After some time off I’m going to try and get back into writing this offseason. I’m starting here with one of the least analytical pieces you’ll find on this site, but a topic with big consequences in the NFL: If the Cardinals are drafting Murray like consensus is coalescing behind, where will last year’s top-10 pick Josh Rosen land?
I’ve been on the where-there’s-smoke-there’s-fire train in regards to Murray going first for a while now, partially because of unnecessary provocations from Cardinals brass and my opinion that Murray is a better prospect. You don’t pass up a chance to upgrade to your preferred quarterback no matter how much you spent on your current one.
Once you come to the conclusion that Murray is likely coming to Arizona, the other shoe to drop is the destination for Rosen. There’s some chance the Cardinals would keep both quarterbacks to hedge against Murray failing and Rosen making a Goff-esque second-year leap in Kliff Kingsbury’s system. I don’t make that materially likely since the team has many holes to fill throughout the roster, and spending the No. 1 pick on Murray in lieu of taking Nick Bosa, Quinten Williams or a handful of picks in a trade-back does nothing to alleviate those deficiencies.
The potential trade partners
Above are the 15 teams picking in the top half of the NFL draft after the Cardinals. The most relevant determinants in the decision to trade for Rosen, from the perspective of the buyer, are: quarterback need, whether they passed on Rosen in the 2018 (presumably because they didn’t think he was an upgrade), how good is their current quarterback option and the ability to draft their quarterback of choice.
The only team that comes up green (more likely to trade for Rosen) in all four categories is Washington. There are other teams that need an upgrade at the position (Giants, Jags, Broncos and Dolphins), but none have a career backup quarterback as their No. 1 option going into the season. There is already some chatter out that Washington wants to explore trading for Rosen, a logical low-cost option with Alex Smith and his $71 million in injury guarantees out for at least 2019, and possibly done as the medium-term starter after one season and one horrific injury.
The other QB needy teams on the list look more like potential buyers if the market price for Rosen falls into the second round. Raiders passes on Rosen in 2018, have a decent option with Carr in hand, and have a good shot at getting the second quarterback off the board in the 2019 draft.
The Giants’ Dave Gettleman didn’t think any of the 2018 quarterbacks were worth last year’s No. 2 pick. Despite having an aging Eli Manning draining the usefulness from a bevy of receiving weapons, the Giants might not proactive in replacing the position, at least not with another team’s leftovers.
The Jags make a lot of sense, but the same level of noise surrounding Murray-to-Cardinals has formed around Nick Foles going to Jacksonville in free agency. If that happens, the Jags are off the board as Rosen buyers no matter the price.
The chatter around the Dolphins is that they’re in tanking mode, and the speculated release of Ryan Tannehill without a big-name free agent addition would be a signal that’s the case. The team has enough on the roster that true tanking isn’t necessary, and we don’t know how they feels about Rosen as a prospect. The fact that the shine is somewhat off of Tua Tagovailoa might give some pause on the 2020 quarterback class. But even so, the tall prototype Justin Herbert will be available and might be enough of an excuse to punt 2019.
Second half of the round
The second half of the draft paints a less complex picture as you’d expect with the teams that finished well in 2018, likely due to above average quarterback play.
Most of the teams in this grouping have quarterback need in the variety of finding a successor for an aging star, not replacing a mediocre option.
The one team I could see making a move for Rosen in this range is the Titans. The Titans and most of NFL punditry were high on Marcus Mariota after a solid rookie season, but it’s been progression with fits and starts ever since. Beyond the absence of marked improvement in his play, Mariota has suffered a handful of injuries that, fairly or not, could give his front office the impression of unreliability.
Mariota is in the fifth year option of his rookie contract, so this is the final season the Titans will have to evaluate his play before either locking themselves in for the foreseeable future or letting him slide into free agency.
The 19th pick in the NFL draft isn’t a drastic price for a potential franchise quarterback, especially one that was drafted as the 10th pick a year earlier. Rosen could be ready to lead a team into the playoffs as Wentz, Goff, Watson, Trubsiky and Mahomes did in their second seasons. The rest of the Titans roster is ready to make a playoff run (11th in defensive ranking by my numbers, 24th on offense)…..with the right quarterback.
The Titans could let things play out with Mariota and then look to replace him with a 2020 rookie quarterback if things go awry. The issue with that is starting the cycle all over. A rookie is unlikely to take the NFL by storm in year one, so that would mean 2021 would be the first year of true competitiveness, assuming they can draft a decent quarterback if they repeat a mid-level finish and draft position.
Be on the lookout for the Titans to make a play on Rosen if the price is too high for the first half of the round and they want to move before a savvy Patriots team scoops Rosen up at a discount.