QB Index, Week 14: Giants among desperate teams

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"There aren't many teams searching for a starting quarterback" is a statement that has almost never been true in the NFL. It is absolutely true at the moment.

The unprecedented depth at the position will impact this offseason's free-agent market and NFL draft, with fewer teams than a year ago likely to spend top dollar or a top pick on the position. While the market for available veteran quarterbacks still has to shake out, I see only three teams that appear absolutely desperate to find a new signal-caller this offseason.

Before getting to the quarterback rankings, let's look at which teams could be diving back into the QB pool this offseason.

Desperate for an answer

Jacksonville Jaguars: It's hard to overstate how costly Tom Coughlin's misguided three-year deal for Blake Bortles will be for the team. Even though Bortles was under contract for 2018, the team chose last offseason to give him a $15 million signing bonus on a new three-year contract that guarantees $6.5 million into next season. The most likely outcome is that Bortles, who was benched prior to last weekend's game, is released, with the Jaguars eating $16.5 million in dead money on their salary cap to say goodbye.

The team could also keep him around as an expensive potential backup, but there's no question the Jaguars will be in the market for a new starter. With a defense that remains playoff-caliber and a front office that is consistently aggressive, the Jaguars figure to be at the center of quarterback discussions in free agency, trades and the draft. After years of being afraid to provide competition for Bortles, this finally looks like the offseason that the Jaguars replace him.

New York Giants: Keeping Eli Manning as the Giants' starter next season reportedly hasn't been ruled out. It's feasible, if frustrating, to imagine New York deciding Eli is a better option than any free agent or trade option, but such a decision would only make Big Blue's need on draft day even more desperate.

Manning is essentially trying to win games this December to make it more difficult for New York to draft his replacement in April. The Giants should rip off the Band-Aid and replace Manning with a different veteran to pair with Big Blue's first quarterback of the future since Ernie Accorsi traded for Eli in the 2004 draft.

Washington Redskins: Coach Jay Gruden and team president Bruce Allen never expected to be in this position after signing Alex Smith to a four-year contract extension last March with $55 million guaranteed. There's no telling how Smith will recover from the compound leg fracture he suffered last month -- Thursday brought the troubling news that he's battling an infection related to his leg surgery -- but, unfortunately, the specifics of Smith's contract could force Washington to make an early decision about his future. Even though the Redskins owe $15 million guaranteed to Smith next season, they could decide to cut him before the fifth day of the new league year in 2019 to avoid guaranteeing his 2020 salary.

This is the brutal calculus of NFL injuries. Even in a best-case scenario for Smith's recovery, the Redskins are overdue to draft a potential replacement. Gruden has never attempted to develop a highly drafted young quarterback in Washington. (This all assumes Gruden is around to coach the team for a sixth season, which he deserves to be, considering the awful injury luck his team has had the last two years.) The Gruden family's style is to look for veterans, so perhaps the Redskins could be players in a Teddy Bridgewater or Tyrod Taylor market.

Have a starting option, but ...

Miami Dolphins: After 84 Ryan Tannehill starts, including 20 under Adam Gase, the Dolphins still don't seem to know what they have in the former top-10 pick. Miami's QB1, who'll be 31 years old before next season, is more likely than not to be on the roster next offseason, because his $18.7 million base salary isn't that bad, and it would be costly in terms of dead money to release or trade him. A renegotiation of his contract is also possible if Tannehill is willing.

There are a lot of variables here, including who will be running the Dolphins' front office and coaching staff. No matter who's in charge, pairing Tannehill with a rookie quarterback is the path of least resistance.

Denver Broncos: Case Keenum has played about as well as the Broncos should have expected. That's why I don't think Keenum is at much risk of being cut in the offseason, especially with $7 million of his $18 million salary guaranteed next season.

John Elway was hopeful entering last offseason that Chad Kelly and Paxton Lynch could still be potential future options, and now both players are out of the league. Keenum will be entering the last year of his contract, so Elway is going to have to dive into the draft again, even if it brings back bad memories of Brock Osweiler and Lynch.

Wild cards

Oakland Raiders: Jon Gruden has proven as Raiders coach that his public statements of support don't necessarily mean much. Actions speak louder than words, and Derek Carr's play on the field in December could quiet any lingering speculation that he will be a trade candidate in the offseason. Carr had one of his best games under Gruden last week against Kansas City and a strong finish to the season with an undermanned receiver crew would make a case for stability. After looking like a top-five quarterback in 2016, however, Carr has not ranked in the top 20 of QB Index for two seasons running.

