Barring something colossal, Joe Burrow's destination NFL destination doesn't hold much mystery -- but that wasn't the question answered by a handful of NFL front office executives last week.
That question, posed by Sports Illustrated: If you're in charge of an average NFL team on the market for a new quarterback, who do you choose?
The open-ended survey was seeking an evaluation on whether a team might go all-in for a run with someone like 42-year-old Tom Brady, sign an up-and-comer like Teddy Bridgewater or look to the future with one of the several signal-callers available in the draft this April.
The question was posed to front office personnel of teams not expected to have to make such a decision, to keep the answers impartial. With that in mind, none of the answers came from the Cincinnati Bengals, Los Angeles Chargers, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Miami Dolphins, Indianapolis Colts, Tennessee Titans, Jacksonville Jaguars, Las Vegas Raiders or Carolina Panthers, the SI report said.
The most popular result? Joe Burrow is the guy, if a team can get its hands on him.
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Said one respondent: "If you’re not one player away, then probably Burrow. Low money compared to the vets, can use that money and other draft capital to build around him and be able to make a run in a year or two. Of the rookies, he is the most likely and ready to be good in a short timeframe."
The quarterback that led LSU's College Football Playoff Championship run was the first choice in 11 of the 15 responses. Regardless, the Heisman winner is regarded as a shoo-in for the No. 1 overall pick by the QB-needy Cincinnatti Bengals in the upcoming NFL draft. It'd likely take another team trading up to grab the Ohio native in the top spot.
Since 1990 the No. 1 overall pick has changed hands just six times, the most recent in 2016 when the Los Angeles Rams landed a deal with the Titans to jump from No. 15 to the top spot, in which they grabbed California quarterback Jared Goff. The move marked the biggest jump ever to the No. 1 spot in a draft-day trade.
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But what if an established quarterback was the play? Names like Brady, Philip Rivers, Cam Newton, Case Keenum, Jameis Winston and Marcus Mariota were all thrown around, as well as Bridgewater, who went 5-0 in relief of Drew Brees in his second year with the New Orleans Saints.
While Brady was the most popular choice (6 of 15) for a team that viewed itself as ready for a playoff run, Bridgewater was tabbed as the pick by a pair of scouting directors, one from an AFC team and the other from an NFC team.
"I wouldn’t invest in Winston. Too many INTs and questionable makeup. Mariota has to be in the right scheme. [Keenum] is a backup. I would actually take Teddy Bridgewater over any of these guys. All that being said, if I had an average team, I’d be focusing more on the draft/future," the NFC team's scouting director said.
Said the AFC team's scouting director: "QB isn’t a stopgap position. The older bridge-the-gap types are short terms and when they leave you’re right back at square one again. Bridgewater would be my vet preference. Still ‘young’ and has won.”
But the Saints, or more specifically Brees, still hold at least some of the cards in any theoretical Bridgewater scenario. The Saints' longtime quarterback still hasn't made his plans known on whether he intends to retire or continue playing in his age-41 season. Should he choose to put the pads on again, it's unknown if the Saints would attempt to keep the 27-year-old Bridgewater in the fold, or if they could afford to do so regardless.
The team also must decide whether it will attempt to retain do-it-all quarterback Taysom Hill, who will be a restricted free agent.
For the full report form Sports Illustrated, click here.