NFL free agency outlook: Quarterback class thin, but options exist for Steelers
The quarterback carousel continued to spin on Wednesday with the news that the Indianapolis Colts will trade Carson Wentz to the Washington Commanders once the new NFL season kicks off on March 16.
Aaron Rodgers decided against a ride on Tuesday when he agreed to return to the Green Bay Packers, but the Seattle Seahawks sped up the ride by sending Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos for a slew of draft picks and of players.
As for the Pittsburgh Steelers, they continue to watch and wait, deciding whether to take the unlikely route of trading for a quarterback or taking the more conventional routes via free agency or the draft.
Free agency begins at 4 p.m. next Wednesday, but it’s preceded by a 48-hour period in which teams can begin negotiating with free agents outside of their organization.
Armed with at least $29 million under the salary cap — and able to create more cash flow — the Steelers could target a free agent to compete for the job left vacant by Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement.
Before we dive into the free market, let’s look at what the organization already has on hand:
On the list (1): Mason Rudolph: It carries a cap of $4.04 million in 2022.
Should return (1): Dwayne Haskins: a restricted free agent, he could get a right of first refusal of $2.433 million. The second-round tender is $3.96 million and the first-round tender is $5.562 million.
Unrestricted Free Agents (1): Joshua Dobbs: If the Steelers want to bring him back as the fourth quarterback for training camp, he could be offered the veteran minimum of $1.035 million.
Explore the market
Mitchell Trubisky: His name generated a lot of buzz in free agency despite the fact that he attempted just eight passes – without a touchdown and one interception – last season with the Buffalo Bills.
Benefits: The Chicago Bears’ second overall pick in 2017, Trubisky is just 27 years old and 29-21 as a starter. He’s also shown mobility that the Steelers covet for Roethlisberger’s successor.
The inconvenients: In his last full season as a starter, in 2019, he had 17 touchdown passes that were offset by 10 interceptions. The Steelers also need to determine if his skill set has more upside than Rudolph. And they may find themselves bidding for Trubisky’s services. In a thin class of QB free agents, he’s on a contract lasting more than a year and could make $10 million a season.
Teddy Bridgewater: He will come to market having earned $4.25 million with the Denver Broncos, his fourth NFL team. He started 14 games last year, going 7-7 while completing nearly 67% of his passes with 18 touchdowns and seven interceptions.
Benefits: Despite his mileage and frequent stoppages in the NFL, Bridgewater won’t turn 30 until November. Although his numbers weren’t mind-blowing in Denver, he just finished his career in touchdowns and he can move in the pocket.
The inconvenients: His next team will be his fourth in as many seasons. With Carolina in 2020, he went 4-11 and had 11 interceptions to 15 TD assists.
James Winston: He spent a second year in New Orleans as the Saints entered their first year without Drew Brees. He earned $5.5 million and went 5-2 as a starter while throwing just three interceptions on 161 attempts.
Benefits: Another top pick who still has time before he turns 30. Winston turned 28 in January. He might also be ready to capitalize on the improvement he made with New Orleans.
The inconvenients: He has just recovered from a torn ACL he suffered in November, which ended his season. Even though he is ready for the 2022 season, his mobility might be limited. That might be enough to scare the Steelers off.
Marcus Mariota: He and Winston will be forever linked as the top two picks of the 2015 draft class. Like Winston, he could be on the move after spending two seasons with his second organization — the Las Vegas Raiders. It had hit a cap of $3.5 million last year.
Benefits: Mariota was used as a situational runner/setter late in the season, and the Steelers could be drawn to a veteran who can use his legs to break containment. He is also 28 years old.
The inconvenients: He hasn’t started a game since 2019 and hasn’t started full-time since the previous season. He could be signed to compete for the backup job if the Steelers prefer to see what Rudolph can do in 2022.
Others available: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Andy Dalton, Cam Newton, Tyrod Taylor, Jacoby Brissett