjamin did not tear his ACL in the loss, ESPN’s Adam Schefter reports (Twitter link).

Though the injury could force the physical receiver to miss a few games, he should be able to help the Bills, currently tied with Baltimore for the last playoff spot, contend for a wildcard berth down the stretch.

After letting Robert Woods walk and trading away Sammy Watkins in the offseason, Buffalo pulled off a deadline deal with Carolina for Benjamin, who was expected to serve as Tyrod Taylor‘s top target. That has yet to come to fruition with Benjamin catching four passes in two games and Taylor being benched for the first half vs. Los Angeles.

Here’s more from around the AFC:

  • Dolphins QB Jay Cutler is officially in the NFL’s concussion protocol, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com (Twitter link). The Dolphins are 4-6 and mired in a four-game losing streak, so their showdown with New England could be a make-or-break game for their slim playoff hopes. Matt Moore will assume the starting role should Cutler not be fit for the game.
  • After being placed on injured reserve earlier this month, Raiders first-round pick Gareon Conley underwent surgery to repair his injured shin on Monday, NBC Sports’ Scott Blair reports. The cornerback suffered the injury in training camp and aggravated it in Week 3 vs. Washington.
  • The Jets are still holding out hope for the postseason. With that in mind, the team will roll with Josh McCown as the team’s starting quarterback unless injured, reports Newsday’s Calvin Watkins. McCown is on the same page as Bowles and appreciates the vote of confidence.
  • Following the firing of Mike McCoy as offensive coordinator, the Broncos promoted Bill Musgrave to the post and named Klint Kubiak quarterbacks coach, according to Schefter. The offensive coordinator in Oakland the last two seasons, Musgrave helped the Raiders produce one of the league’s most potent offenses in 2016. Kubiak, the son of former Broncos head coach and team senior personnel advisor Gary Kubiak, served as wide receivers coach at Kansas in 2015 before joining the Broncos as an assistant in 2016.
  • Remaining with the shakeup in Denver, Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio writes that John Elway should also receive some blame for the team’s downward spiral in 2017. Florio writes: “Despite efforts to blame the players and, as of Monday morning, to blame offensive coordinator Mike McCoy, and possibly to blame coach Vance Joseph, responsibility for the six-game losing goes to every layer and level of the organization, and the buck ultimately stops on Elway’s desk.”

AFC Notes: Dolphins, Jets, Rosen, Darnold, McDermott, Bills QB’s, Kizer, Broncos Offense

The Dolphins dropped their fourth game in a row when the Bucs broke away in the fourth quarter of today’s contest, which has James Walker of ESPN.com saying that the team will start have to turn their attention to 2018. While Walker does note that the coaches and players will say that they’re still in the wild card hunt, the reality is that the team is showing no signs of making a run during the remaining weeks of the regular season. It’s a sobering thought for second-year head coach Adam Gase, who led Miami to a playoff birth during his first season as the Dolphins leader.

In addition to the defeat, the team also lost starting quarterback Jay Cutler to a concussion during today’s game. Cutler has already missed time earlier in the season, but the Dolphins continue to have an identity problem at the position, according to Adam Beasley of The Miami Herald. Although Matt Moore was effective in relief of Cutler in Week 11, the team did not signal what they intend to do at the quarterback position a week from now.

Gase told Beasley after the game that, “I want to get to tomorrow first, see how [Cutler is] feeling.” These situations usually get more light shed on them as the practice week goes on, however the Dolphins find themselves stuck in an unassuming gray area of the league with two veteran signal callers that can’t be relied on to deliver in the future. Miami still has Ryan Tannehill signed to a long-term deal when he fully recovers from his season-ending knee injury, but he hasn’t truly grabbed the reigns of the franchise since the team took the quarterback in the first round back in 2012.

