The Juiciest 2020 Free Agent Quarterback Landing Spots

This offseason free agent market involves some of the bigger names at the quarterback position than we’ve seen in quite some time. So there’s quality, but there’s also quantity. Eight QBs who started NFL games last year are on this Spring’s market, and upwards of half a dozen 2019 starters are expected to either be traded or candidates for roster cuts. This sort of offseason movement is really unprecedented in the NFL, unlike basketball or baseball where player movement is a regular — and expected — occurrence during the off months. Now, it’s true, NFL players have used the power they have in the CBA to switch teams when they’re disgruntled or sit out portions of the regular season, usually when they are unhappy with their contract situation and feel the team hasn’t treated them appropriately.  But, typically, the quarterback position is not one where a terrible amount of this happens. Other than the rare Eli Manning refusing to go to the Chargers on Draft Day or John Elway making sure he never played a down for the Colts, quarterbacks don’t often get to free agency — well, good ones don’t. And great ones can only dream.

But this offseason brings about a different feeling with the position. A dozen or so QBs will either be hitting the market as free agents or they will be on the chopping block of sorts with their current teams — all for various different reasons. And what makes this fun is that many are going to move. That’s the thing — good QBs often never see free agency because their teams are smart enough to lock them up before it ever happens. Not this year, though — but this year is complicated. Tom Brady isn’t hitting the free agency market for the first time in his 20 year career because the Patriots don’t think he’s good. There are other factors — obviously. Phllip Rivers — same thing. The Chargers didn’t;t all of a sudden think Rivers was terrible and unable to lead that team, whose roster is chalk full of talent. It was just time to go in a another direction. Go on down the list of QB free agents and you’ll see nothing is cut and dry — with each one, there are a specific set of unusual circumstances that have led the player and the team to the spot we’re in today.

Let’s lay some ground rules — and it’s simple: players cannot return to their current teams. So if this is supposed to be fun, let’s make it fun. Let’s look at the tastiest, the juiciest landing spots for all the top quarterback free agents, as well as some of the QBs who’s names are being bandied about in trade talks and roster cut-downs.

Tom Brady

You talk to 5 people and they’ll give you 5 different teams where Brady ends up playing next year. But if we’re talking juicy, what’s juicier than TB12 taking the helm of the Indianapolis Colts in the House That Peyton Built? It’s a really nice team with a great offensive line, solid head coach, and a ton of cash to spend on getting Bray the weapons he so dearly covets. So this one is juicy, but also realistic. Factor in the decade-plus of Pats-Colts rivalry, Deflategate, and Josh McDaniels spurning Jim Irsay to remain in Foxboro and this couldn’t be a tastier treat.

Drew Brees

I know Brees has announced he’s not only returning for the 2020 season, but he wants to do so in New Orleans. But in the spirit of our game, imagine the Saints say, “Thanks, but we’ll go elsewhere.” How about Brees going to the team that he was a good medical evaluation away from signing with when he left San Diego oh so long ago? The Miami Dolphins. Talk about tying up some loose ends. But this could be about 15 years too late for Fins fans.

Philip Rivers

Still hard to believe Rivers won’t end he career with the Chargers. But I’m all in on a Rivers-Arians tag team in Tampa Bay. I know, I know — this may not fit as far as the offense Bruce Arians likes to run; but tell me Rivers chucking it around to those wise receivers wouldn’t be fun to see? And can Bruce and Phil just plan on tandem press conferences each week?

Dak Prescott

No one believes Dak goes anywhere, but technically he’s a free agent so he’s included here. It’s not spicy, but you know what — I’d like to see Dak head to Carolina with Matt Rhule and Joe Brady and the weapons that the Panthers have at WR. He’d also have Christian McCaffrey so that’s a not a bad duo in the backfield.

Ryan Tannehill

What a breakout season for a guy most of us had given up on. This one was tough — juicy and Ryan Tannehill don’t really go together, you know? But if any team was to fall in love with a QB who proved himself for less than a full season of work and pay him $25 to $30 million, tell me it wouldn’t be Jacksonville. It’d be Nick Foles all over again.

Jameis Winston

The most fun spot for Jameis to end up might be back in Tampa — let’s follow up that 30/30 season with an encore. But we’ve seen that show so let’s spread the Winston wealth around. Jon Gruden gushed over Jameis in his Gruden QB Camp (or whatever they called his little show on ESPN). Now, it’s time for the head coach to put his money where his mouth was. A Jameis-Gruden partnership has all the making of a complete disaster — on the field and off. And remember, the backdrop here is Vegas. Vegas!! This script writes itself.

