It's good to be an NFL quarterback, even if you're unproven, or maybe not even very good.
Fresh off of an underwhelming seven-game starting stretch, which was punctuated by a benching in favor of the 2016 version of Peyton Manning, Brock Osweiler has been rewarded with a four-year, $72 million contract that will guarantee him $37 million. The Broncos gave it a good ole' college try to re-sign him but Osweiler couldn't pass up what the Texans were offering (plus he was mad at them for benching him).
Osweiler's move to Houston knocks over the first domino in a series of events that will change the NFL landscape this year and beyond.
Brian Hoyer needs a new home
With Osweiler getting so much money, you have to assume he's the starter there in Houston even if he hasn't actually earned the title. The Texans may end up holding on to last year's nine-game starter in Hoyer, but they'd owe him nearly $5 million to play backup. It seems more likely they'll look to trade him, and if that can't happen, release him.
Any number of logical destinations emerge, including the Jets, Browns and Broncos as a potential starter, or perhaps the Patriots or Steelers or some other team as a backup. Despite his atrocious playoff game for Houston this year, where he turned the ball over five times, some team may look at Hoyer's 19-to-7 touchdown-to-pick ratio and 91 rating on the year and think they can get more out of him than their current starter. Or, they'll think he's a better value than their current starter. Thus, the next domino falls.
Where everything goes from there is a lot more mysterious.
What will Ryan Fitzpatrick do? What happens to Geno Smith?
The future of Hoyer could have an effect on Ryan Fitzpatrick's market, simply because he's one more experienced and battle-tested veteran starter out there. Will it mean that Fitzpatrick sees a diminished market? Will the Jets use that as leverage? We'll see. Whatever happens with FitzMagic though will surely have an effect on the future of Geno Smith, who is still looking for a chance to prove he was worth that second-round pick.
Whether it's Fitzpatrick, perhaps Hoyer, or maybe Smith, the quarterback situation in New York is about to get interesting.
What's next for Robert Griffin III?
Obviously, following Peyton Manning's retirement, combined with the Broncos' decision to let Osweiler walk in free agency, Denver is going to have to figure out what they're doing at the quarterback position. There are already reports linking them to free agent Robert Griffin III, who played well his rookie year in a version of the Mike Shanahan zone scheme that helped John Elway win two Super Bowls.
Griffin is definitely not the same player today as he was as a rookie, but because of his success that first year, he's going to find some interest somewhere, at least as a backup or developmental project. Wherever he ends up, it will affect the rest of the free agent quarterback class.
Where will Colin Kaepernick end up?
The other player the Broncos are being linked to right now is Colin Kaepernick, who is still technically a member of the San Francisco 49ers. Outwardly, the Niners have said that they want to keep Kaepernick in 2016 and have him compete for the starting job, but it's unclear if that's true of if even Kaepernick wants to stay.
If Kaepernick asks for permission to seek out a trade, he could end up with any number of the quarterback-needy teams out there, and there are more than a few. Whether it's as a backup or a presumptive starter, this could create its own domino effect around the league.
AJ McCarron as trade bait?
Here's one more option that Peter King threw out there for John Elway and the Broncos: AJ McCarron.
If I'm Elway, I try to trade a 2 and a 4 to Cincinnati for A.J. McCarron.— Peter King (@SI_PeterKing) March 9, 2016
What's the future hold for Johnny Manziel?
Things don't look great for Johnny Football right now but the dude still has talent, and teams will look past a lot of things in the search for it, especially at the quarterback position. I'm guessing that if Manziel gets a shot anywhere this season, it will be as a backup, but it could create another domino effect for the rest of the backup-level quarterbacks out there looking for jobs.
Tarvaris Jackson is still in the NFL
Jackson has started 33 games for the Vikings and Seahawks over the years and has been Russell Wilson's primary backup the past three seasons, but is now a free agent again that wants to test the market. I'm guessing that he won't find anyone that wants to make him a starter, but he's an experienced veteran and that's valuable in the NFL. Keep an eye on where he ends up.
A couple other names you might keep in mind: Dan Orlovsky, Charlie Whitehurst, Chad Henne, Luke McCown and Matt Moore.
Mark Sanchez and/or Sam Bradford may be on the outs in Philly
The Eagles, under new head coach Doug Pederson, signed career backup Chase Daniel to a three-year, $36 million contract on the first day of NFL free agency. This was peculiar, considering the also just signed Sam Bradford to a two-year, $36 million deal that guarantees him $22 million. The reports out of Philly thus far is that Pederson wants Bradford and Daniel to compete for the starting position, but there are also some whispers that perhaps Bradford and his new contract are trade-able capital.
Meantime, there's Mark Sanchez, just hanging out, wondering what's up with his future.
I have no idea what's going on in Philly, but needless to say, one of those three quarterbacks could end up on the outs and available to another quarterback-needy team.
What is going on with the Rams and their quarterbacks?
Flying under the radar on Wednesday morning was the Rams decision to place a first-round RFA tender on Case Keenum, who sits atop their depth chart at the quarterback position. Of course, this would seem to indicate that he's the favorite to be the starter in 2016 and that begs the question: what is Los Angeles going to do with Nick Foles? Foles signed a two-year, $24.54 million contract with $13.8 million guaranteed prior to last season and then lost the starting job after 11 games. Despite some rumors of interested parties, Foles may be hard to trade because he's got a $6 million roster bonus coming up next week.
Regardless, the quarterback situation in Los Angeles could be worth keeping an eye on.
Zach Mettenberger could be available? Is that exciting?
For some reason people were kind of excited about Mettenberger as a potential starter a couple of years ago, but he probably put those thoughts to bed with his relief performance in 2016 (5.6 YPA, four touchdowns to seven interceptions for a 66 QB rating). Nonetheless, his name is one you could potentially start hearing, because the Titans signed Matt Cassel on Wednesday and that could mean the end of it for Mettenberger in Tennessee.
We could see some major quarterback changes over the next few days and weeks and the future of more than a few NFL teams hangs in the balance. It's by far the most important position on the roster and while many or most of these options are pretty underwhelming, the difference between "even somewhat competent" and "terrible" is not a fine line.
These quarterbacks will find some interest, probably make a good amount of money and may play big roles in 2016. And, it all starts with Osweiler doing the unpredictable and signing with the Texans. Maybe so he won't have to deal with this kind of thing anymore: