Over Half of Packers' 2018 Opponents Face Questions at Quarterback
When the Packers’ 2017 opponents were determined, Green Bay stood to face six quarterbacks who had appeared in a Super Bowl. It was a daunting schedule from its announcement, and its difficulty may have stunted the team’s chances at a ninth-consecutive playoff berth after Aaron Rodgers’ injury.
The Packers’ 2018 opponents feature – as of today – just three quarterbacks who have started a Super Bowl (and a fourth, San Francisco’s Jimmy Garoppolo, who has won two as a backup).
Instead, the lingering thought when browsing the Packers’ 2018 opponents is uncertainty at the quarterback position. By our count, seven of the Packers’ thirteen opponents will enter this offseason with at least some question over who start at quarterback next season.
By comparison, just two teams on the Packers’ 2017 schedule – the Browns and the Bears – faced uncertainty at quarterback heading into last offseason.
Green Bay knows intimately the importance of success at the quarterback position. If these teams want to compete in 2018, they'll need to have a solid plan in place at the game's most important position.
Let’s examine the quarterback situation of each of the Packers 2018 opponents.
We’ll find out in the offseason
Starter Carson Palmer played in just seven games this season, and will be 38 years old next season. If head coach Bruce Arians does leave the organization as rumored, it’s almost a guarantee Palmer will retire. If not, it’s still hard to see him returning. It’s likely the Cardinals find a new quarterback this offseason. The Cardinals play at Lambeau Field in 2018.
Tyrod Taylor is likely out of town in Buffalo, and backup Nathan Peterman was, well, not great in limited action. The Bills are still in the playoff picture heading into this Sunday’s regular season finale.
New York Jets.
Quarterback Josh McCown signed a one-year, $6 million contract in the offseason, and will be 39 during the 2018 season. A fractured hand ended his season in early December, but Jason La Canfora reported he’s likely to continue his playing career in 2018. While he had a great season in New York, he’ll earn more money elsewhere next season.
Uncertainty, but an established starter in place
Case Keenum signed a one-year, $2 million contract last summer to backup Sam Bradford. It’s been a breakout year for Keenum, who will start fourteen games this year and leads Minnesota into the playoffs.
The Vikings had been reluctant throughout the season to name Keenum the permanent starter over Bradford and Teddy Bridgewater, taking a week-by-week approach. It’s likely Keenum’s in Minnesota next season, but that lack of trust just may cause Keenum to go elsewhere in 2018.
If the Redskins place the franchise tag on Kirk Cousins, Washington will pay the quarterback close to $34 million on a one-year deal. Matthew Stafford, the league’s highest paid quarterback, makes an average of $27 million.
For the past three seasons, Cousins has been the Redskins starter, but the prohibitive cost of the franchise tag and the two sides’ unwillingness to sign a long-term deal are signs the Packers will face a new quarterback when they play Washington.
The Dolphins snapped up Jay Cutler after Ryan Tannehill tore his knee in training camp, and Cutler gave Miami an up-and-down season. While the Dolphins did manage to knock off quality opponents like the Patriots, Falcons and Chargers, Cutler has been a stop-gap solution while Tannehill recovers.
A report this week indicates the Dolphins haven’t given up on Jay Cutler just yet, and will look to bring him back next season as Tannehill’s backup. While all signs point to Tannehill being back under center in 2018, we won’t truly know until training camp who will be under center in Miami.
San Francisco 49ers.
First-year general manager John Lynch and head coach Kyle Shanahan pulled off the rare blockbuster trade at the deadline this season, acquiring quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo from the Patriots. Garoppolo is in the final year of his rookie contract, and will be an unrestricted free agent.
Given his success as starter and the momentum building in San Francisco, it’s hard to see Garoppolo leaving the 49ers to join another team. However, as of today, he has yet to sign a long-term extension.
No drama at quarterback this offseason
Matt Ryan was the league’s MVP in 2016, and will be the team’s starter in 2018.
After becoming the league’s highest-paid quarterback this summer, Matthew Stafford will return for another season as the Lions’ starting quarterback.
The Bears traded up to select Mitchell Trubisky, and will give him his first full season as starting quarterback in 2018.
New England Patriots.
Some guy named Tom Brady has been starting there for awhile. I figure he’ll be back.
Russell Wilson has had a statistically wacky season for the Seahawks, and will be their starter next year.
Los Angeles Rams.
It’s been a transformational year in Los Angeles, as the Rams’ new head coach Sean McVay helped mold Jared Goff into a rock solid quarterback. He’ll be back next season.