  • Another team definitely looking ahead in regards to the QB position is the Jets, who had their general manager Mike Maccagnan, vice president of personnel Brian Heimerdinger and area scout Brian Shields on hand for the USC-UCLA game on Saturday to watch two of the best 2018 NFL Draft QB prospects in Josh Rosen and Sam Darnold square off, reports Rich Cimini of ESPN.com. Cimini notes the interesting behavior of Maccagnan in particular, who he saw writing a “copious” amount of notes and decided to watch the game from behind the sidelines instead of in the press box, where most of the NFL scouts were sitting. The Jets are likely to cast a wide net in their search for their next franchise signal, but it would seem that the front office has a significant amount of interest in two of the best college quarterbacks in the country.
  • The Bills have produced themselves a tremendous QB controversy when they shockingly decided to bench starter Tyrod Taylor for rookie Nathan Peterman. However, after Peterman threw five interceptions in the first half of today’s loss at the hands of the Chargers, head coach Sean McDermott is confident and says that he is not second guessing his decision, according to Mike Rodak of ESPN.com. The head coach didn’t reveal his intentions for who will start next week, even though Taylor did finish out the game today. The coach just said, “I’m going to evaluate.” when asked about his QB questions in his postgame media session, reports Vic Carruci of the Buffalo News (Twitter link).
  • On the other hand, Browns head coach Hue Jackson committed to his rookie signal caller for the rest of the season after today’s game, reports Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com. Jackson has turned to both Kevin Hogan and Cody Kessler throughout the season, but he seemed very set on DeShone Kizer after his team suffered their 10th straight loss of the 2017 season. “Where we are right now, I need to continue to see him,” said Jackson. “Let’s let him play. Let’s let him play this thing out. As long as he’s healthy, let’s keep putting him out there. I want to walk away from this season knowing exactly what DeShone Kizer is top to bottom. He deserves that. I know this is all tough for him. Week in and week out, it’s the consistency he has to keep chasing. He just has to keep working at it.” While seeing how Kizer reacts to this adversity seems like the franchise’s main priority, they’re quickly running out of chances to not fall into the same breadth as the 2008 Lions, who were the first team in league history to go 0-16 in a season.
  • The Broncos suffered their sixth straight loss at the hands of the Bengals after starting out 3-1 to start the season. The team has shifted to backup Brock Osweiler and could be looking to implement second-year quarterback Paxton Lynch at some point in the remaining six weeks of the season. However, apart from the QB problems, the team is apparently dealing with pushback from players regarding their current offensive scheme, according to Ian Rapoport of NFL.com. Sources tell the reporter that players are starting to show frustration with the way the offense is running. The team does have two very good receivers in Demaryius Thomas and Emmanuel Sanders, but there are a ton of holes throughout the unit that schemes won’t hide. We’ll see how first-year head coach Vance Joseph reacts to the losing streak, but it’s turning out that this is a lost season for the Super Bowl 50 champions.

Latest On Dolphins’ Quarterback Plans

Some rumors coming out of Miami prior to this season indicated it was possible Jay Cutler could stick around for the Dolphins as a potential Ryan Tannehill replacement. That doesn’t appear to be the franchise’s plan.

The Dolphins are committed to having Tannehill return as the starting quarterback in 2018, Ian Rapoport of NFL.com reports (video link). Adam Gase and the Dolphins front office think “extremely highly” of Tannehill, and they’re committed to having him return for a seventh season in Miami before possibly deciding what to do at quarterback after next season, per Rapoport. Tannehill’s contract becomes a pay-as-you-go arrangement after 2018 (and only $4.6MM in dead money is attached to a Tannehill release after this season).

But the Dolphins have likely seen Tannehill emerge as their best option given what the Cutler-led offense has generated in his absence. However, the Cutler era looks set to continue once he returns from his rib injury.

Miami remains committed to having Cutler come back as the starter, despite how Matt Moore fares against the Ravens on Thursday night, Rapoport reports. The team believes Cutler will be sufficiently healthy by Week 9, and the Dolphins intend on benching Moore for Cutler should that occur. Armando Salguero of the Miami Herald reported earlier this week the Dolphins were going to keep Cutler as their starter.

Despite the Dolphins’ offense noticeably less potent under Cutler than it was under Tannehill or even Moore last season, the team is evidently intent on continuing to see if the 34-year-old recently unretired passer can turn his season around.

Cutler and Moore threw for two touchdown passes apiece in the Dolphins’ Week 7 win over the Jets, but Cutler is averaging a career-worst 5.5 yards per attempt through his six starts. Moore averaged 8.29 yards per attempt last season and finished with eight touchdown passes compared to three interceptions in his three relief starts for Tannehill last December.

Photo courtesy of USA Today Sports Images.