Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Good Help is Hard to Find: The Great Quarterback Search of 2016

By Joe Parello (@HerewegoJoe)

Ed. Note- Since the posting of this article, the Browns have signed Robert Griffin III to a 2-year, $15 million contract, because of course they have.

We all know that quarterback is the most important position, not just in football, but in all of American sports.

The guy touches the ball (almost) every play, is responsible with making pre-snap reads/adjustments, needs to put the ball in the hands of his team's play makers, typically serves as the face of the franchise, and generally sets the tone for everything his coach wants to do offensively.

With all that in mind, it's pretty easy to see why players like Aaron Rodgers, Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger have all signed $100 million deals in recent years. Heck, it's even understandable that players like Joe Flacco and Eli Manning have as well. At least they've proven to their teams they can win championships.

But in every NFL team's desperate search to find its next franchise quarterback, the market has gotten a little out of whack.

Consider the 4-year, $77 million extension Miami handed to Ryan Tannehill, a quarterback that is currently 29-35 as a starter, yet still in line to make $95 million over his first two NFL contracts.

How about Washington slapping the Franchise Tag on Kirk Cousins for a 1-year, fully guaranteed $20 million. The only reason Cousins and the fighting Dan Snyders didn't reach a long-term deal? Cousins was asking for $22 million annually over at least four years.

Now, Cousins played very well in the second-half of last season, but ask the Rams and Nick Foles about the importance of sample size.

Finally, how can we possibly justify the Eagles signing Sam Bradford, a quarterback who has never stayed healthy, and never really been anything more than average, even when he's been on the field, to a 2-year deal worth up to $40 million? Not only that, but Philly also inked Chase Daniel to a 3-year, $21 million contract this offseason, meaning they'll be doling out $61 million over the next three years to two mediocre-at-best players.

Why, Philly/Washington/Miami, why?

Well, because the options behind all these aforementioned "overpaid" signal callers are so much worse.

The Broncos are scrambling after losing Peyton Manning to retirement and Brock Osweiler to Houston, and have now entered the Colin Kaepernick derby, alongside the Jets and Browns.

Seriously, if you are competing with the Jets and Browns for a quarterback, that should tell you it's a bad idea.

Kaepernick was, at one point, considered the future of the quarterback position. After leading the 49ers to the Super Bowl following the 2012 season, ESPN analyst Ron Joworski even said Kaepernick "could be one of the greatest quarterbacks ever."

But Kaepernick wasn't the only dual-threat QB that was supposed to change the game that year. Then-rookie Robert Griffin III lit the world on fire in Washington, but since then a series of injuries, a reportedly bloated ego, and a failure to adjust to his new physical limitations have sunk Griffin.

Last season he was benched in favor of, uh, Kirk Cousins, who, as you may recall from earlier, is set to make $20 million next year.

And yet, it appears that Griffin may be Cleveland's top choice at the position next year, should they be unable to trade for Kaepernick.

How could these two players, who have done nothing to inspire confidence since our last election year, be in line for $7 million+ pay days and starting NFL jobs?

First of all, they're dealing with the Browns, the same team that gave Josh McCown $5 million a year after he went 1-10 as a starter at the age of 35.

But second of all, did you watch any of the teams that dealt with quarterback injuries last year?

Remember when you were complaining about Jay Cutler, Bears fans? How did those fleeting moments with Jimmy Clausen work out for you? Romo haters, did you see what Dallas did with the unholy trinity of Matt Cassel, Brandon Weeden and Kellen Moore under center? I love to hate on Joe Flacco as much as the next guy, but Baltimore went from a playoff mainstay to the 6th pick in the Draft without him.

The point is, teams are so deathly afraid of ending up with a Jimmy Clausen, a Brandon Weeden, a Landry Jones, a Charlie Whitehurst or a Ryan Lindley, that they're willing to pay RGIII, and maybe even Johnny Manziel just to avoid this terrible fate.

It's a market, after all, and when a position is so important, with so many options so inept, even below-average quarterback play can demand top dollar. My only question is: Why are the Jets dragging their feet to sign Ryan Fitzpatrick, a man who threw for nearly 4,000 yards and 31 touchdowns last season?

Surely he has to be worth more than quarterbacks who were last relevant when Republicans still liked Mitt Romney, right?

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