Gregg Rosenthal wraps up the NFL's biggest news daily throughout the free agency frenzy. Here's everything you need to know from Wednesday:
With the hours counting down before the new league year starts Thursday, it was time for teams to start putting their cards on the table at the quarterback position.
The Cowboys made the only sensible decision they could, informing Tony Romo he would be released. The Bills made the only sensible decision they could, restructuring Tyrod Taylor's contract to keep him in town. The 49ers, meanwhile, made a decision in signing Brian Hoyer that screams: We'll find our real quarterback later.
There's no reason to give the Cowboys any extra credit for releasing Romo into the wild, a move that will become official Thursday. A trade market for Romo wasn't going to develop, especially when the two teams most interested in him (Denver and Houston) weren't in any hurry to add a quarterback on a big contract. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported that Romo plans to set up a Peyton Manning-style tour of suitors and at this stage it looks like he'll be stopping in only two cities.
Buffalo was once believed to be a dark horse for Romo's services, but the Bills locked in their quarterback plan for 2017 by bringing Tyrod Taylor back. There was something strange about the team's declaration about "our quarterback" when he was on the roster all along. They weren't sure he was "their quarterback" midway through 2015, when reports surfaced he could lose his starting job to EJ Manuel. Taylor wasn't their quarterback in Week 17 of last season, after Rex Ryan was fired in part over refusing to bench Taylor. (Interim coach Anthony Lynn benched Taylor.) But Tyrod found a second life with the Bills when his old quarterbacks coach in Baltimore, Rick Dennison, arrived in Buffalo to implement a Gary Kubiak-style offense that Taylor knows well. I'm curious to see the details of Taylor's deal, as the Bills could be back in the same purgatory situation one year from now.
Rapoport has reported for weeks that Taylor was likely to stay in Buffalo because the coaches believed in him. There is something deeply ironic -- or dysfunctional -- about a brand new coaching staff winning the same struggle over personnel with the front office that the previous staff lost. Rex Ryan is somewhere in Florida, sipping a beer and shaking his head.
Kyle Shanahan should be in a better mood. Finding a quarterback you trust is Job 1 for any coach, so Shanahan should feel more comfortable after bringing Brian Hoyer to San Francisco. That gives the 49ers a capable Week 1 option, although Hoyer has become a league-wide shorthand for a short-term quarterback solution. His arrival as the only 49ers quarterback on the roster only leads to one of my ...
Hanging quarterback questions
1) Can Kirk Cousins still be traded to San Francisco? NFL Network's Mike Silver said Wednesday that he believes Cousins wants "no part" of Washington right now. Silver says Kyle Shanahan still sees Cousins as the "future" of the 49ers franchise, and will "almost certainly" be the team's quarterback in 2018. Those are remarkable statements about a quarterback who isn't under the 49ers' control.
If the Redskins truly believe that Cousins wants out and will bolt after this season, perhaps the two sides can still come together on a trade this offseason.
2) Could Geno Smith be the Jets' Week 1 starter? The Jets showed interest in Hoyer and were reported to be monitoring the Tyrod Taylor situation closely. With those guys off the board, the leading options to be the Jets' Week 1 starter include Geno and Jay Cutler. Either way, the back pages in New York win.
3) Why is Jay Cutler still on the Bears? It doesn't really matter why. It would be stunning if Cutler isn't released soon enough, essentially replaced in Chicago by Mike Glennon. Cutler may be forced to consider retirement or life as a backup if his only chance to start comes from a rebuilding team like the Jets.
Now that we've covered the most important position in football thoroughly ... here's a look at the other stories that stood out on a busy final day before free agency officially starts:
1) The 49ers can't use money as an excuse for any struggles in 2017. The team has not been afraid to set the market at a number of positions early in free agency. Fullback Kyle Juszczyk jumped from Baltimore on a four-year, $21 million contract, unheard-of money for his position. Wide receiver Pierre Garcon is expected to join his old buddy Kyle Shanahan on a deal that will average more than $10 million per season, according to Rapoport. One report had Garcon earning $16 million in 2017 on a front-loaded deal, making the No. 2 possession receiver one of the highest-paid wideouts in football. The team is also adding speedster Marquise Goodwin to the mix.
