When considering quarterbacks in the 2018 NFL Draft, teams have to put their money where their mouth is. The last five quarterbacks taken in the top 12 of the draft went as a result of trades.
No position holds a higher value. Therefore teams are willing to pay a king’s ransom to get them. The Bears were so sold on Mitch Trubisky, and so nervous someone would jump them at No. 3 in last year’s draft, they traded up a single spot to ensure they’d get their man.
With a bevy of potential franchise signal-callers in this draft, the depth of those top guys won’t deplete their value. If anything, it will cause teams to compete against each other for preferences within the group.
A group of quarterback-needy teams will covet Josh Rosen, another group Sam Darnold or Josh Allen, and others Baker Mayfield, Lamar Jackson, and Mason Rudolph.
Cleveland, holding the No. 1 and No. 4 picks, holds the keys to the draft. New general manager John Dorsey said he is open to trading the top selection. Even though the Browns seemingly can’t afford to pass again on a franchise quarterback after passing on Carson Wentz and Deshaun Watson, it’s still the Browns.
Never underestimate their ability to “Browns.”
If a team is willing to give them a cache of picks — let’s say the Browns are highest on Baker Mayfield and believe he’ll be there at No. 4 — maybe that’s a gamble they’re willing to take.
Here are three teams who could be trade partners.
Before we jump in, a quick aside. A few months ago, a radio host in Canada (I know), suggested the Colts offer Andrew Luck and No. 3 for No. 1, No. 4 and a future first. It seemed crazy at the time, but we still have no idea if Luck can play, or if he’ll ever be the same again. I don’t think the Colts would ever do it, but I don’t think it’s as crazy now as I did then.
New York Jets
The Jets have made no secret about being in the thick of the Kirk Cousins race. They even floated the idea of paying him an exorbitant first-year guaranteed figure to entice him to play in New York.
But Cousins isn’t without suitors. The Vikings and Broncos provide better opportunities to win now while the Cardinals have David Johnson and Larry Fitzgerald to lure him. The Jets have… a truckload of money big enough to make an island in the Hudson River, but that’s about it.
If they can’t lure Cousins, they’ll likely have a distinct preference among these quarterbacks (most do) and could believe it necessary to move up to get him.
The Jets, at the sixth pick, could rightly believe that not only Cleveland, but the Giants and Broncos, could be in for quarterbacks. Plus, if the Broncos land Cousins, they’d likely hold an open bidding session for the fifth pick for a team wanting to jump the Jets for a quarterback.
The one caveat here: If the Jets are highest on Lamar Jackson or Baker Mayfield—one of the quarterbacks not named Darnold or Rosen— they could simply choose to hold out, at least until No. 4, Cleveland’s second pick, to make a deal.
If they’re all-in on Josh Rosen or Sam Darnold, they likely have to move all the way up to get him.
When John Elway felt pressure as a player, he knew he always had the ability to escape the pocket and pick up a first down with his legs.
After botching the quarterback situation in fantastic fashion since Peyton Manning retired, Elway again must be feeling the pressure to get it right. That starts with backing up the Brink’s truck for Cousins, though it will take some major salary dumps to get there. Denver will have to deal Emmanuel Sanders, Aqib Talib, and maybe even another big salary to get there, but Elway wants it to happen.
If he can’t make it work, there’s always the escape the pocket move: trading up (I continue to believe for Josh Allen). There’s no doubt Cleveland would love to ransom the fourth pick, right in front of the Broncos, for a team hoping to jump Denver to get its QB of choice.
Elway could easily believe he has to get above fourth and second to get his preferred quarterback; the only place higher than two is one. If he couldn’t unload some of his salaries in pursuit of Cousins, perhaps he’d be willing to do so in a trade with Cleveland. The fifth pick, Emmanuel Sanders, and a future first perhaps?
Whether Ryan Tannehill comes back healthy from his knee injury or not, Miami sounds like a team ready to make aggressive moves. Having traded for Robert Quinn, it has been aggressively shopping Jarvis Landry after slapping him with the franchise tag.
One suggested trade involved Tannehill to the Broncos in exchange for moving up to No. 5 for their preferred quarterback. Why not extend that same offer to the Browns at No. 1? Cleveland can absorb the Tannehill contract, play him as a bridge QB in an offense that could potentially suit his abilities, and wait for either DeShone Kizer or a quarterback drafted later to develop.
Cleveland does still have the fourth pick, plus it would have the 11th pick as well in this scenario, while coming out with a quarterback we know can be a solid starter in the league.
If the Browns don’t care about a bridge quarterback, the trade chip could always be Landry. While I don’t believe Landry to be a legitimate No. 1 option, he’d be a good fit with a young quarterback because so much of what he’s best at is on easy throws near the line of scrimmage.
Who knows, maybe the Browns would even do a deal like Tannehill, Landry, and the 11th for No. 1 and No. 4. They’d still retain an enormous amount of flexibility and top picks with myriad selections on Day 2 as well. They’d get a starter quarterback, a young, reliable receiver, and still be in position to snag a top prospect at 11.