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A look at the NFL’s top free agent and trade targets at QB

The Arizona Cardinals will enter their 2018 offseason in an unusual position. They’ll have no quarterbacks under contract. Carson Palmer retired. Drew Stanton, Blaine Gabbert and Matt Barkley are all set to become unrestricted free agents.

It is widely assumed the Cardinals will draft a quarterback in late April to try to secure their future at the game’s most vital position, but the Cardinals have other options they could pursue in place of a draft pick, or in conjunction with that pick. They could sign one of a handful of marquee free agents if they become available, or they could swing a trade.

The last two elite quarterbacks who have played for the Cardinals came via one of those two paths. Arizona signed Kurt Warner to a one-year, $4 million contract in 2005. The Cardinals acquired Carson Palmer from the Oakland Raiders in 2013 for a pair of draft picks.

Here is a look at the top free agents, as well as some trade options.

POSSIBLE FREE AGENTS

Kirk Cousins, Washington Redskins

Age: 29
2017 stats: 347 att., 540 comp, 4,093 yds., 27 TDs, 13 INTs.
Contract status: UFA on March 14.
Ceiling: Franchise starter.
Possible destinations: Cardinals, Browns, Jets, Vikings, Bills, Broncos, Giants.
Franchise tag likeliness: The Redskins could do something unprecedented and slap a third straight franchise tag on Cousins, but that would guarantee him $34.5 million for 2018. No passer in the NFL has a 2018 cap hit above $26.5 million.
Will he hit the market: A long-term deal still makes the most sense for both sides. If Washington uses its transition tag ($28.8 million), teams could clear enough room to make Cousins bigger offers, but those would be bad teams. Then again, Cousins said he would consider playing for the Browns. Leverage? There’s also the possibility that Cousins would file a grievance with the NFLPA is the Redskins use a third straight tag on him. It could get messy.

Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints

Age: 39
2017 stats: 386 att., 536 comp, 4,334 yds., 23 TDs, 8 INTs.
Contract status: UFA on March 14.
Ceiling: Short-term franchise starter, given his age.
Possible destinations: None, really. Brees doesn’t want to move and New Orleans is a playoff team again.
Franchise tag likeliness: None.
Will he hit the market: No. The Saints will likely sign him to a short-term deal. Brees has said he doesn’t want to go anywhere and general manager Mickey Loomis doesn’t anticipate any issues in resigning the future Hall of Famer. “We want him to be our quarterback, and we’ll get going on that at some point,” Loomis told the New Orleans Times-Picayune.

Case Keenum, Minnesota Vikings

Age: 30
2017 stats: 325 att., 481 comp, 3,547 yds., 22 TDs, 7 INTs.
Contract status: UFA on March 14.
Ceiling: Effective starter.
Possible destinations: Minnesota, New York Giants, Arizona.
Franchise tag likeliness: It’s certainly possible now that Keenum has the Vikings in the NFC Championship, thereby increasing his worth even further.
Will he hit the market: Minnesota can’t afford to let its top quarterbacks get away, but OC Pat Shurmur’s departure to coach the Giants could influence Keenum to follow, especially if Eli Manning isn’t back. He had been a journeyman before flourishing under Shurmur.

Teddy Bridgewater, Minnesota Vikings

Age: 25
2017 stats: Injured.
Contract status: UFA on March 14.
Ceiling: Potential starter.
Possible destinations: Too soon to say, but Minnesota would be in the mix. The Cardinals might be, too.
Franchise tag likeliness: None.
Will he hit the market: The Vikings have to keep Bridgewater or Keenum or both, but both will want to play and Keenum might cost too much to keep both. One’s fate could determine the other’s. Bridgewater may not find a very good market outside Minnesota. He might find one in Arizona.

Sam Bradford, Minnesota Vikings

Age: 30
2017 stats: (Injured) 32 att., 43 comp, 382 yds., 3 TDs, 0 INTs.
Contract status: UFA on March 14.
Ceiling: Potential starter with injury concerns.
Possible destinations: Unknown.
Franchise tag likeliness: None.
Will he hit the market: Probably. Bradford is an injury-prone risk.

AJ McCarron, Cincinnati Bengals

Age: 27
2017 Stats: 14 att., 7 comp., 66 yds., 0 TDs, 0 INTs.
Contract status: UFA on March 14.
Ceiling: Impossible to predict with only a handful of career starts. Is he worth the money and risk he would cost?
Possible destinations: Arizona, Cleveland.
Will he hit the market: Almost certainly after he won his grievance hearing against the Bengals to strip his restricted free agent status.

Kellen Clemens, Los Angeles Chargers

Age: 34
2017 Stats: 8 att., 6 comp., 36 yds., 0 TDs, 1 INT.
Contract status: UFA on March 14.
Ceiling: Career backup
Possible destinations: Unknown.
Will he hit the market: Only if the Chargers can’t find a better option. They’re hoping Cardale Jones shows more than he did last preseason after the Chargers swing a trade with the Bills for him.

Jay Cutler, Miami Dolphins

Age: 34
2017 stats: 266 att., 429 comp, 2,666 yds., 19 TDs, 14 INTs.
Contract status: UFA on March 14.
Ceiling: Stopgap starter.
Possible destinations: Unknown.
Franchise tag likeliness: None.
Will he hit the market: It depends on what the Dolphins do with Ryan Tannehill. They are paying Tannehill $18 million and Cutler $10 million this season. They can’t afford pay both that much next year so they’ll likely have to pick one or the other.