The Raiders possess major draft capital and salary-cap space, so everything should be on the table for this team. Gruden has shown there are no sacred cows in Oakland, so it won't be a surprise if Carr's name is floated in rumors this offseason. The only surprise will be if the Raiders stay quiet.

Tennessee Titans: It's hard to imagine the Titans moving on from Marcus Mariota, but they are a team to watch just because he will be entering the final (fifth-year option) season of his rookie contract.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Jameis Winston is also entering the final year of his contract, which costs $20.9 million and becomes guaranteed on the first day of the new league year in March. Winston, still just 24 years old, has played like a league-average starter throughout his time in the NFL. There's obvious potential for him to improve like Matthew Stafford, but Winston's off-field issues cloud his future.

Allowing starting quarterbacks to walk, however, is pretty rare in today's NFL. To put it another way: Winston is more likely to be in Tampa next year than coach Dirk Koetter or general manager Jason Licht, whether that's fair or not.

And now, on to the rankings ...

NOTE: This is the Quarterback Index. The QBs are ranked based on 2018 play alone. The next ranking of all 32 starters comes after Week 17.

1
Patrick Mahomes
QB
Chiefs

2018 stats: 12 games | 66.9 pct | 3,923 pass yds | 9.1 ypa | 41 pass TD | 10 INT | 238 rush yds | 2 rush TD

2
Drew Brees
QB
Saints

2018 stats: 12 games | 75.5 pct | 3,262 pass yds | 8.5 ypa | 30 pass TD | 3 INT | 26 rush yds | 3 rush TD

3
Philip Rivers
QB
Chargers

2018 stats: 12 games | 69.7 pct | 3,418 pass yds | 9.0 ypa | 28 pass TD | 6 INT | -1 rush yds | 0 rush TD

4
Jared Goff
QB
Rams

2018 stats: 12 games | 66.4 pct | 3,754 pass yds | 9.1 ypa | 27 pass TD | 7 INT | 86 rush yds | 1 rush TD

5
Andrew Luck
QB
Colts

2018 stats: 12 games | 67.9 pct | 3,360 pass yds | 6.9 ypa | 32 pass TD | 12 INT | 82 rush yds | 0 rush TD

6
Aaron Rodgers
QB
Packers

2018 stats: 12 games | 61.8 pct | 3,504 pass yds | 7.6 ypa | 21 pass TD | 1 INT | 168 rush yds | 0 rush TD

7
Matt Ryan
QB
Falcons

2018 stats: 12 games | 70.9 pct | 3,814 pass yds | 8.3 ypa | 25 pass TD | 5 INT | 101 rush yds | 2 rush TD

8
Russell Wilson
QB
Seahawks

2018 stats: 12 games | 66.6 pct | 2,716 pass yds | 8.3 ypa | 29 pass TD | 5 INT | 245 rush yds | 0 rush TD

9
Tom Brady
QB
Patriots

2018 stats: 12 games | 65.9 pct | 3,342 pass yds | 7.7 ypa | 20 pass TD | 8 INT | 32 rush yds | 2 rush TD

10
Ben Roethlisberger
QB
Steelers

2018 stats: 12 games | 66.0 pct | 3,945 pass yds | 7.6 ypa | 26 pass TD | 13 INT | 94 rush yds | 3 rush TD

11
Kirk Cousins
QB
Vikings

2018 stats: 12 games | 71.3 pct | 3,490 pass yds | 7.1 ypa | 23 pass TD | 9 INT | 103 rush yds | 1 rush TD

12
Cam Newton
QB
Panthers

2018 stats: 12 games | 69.5 pct | 2,999 pass yds | 7.5 ypa | 24 pass TD | 11 INT | 450 rush yds | 4 rush TD

13
Carson Wentz
QB
Eagles

2018 stats: 10 games | 69.6 pct | 2,846 pass yds | 7.7 ypa | 18 pass TD | 7 INT | 96 rush yds | 0 rush TD

14
Deshaun Watson
QB
Texans

2018 stats: 12 games | 66.5 pct | 3,031 pass yds | 8.3 ypa | 21 pass TD | 9 INT | 375 rush yds | 2 rush TD

15
Dak Prescott
QB
Cowboys

2018 stats: 12 games | 66.8 pct | 2,676 pass yds | 7.4 ypa | 14 pass TD | 5 INT | 301 rush yds | 5 rush TD

Follow Gregg Rosenthal on Twitter @greggrosenthal.

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