It seems like everyone in the NFL needs a quarterback, but the need is felt more acutely by some teams than others. Though Championship Sunday obviously takes center stage this week, the 2017 NFL Draft is visible on the horizon, so I thought I'd examine eight uncertain quarterback situations and provide my perspective on what each team should do. Below is my take on each team, arranged from the most quarterback-needy to the least.
1) Cleveland Browns
RGIII is not the answer, and while I liked some of what I saw from Kessler, I don't think he's going to be the kind of quarterback who can turn a team into a playoff contender. The Browns could consider trading for Patriots backup Jimmy Garoppolo, but they should also think about rolling the dice on a quarterback with the first overall pick in the draft. Taking North Carolina's Mitch Trubisky there is a definite risk, but if they want him -- he's the best quarterback prospect in the draft, in terms of potential -- I think they'll have to pull the trigger there, given that three quarterback-needy teams (San Francisco, Chicago and the Jets) draft after them. There are question marks, mostly tied to his limited experience as a starter, but the native of Mentor, Ohio, is an athletic, accurate passer who can take you to the playoffs. I hear the argument that Cleveland -- which also holds the 12th overall pick -- could focus on the best overall player at No. 1, but is there anyone out there who can move the dial the way a franchise quarterback could? The ghost of Carson Wentz looms here.
2) San Francisco 49ers
With Kaepernick and Gabbert likely out the door, the Niners have to find a quarterback. While Trubisky is probably the only prospect I'd take second overall, San Francisco should consider potentially overdrafting Clemson's Deshaun Watson or Notre Dame's DeShone Kizer there. I'd also consider addressing a different need at No. 2 and hoping Watson, Kizer or another promising quarterback can be had in Round 2, or trading lower in the first round and trying to land a quarterback there. I do like the ability of Kyle Shanahan -- the Falcons offensive coordinator poised to become the Niners' next head coach -- to develop young quarterback talent.
3) New York Jets
Can Petty or Christian Hackenberg become the quarterback of the future? With Petty not really showing anything in two pro seasons, this comes down to Hackenberg, who is a relatively unknown quantity at this point. One of the most important things you need to do to draw support in the New York market is have a star quarterback, and if there's any doubt Hackenberg can develop into one, the Jets should go for someone like Watson or maybe even Trubisky (if he somehow becomes available to them). I don't think Cowboys quarterback Tony Romo is going to New York, and while Gang Green could look at Kaepernick, which version of the signal-caller would the team be getting?
4) Chicago Bears
Though they've suffered from lackluster quarterback play, the Bears are better than people think. There's a reason they're fourth in my "worst to first" rankings for the 2017 season. Chicago already has a defense that ranked 15th overall, plus a strong running game led by rookie back Jordan Howard. Barkley and Hoyer will be free agents and Cutler is a likely -- though not definite -- goner. If the Bears landed a legitimately good signal-caller, it could make a huge difference. I'd use the third overall pick to bolster the roster elsewhere and seek a more mature quarterback outside of the draft. Romo might be available, but if I were in their shoes, I'd try to trade for Garoppolo, a Chicago-area native who played for general manager Ryan Pace's alma mater, Eastern Illinois.
5) Houston Texans
This could be a Super Bowl team with better quarterback play, which is why I would pursue Romo, who could definitely lift the Texans to the promised land if healthy. I'd also look for a potential replacement for Osweiler in the draft, maybe someone like Texas Tech's Patrick Mahomes or even a second- or third-rounder that coach Bill O'Brien could develop. At this point, Osweiler is the default starter heading into 2017, but he was such a disappointment for this squad. I'd definitely have an open competition, even if that simply ends up being a two-man race between Osweiler and Tom Savage. Don't discount the possibility that a rookie could come in and pull a Dak Prescott, catching everyone off guard.
6) Jacksonville Jaguars
Bortles has great strength and athletic ability, but his release is on the slower side, leading to sacks and picks. While he did throw two fewer interceptions in 2016 (16) than he did in 2015 (18), he also threw 12 fewer touchdown passes, and his passer rating dropped by almost 10 points (88.2 to 78.8). One wonders if the decision to deviate from the plan to have him "redshirt" his rookie season ended up having negative effects. Ultimately, I feel his issues are fixable, especially with Nathaniel Hackett -- whom I have a lot of respect for -- working with him. But I would acquire a developmental quarterback -- someone like Ole Miss' Chad Kelly, Iowa's C.J. Beathard or Mahomes -- to have on hand, just in case Bortles proves to be a lost cause.
7) Buffalo Bills
Whether the team agrees with me is another matter, of course, but I happen to think the Bills already have their quarterback, which is why they fall so low on this list. I know the Bills have a new coach in Sean McDermott, so their direction might not be defined. But if I were them, I'd exercise the option on the rest of the contract extension Taylor signed in August. Yes, that would mean paying him $27.5 million for 2017, but exercising the option saves them a serious chunk of salary-cap space next season, and that I can live with. I also happen to think he's worth it. I like everything about him. A down 2016 notwithstanding, Taylor's a player who can help Buffalo win, provided he and his receivers are fully healthy, and I think the Bills will have a hard time finding someone better. There's an interesting wrinkle in light of the surgery he recently underwent: If he can't pass a physical in time and the option isn't exercised, the team will be on the hook for the full $27.5 million in 2017 whether they keep him on the roster or cut him loose.
8) Denver Broncos
If they don't think Lynch is ready, the Broncos should upgrade the stopgap solution over the solid Siemian, whose lack of any one outstanding attribute means he projects more as a strong backup than a long-term starter. Denver would be a perfect landing spot for Romo, who would give Lynch at least another year to grow into the job and make the Broncos instant Super Bowl contenders in 2017.