Blaine Gabbert, Arizona Cardinals

Age: 28
2017 stats: 95 att., 171 comp, 1,086 yds., 6 TDs, 6 INTs.
Contract status: UFA on March 14.
Ceiling: Career backup.
Possible destinations: Unknown beyond returning to Arizona as a backup.
Franchise tag likeliness: None.
Will he hit the market: Probably

Ryan Fitzpatrick, Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Age: 35
2017 stats: 96 att., 163 comp, 1,103 yds., 7 TDs, 3 INTs.
Contract status: UFA on March 14.
Ceiling: Stopgap starter.
Possible destinations: Unknown.
Franchise tag likeliness: None.
Will he hit the market: He would be a good backup to keep in the fold for Jameis Winston.

Geno Smith, New York Giants

Age: 27
2017 stats: 21 att., 36 comp, 212 yds., 1 TD, 0 INTs
Contract status: UFA on March 14.
Ceiling: Career backup.
Possible destinations: Unknown beyond returning to New York.
Franchise tag likeliness: None.
Will he hit the market: That will depend on expected new coach Pat Shurmur’s evaluation.

Drew Stanton, Arizona Cardinals

Age: 34
2017 stats: 79 att., 159 comp, 894 yds., 6 TDs, 5 INTs.
Contract status: UFA on March 14.
Ceiling: Veteran backup.
Possible destinations: Unknown.
Franchise tag likeliness: None.
Will he hit the market: Most likely.

Josh McCown, New York Jets

Age: 39
2017 stats: 267 att., 397 comp, 2,926 yds., 18 TDs, 9 INTs
Contract status: UFA on March 14
Ceiling: Stopgap starter.
Possible destinations: Unknown.
Franchise tag likeliness: None.
Will he hit the market: The Jets need to draft a starter, but McCown performed better than expected with limited skill around him. He wants to return to New York.

Others: Matt Moore, 33; Tom Savage, 27; Austin Davis, 28; Matt Barkley, 27; Brock Osweiler, 27; Derek Anderson, 34; Chad Henne, 32; T.J. Yates, 30; EJ Manuel, 28; Tyler Bray, 26; Joe Webb, 31; Mark Sanchez, 31; Brandon Weeden, 34; Josh Johnson, 31; Ryan Mallett, 29; Scott Tolzien, 30; Chase Daniel, 31.

TRADE POSSIBILITIES

Nick Foles, Philadelphia Eagles

Age: 29
2017 Stats: 101 att., 57 comp., 537 yds., 5 TDs, 2 INTs
Contract status: Signed for one more year at a $7.6 million
Ceiling: After leading the Eagles to the Super Bowl title as Carson Wentz’s replacement, many teams may view Foles as an effective starter with potential for more — a late bloomer.
Possible destinations: Cardinals, Vikings, Browns.
Will he hit the market: It’s still uncertain if Carson Wentz will be ready for the start of the season after season-ending knee surgery. Foles would likely land the Eagles a big haul, but what about the insurance he provides? Philadelphia can’t ignore how valuable that was last season.

Tyrod Taylor, Buffalo Bills

Age: 28
2017 stats: 263 att., 420 comp, 2,799 yds., 14 TDs, 4 INTs.
Contract status: Under contract at $18 million.
Ceiling: Middle-of-the-pack starter.
Possible destinations: Broncos, Browns, Chiefs, Jets.
Will he hit the market: It seems a foregone conclusion after he took a pay cut this offseason and the team benched him in November for rookie fifth-round pick Nathan Peterman. If the Bills release him, he could be a cheap option.

Eli Manning, New York Giants

Age: 37
2017 stats: 352 att., 571 comp, 3,468 yds., 19 TDs, 13 INTs.
Contract status: Under contract at $22.2 million.
Ceiling: Effective short-term starter, given his age.
Possible destinations: Broncos, Giants, Cardinals.
Will he hit the market: The Giants have the No. 2 pick in the draft. They may want to move on from Manning with a young player but he would be a good one-year stopgap and tutor.

Ryan Tannehill, Miami Dolphins

Age: 29
2017 stats: Injured.
Contract status: Under contract at $19.8 million.
Ceiling: Competent starter.
Possible destinations: Unknown beyond the Dolphins.
Will he hit the market: The Dolphins would save $15.2 million by cutting Tannehill. They currently have just $14.1 million in cap room for 2018. Tannehill is a gamble. He hasn’t progressed much and he’s been out a full year since injuring his knee last December and then re-injuring it during training camp. There have been a lot of rumors about the Dolphins taking a quarterback at No. 11 in the NFL Draft, but NFL Network analyst Mike Mayock believes the Dolphins won’t be in the market for a quarterback – at least not in the first round. He thinks Tannehill will be under center for the team in 2018.

Jacoby Brissett, Indianapolis Colts

Age: 24
2017 stats: 276 att., 469 comp, 3,098 yds., 13 TDs, 7 INTs.
Contract status: Under contract for $760,000.
Ceiling: Potential starter.
Possible destinations: Other than the Colts, unknown.
Will he hit the market: The Colts might keep Brissett as a hedge against the return of Andrew Luck, or they might trade him for some value and sign a veteran backup instead. Brissett might prove more valuable in the trade market than as a backup.

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