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4 quarterbacks who could shape the NFL offseason

Which quarterbacks will be playing for a new team in 2016?

Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

For the majority of NFL teams, their quarterback situation is stable and will remain mostly the same next season. But for a few teams, the offseason will provide the chance to shake up the position in free agency or in the 2016 NFL Draft.

Impending free agents like Sam Bradford and Brock Osweiler have a strong chance at hitting the open market, while Jared Goff, Paxton Lynch and Carson Wentz are the headliners in the 2016 rookie class. That means quarterback-needy teams like the Cleveland Browns and Los Angeles Rams should have options to upgrade the position.

Ryan Fitzpatrick and Kirk Cousins are also scheduled to reach free agency, but it's safe to assume both teams plan on keeping the passers around after both had career-best seasons in 2015. Cousins led Washington to an NFC East title while Fitzpatrick nearly got the New York Jets to the playoffs with a 10-6 record.

For the rest of the quarterbacks who could hit the open market, we can only take our best guess where they will end up.

Sam Bradford

There are reasons why the Philadelphia Eagles might not want Bradford back in 2016, and there are reasons why he might not want to be back. It was Chip Kelly who orchestrated a trade that sent Bradford from the St. Louis Rams to Philadelphia, and the quarterback wasn't too happy that the man in charge of his acquisition was let go.

If Bradford feels like he can get a big paycheck on the open market, there isn't much reason to believe he'll have much loyalty to the Eagles now that there's a new staff in place. There also isn't much incentive for the Eagles to open up their pocketbook and throw money at a passer who threw 19 touchdowns and 14 interceptions in 2015, and has injury concerns to boot.

2016 prediction: Eagles

Even with all of those reasons why a contract between the Eagles and Bradford doesn't make a ton of sense, there's some basic rationale for a new deal. The only other quarterback on the roster is Mark Sanchez and if the Eagles let Bradford walk, the team doesn't have the best options in free agency to replace him and might not get their favorite option with the No. 13 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft.

New Eagles head coach Doug Pederson said he thinks Bradford is capable of leading the team "deep into the postseason," which is a significant enough vote of confidence to suggest the team is interested in keeping the quarterback around.


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Brock Osweiler

The best thing that can be said about Brock Osweiler's 2015 season is that the Denver Broncos were a Super Bowl-bound team and he didn't screw it up. While he was eventually sent to the bench in Week 17 and Peyton Manning made his triumphant return, Osweiler had a 5-2 record as a starter with 10 touchdowns and six interceptions.

It was a blown opportunity for the 25-year-old quarterback to establish himself as a valuable piece on the Broncos roster, but instead he looked very replaceable. Still, most believe Peyton Manning's retirement will come soon, and even if the 14-time Pro Bowler returns for another go, the Broncos need a contingency plan for a 40-year-old passer whose play has clearly declined.

The Cleveland Browns are reportedly a possibility to snag Osweiler away from the Broncos, but that would mean the team is more interested in Osweiler than any player in the 2016 NFL Draft. That seems unlikely.

2016 prediction: Broncos

It likely won't cost too much to bring Osweiler back, and even if the Broncos choose to add more competition at the position, the team didn't spend four years grooming him to be a starter just to give up after seven starts that really weren't a trainwreck.

Colin Kaepernick

While Bradford and Osweiler are likely to remain with their respective teams, the relationship between the San Francisco 49ers and Kaepernick looks fractured beyond repair.

He's due to count more than $16 million against the 49ers' salary cap in 2016 and the number jumps north of $19 million in the next four years. It only makes sense to pay Kaepernick that much if there's a legitimate belief that he will be the team's starter in the fall, and the 49ers have to make that decision before April 1 when his salary becomes fully guaranteed.

With Chip Kelly now in the fold, Kaepernick has a better shot at being the 49ers starter than he did with Jim Tomsula, but $16 million guaranteed is a lot of money for a passer who has consistently regressed as a starter.

It's even harder for the 49ers to convince themselves that Kaepernick is going to make a resurgence and reclaim his spot as starter when there are reports that he's "disillusioned" with the team and wants to play for the Jets.

2016 prediction: Ravens

Whether it's through trade or free agency, it still looks like the most likely scenario is one that doesn't end with Kaepernick in San Francisco in 2016. It also seems unlikely that a team would want to hand over a starting role, and Kaepernick's best bet is to take a spot as a backup.

It was Jim Harbaugh who pinned the 49ers' Super Bowl hopes on Kaepernick and got the best out of the young quarterback, so maybe John Harbaugh could do the same in Baltimore. Joe Flacco is entrenched as the starter, but he is recovering from tearing his ACL and MCL in November.

Robert Griffin III

Unlike other quarterbacks, there is no mystery for RG3: He won't be back in Washington in 2016. Once considered the savior for the team that drafted him No. 2 in the 2012 NFL Draft, Griffin's demise in Washington ended with a trip to the bench in favor of Kirk Cousins, who never gave the starting spot back.

Now Griffin is set to be released and hit the open market, but it's tough to imagine any team will feel comfortable handing over a starting job to someone who didn't play at all in 2015 and threw four touchdowns with six interceptions in 2014.

2016 prediction: Cowboys

This has been the chic prediction for Griffin for a long time and that's because there's plenty of logic to it. Tony Romo's injury exposed how thin the team's depth was at quarterback, and it's tough to have too much confidence in his surgically repaired collarbone staying intact for the entire 2016 season.

As owners of the No. 4 pick in the 2016 NFL Draft, the Cowboys could address quarterback there, but even then, more experience on the depth chart couldn't hurt if the team is forced to turn to a rookie to save the day. Griffin can be that depth player for the Cowboys, about 100 miles away from where he was a Heisman Trophy winner at Baylor.

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Timeline: The sad, downward spiral for RG3 in Washington