With the off-season set to begin, and the Chicago Bears seeking veteran competition, here is a ranking of the realistic options. For the sake of this argument, we’re assuming Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Teddy Bridgewater, Dak Prescott, Cam Newton and Phil Rivers get starting gigs elsewhere.
1. Derek Carr, Raiders
Likely price: 2020 second round pick, three years of $20 million cap hits.
Carr is the best option. It isn’t even close.
While the Raiders haven’t won a lot of games in Carr’s time as the quarterback, they have regularly been in the top half of the league in passing yardage and touchdowns. Carr isn’t Patrick Mahomes, but he’s a good quarterback who may only become available because Jon Gruden’s favorite quarterback is always the one he doesn’t have on the roster.
The Raiders will likely only trade Carr if they’re able to sign someone to replace him.
2. Nick Foles, Jaguars
Likely price: cap hits of $16-$22 million for three years.
There are three very huge selling points with Foles.
- We know he can win a Super Bowl.
- He knows the offense and the coaches.
- Trading for him might bring an asset back.
There is a general thought that if the Jaguars want to trade Foles, they’re going to have to sweeten the pot with a day two draft pick. The downside, of course, is that he’s going to get paid like a starter for at least one year with $12.5 million dead cap after 2020, should the team move on.
Foles’ other big downside is that he has struggled to stay healthy throughout his career. He’s definitely better suited to be a high-end backup than a 16-game starter. If he wins the job, could the Bears be confident turning back to Trubisky should Foles be injured?
3. Ryan Tannehill, UFA
Likely price: $15-20 million.
Maybe Tannehill isn’t as good as he looked last year, but he’s nowhere near as bad as some have painted him out to be. Like Andy Dalton, Tannehill has a history with Bears OC Bill Lazor and had two of the best years of his career -throwing for 47 touchdowns and 23 interceptions in 27 games – in Lazor’s Miami’s offense.
Nobody should dismiss the spark Tannehill gave the Titans last year. He was as much a key to that offense thriving as anybody. But the Titans just might have eyes on Tom Brady. If that happens, Tannehill will hit the market and there isn’t another obvious suitor for him.
4. Andy Dalton, Bengals
Likely price: mid-round pick, $10 million for one year.
Dalton is the poster boy for quarterbacks who aren’t quite good enough, but he still might end up being the Bears best option. He has played in a similar system in his career and is familiar with Lazor, so any transition should be seamless.
The price could be an issue. The general expectation is that the Bengals will eat a sizable chunk of Dalton’s salary, but would a notoriously cheap franchise eat enough to make a difference? If not, they can’t expect anybody to trade for him and the veteran QB could hit the open market.
5. Marcus Mariota, UFA
Likely price: $5-7 million.
6. Case Keenum, UFA
Likely price: $5-7 million.
Keenum has had passer ratings better than 90 in two of the last three years, so we shouldn’t completely rule him out.
Last year’s situation in Washington was horrible, so his play was largely overlooked. He threw 11 touchdowns to five interceptions, completing nearly 65 percent of his passes. He has always been streaky, making bad mistakes at bad times, but he capable of big stat lines like his 380 yards and three touchdowns against Philly.
Five of his eight turnovers came against the Bears last year, but it still seemed as if he was the better quarterback in that game.
7. Jameis Winston, UFA
Likely price: $10-20 million.
The NFL’s first ever 30 touchdown/30 interception player is going to be on the market.
This is Jay Cutler all over again only Cutler didn’t have the actual character issues. Say what you will about Winston’s 30 interceptions but he still threw for 30 touchdowns and 5,000 yards. That’s hard to do. Interceptions will always be a problem, but he’s also a quarterback who has rare physical gifts.
8. Mitch Trubisky
Likely price: sunk cost.
The Bears are paying Trubisky his contract almost no matter what, so there isn’t an added cost to rolling with him.
I’ll say this. Trubisky is going to receive more hands-on coaching this off-season and in 2020 than he has ever received before. The talent is there, the mental processing likely never will be.
Then again, isn’t that the case for most of the quarterbacks on this list?
9. Jalen Hurts, Oklahoma
Likely price: the 43rd pick in the draft.
It’s always risky to trust a rookie, but Hurts has the profile of a rookie who just could succeed.
He’s not a great passer but neither is Trubisky and Hurts is a better runner. Hurts has enough physical tools that he can become a high-level quarterback and we shouldn’t dismiss how well he performed in Oklahoma’s high volume passing offense despite arriving late as a transfer.
10. Alex Smith, Redskins
Likely price: less than $5 million.
If Smith becomes available, he won’t have anybody who wants to give him a starting gig, or even wants him to compete for the starting job. We just have no idea how he’s going to be able to perform coming off one of the most significant injuries we’ve seen a starting quarterback suffer in recent years.
He’d be worth bringing into camp, but would require another veteran insurance option. If there was any guarantee that Smith could play at the same level he did before the injury, he’d be much higher on this list.