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Pi Network

Draft King Analysis
February 16, 2018
Lou Pickney,

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It wasn't a surprise that the 49ers signed QB Jimmy Garoppolo to a long-term contract earlier this month. They didn't trade their 2018 second-round pick to New England to have him walk out the door, especially after he seemed to turn the 49ers overnight from an also-ran into a dangerous contender when he joined the team.

But it took a colossal offer by the 49ers to ink Garoppolo, 26, to a long-term deal: $137.5 million over five years, with $74 million guaranteed and $90 million in the first three years of the deal. And the ramifications of that contract are already reverberating across the league.

That sets the stage for a free agency signing period that will be rife with intrigue, as teams gauge not only key decisions involving projected starting quarterbacks, but also backup quarterbacks.

With Nick Foles leading the Eagles to a Super Bowl win, a giant spotlight was placed on a position that is more important than ever before in the NFL: the backup QB. When starting QB Carson Wentz was lost for the season with a knee injury late in 2017, it appeared all was lost for the Eagles.

But Foles led the Eagles to a 2-1 mark down the stretch ahead of the post-season, where he seemed to rediscover the accuracy that he showed in his remarkable 27 TD/2 INT season in 2013. Foles led the Eagles, thrice a playoff underdog despite having home field advantage through the NFC Championship Game, to its first Super Bowl win in franchise history.

It will be interesting to see what the Eagles opt to do with Foles, who is due $7 million in 2018 in the final year of his current two-year deal. Ideally Philly could have him co-exist with Wentz, though if that happens you will hear nonstop stories about Foles going from Super Bowl MVP back to being a second-string player.

But if I'm Foles, I do everything in my power to discourage the Eagles from trading me in 2018. Be dealt to another team and you lose considerable leverage because of the franchise tag. But stay with the Eagles and you would seem to have smooth sailing toward hitting the open market in 2019, with Philadelphia at least in theory unlikely to franchise tag its backup QB.

One of the top quarterbacks heading for unrestricted free agency is A.J. McCarron, thanks to a decision by an arbitrator yesterday who ruled against the Bengals for improperly placing him on the team's Non-Football Injury list to begin his rookie season.

Considering that Cleveland was ready to give up a second-rounder and a third-rounder to the Bengals to get McCarron in an embarrassingly botched trade at the deadline, the former Alabama star should attract plenty of interest on the open market.

Of course, the crown jewel of this free agency class is Kirk Cousins, at least absent the Redskins throwing the franchise tag on him in a last-minute surprise. That seems highly unlikely considering the bind that Cousins could put Washington in by immediately signing the one-year tender, not to mention creating unnecessary distraction for the team as it looks to begin the Alex Smith era.

But if Cousins hits the open market as expected, he will almost for sure command a massive contract. Denver would seem like a great destination for Cousins, though there are teams with more room under the cap than the Broncos, like the Browns, who could in theory outspend Denver.

There's a reason Spotrac has declared 2018 as The Mother of All QB Offseasons. I recommend their write-up on the stats and financials from last month -- it makes for a great primer.

One non-quarterback player to keep an eye on ahead of the 2018 franchise tag deadline is Cowboys DE DeMarcus Lawrence. He exploded in his contract year of 2017, recording an eye-popping 14.5 sacks for Dallas this past season. But he has failed multiple drug tests in the past, creating some risk for Dallas if they sign him to a long-term deal.

Ultimately, Lawrence is a 25-year-old with elite pass rushing skill. And in a league where young top-end pass rushing talent is coveted, there is no way the Cowboys can allow Lawrence to walk away. Dealing with the awkwardness of the franchise tag is a small price to pay to keep that kind of talent in-house.


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