2) If Eli Manning can't produce with this receiver crew, the Giants need another quarterback.The two-year, $12 million contract for wide receiver Brandon Marshall looks like a bargain for a starting-caliber wideout. Marshall says he took less money to go after playoff success with Big Blue. Marshall usually delivers a terrific first season with a new team and should see plenty of single coverage opposite Odell Beckham Jr., with Sterling Shepard in the slot.
Manning and the team's offensive line are the concerns now. If the Giants passing game struggles like it did in 2016, this could be a combustible receiver room hungry for yardage.
3) Ryan Tannehill has all the weapons and continuity he needs to succeed. Miami's decision to bring back Kenny Stills on a four-year, $32 million contract provides a deep receiver crew for Tannehill and coach Adam Gase. The reports that Stills would make $12 million per year proved to be agent-infused hot air, but this is still a great deal for Miami's No. 3 receiver. Coupled with the addition of tight end Julius Thomas, Tannehill has a surplus of options to throw to, including Jarvis Landry, DeVante Parker and Jay Ajayi.
Two versions of a Patriots trade
It's unsurprising because the Patriots have made this trade before. They picked up Martellus Bennett, another complete tight end who can hold his own blocking, for the same move down from the fourth round to the sixth round. Bennett has priced himself out of Foxborough after a great season, so the Patriots will pay Allen $10 million over the next two seasons, keeping him comfortably below Rob Gronkowski on the pay scale. While injury-prone, Allen did enough with the Colts to inspire a big long-term extension a year ago. This is the type of low-risk, high-reward deal that Belichick often wins.
Then again, the Arizona Cardinals certainly enjoyed their experience last March dealing with Belichick. They obtained Chandler Jones, essentially for a late-second-round pick. Jones earned a long-term extension with the Cardinals on Wednesday, while the Patriots used the pick to trade down and select guard Joe Thuney and wide receiver Malcolm Mitchell. Thuney started every game for the Super Bowl champions, while Mitchell caught five passes in the fourth quarter of a Super Bowl. That's quite a win-win.
Moves that responsible NFL fans should know
1) The Jaguars just can't help themselves early in free agency. One year after signing the top free-agent defensive lineman in Malik Jackson, they are doing it again with Calais Campbell. The No. 3 overall free agent on our big board, Campbell brings a unique skill set and excellent leadership qualities to a promising Jaguars defensive line. The team also is expected to sign former Cowboys safety Barry Church to a deal worth $6 million per season, essentially replacing free agent Johnathan Cyprien.
The Jaguars look great on paper again, especially on defense. Paper isn't the problem. Winning five games or less every season since 2011 is the problem. This figures to be general manager Dave Caldwell's last chance at getting free agency right.
2) The Dolphins bringing back Kenny Stills made a lot of sense. Re-signing defensive end Andre Branch for three years, $27 million after a career year was curious. The Dolphins would have been better looking for a buy-low bargain like they found last season when they picked up Branch for virtually nothing.
3) Matt Schaub is still making $4.5 million per season as a backup in the NFL, staying with Atlanta. I just thought everyone should know this.
4) The Ravens made a pair of late-night moves that could prove to pay big dividends.Rapoport reports that Baltimore convinced the top safety on the market, Tony Jefferson, to sign despite the Browns offering more money. Baltimore is also expected to turn Danny Woodhead into Joe Flacco's new best friend. The Ravens created some cap space for these moves by releasing Elvis Dumervil, a move first reported by NFL Network's newest insider/badass Steve Smith.
I'll be back with another Debrief on Thursday night. In the meantime, keep it tuned to our news page for all the latest and the greatest.