Marcus Mariota

This is easy. Head west and get with a coach who sees the value in Mariota’s ability to be mobile. The Chargers need a new QB and head coach Anthony Lynn likes mobile quarterbacks — Tyrod Taylor’s already in L.A. on the roster and when Lynn was in Buffalo he enjoyed a QB who could move around and run the ball.

Teddy Bridgewater

I’m going to ignore the report earlier in the week that Teddy is going to command $30 million a season in his next deal. Come on. I’m as big a fan of Bridgewater’s, and what he did to keep the Saints afloat while Brees was hurt was nothing short of astonishing. But $30 mil? Anyway, I’m opening my arms (not my checkbook) to Teddy as he heads to Foxboro. Get him on the cheap, pair him with McDaniels, and Bill Belichick gets to have some fun with a guy that his friend Sean Payton got a ton out of.

The rest of the players listed below are not free agents, but their names have come up as players who could be on the move this offseason.

Andy Dalton

Assuming Joe Burrow in the pick at one and that he does in fact decide to not force a trade to land elsewhere, Dalton could certainly be on the move. And I think if Bill Belichick could win with Andy Dalton as his QB, a lot of people might start wondering if it was more Belichick-Brady than Brady-Belichick.

Cam Newton

Is there a particular city you just feel like Cam would be at home in? Any guesses? Dude’s a lover of fashion, lives the Hollywood lifestyle, enjoys the attention and the spotlight. If this isn’t L.A. with the Chargers, I should stop playing this game right now. Match made in heaven.

Derek Carr

The Gruden-Carr relationship is tenuous at best. I’d love to see Carr head to New Orleans and let Sean Payton work his magic with him. It’d be funny — goes to New Orleans and rejuvenates his career, but the great quarterback whisperer Gruden had to jettison him.

Matthew Stafford

Again, here’s another one where one report emerges that insinuates the Lions want to move on from Stafford, and it makes no sense financially — yet if they choose to take Tua at 3 in April’s draft, then maybe a trade should be considered. So, I thought Denver because John Elway loves big-armed quarterbacks and no one has any clue as to how Elway really feels about his current QB situation in Denver. But, then, I realized if Stafford’s ever leaving Detroit, he’s leaving the D for Big D. Home sweet home for Stafford in Jerry’s World.


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2016 NFL Preview: The NFC South

Remember not too long ago when the NFC South was known for it’s last place team one year, finishing at the top the next? Lately Carolina has put a stop to all that. But the parity that the NFL so deeply desires and the parity that not so long ago existed in this division appears to be close to returning. Carolina returns as division and conference champs, but after a dismal Super Bowl 50 performance, how will Ron Rivera’s club approach the new season? Atlanta struggled in their last 11 games last year, but they have the running game, they have one of the league’s top WRs, and head coach Dan Quinn is building a mean, fast defense. The Saints may not resemble the team that was perennially contending for the NFC title, but Drew Brees and Sean Payton can still whip up an exciting, high-powered offense. And lastly, Tampa Bay is led by one of the NFL’s young, playmaking quarterbacks, who happens to have some big pass-catching targets at his disposal.

My point is the NFC South should not be viewed as a runaway for the defending champions this season. Here’s a look at what each team can do in ’16.

 

Carolina Panthers

Cam Newton will not finish in the top 10 in the MVP voting in 2016.

Reigning MVP doesn’t finish in top-10 this year? I do not think that is far-fetched in the least. In fact, while I will not argue one bit with Newton’s talent and God-given athleticism, I contend that his out-of-this-world 2015 season Cam-Newton-hitcannot and will not duplicated again — for the rest of his career. He threw for 35 touchdowns and only 10 picks — awesome ratio, awesome season. He threw for just under 4,000 yards — in his previous 4 seasons, he averaged right around 3,600. What I’m getting at is that Cam’s yardage was right about where we’ve seen him be, he limited the mistakes with a career-best 10 interceptions, and he capitalized like never before in terms of passing TDs — 11 more than his previous best of 24. History supports that Newton will continue throwing for somewhere close to 4,000 yards, but his touchdowns, I think, were more of an anomaly and he won’t be able to keep that up.

Carolina has weapons on the offensive side of the ball — no doubt. Devin Funchess got some great, impactful experience last season; Kelvin Benjamin returns after missing all of the ’15 campaign to a knee injury; Greg Olsen is a pass-catching machine over the middle for Cam; and James Stewart is finally able to show off his full skill set as Carolina’s top back now that DeAngelo Williams is a couple years gone to Pittsburgh. All signs point to another magnificent season for the Super Bowl runners-up and their QB leader. But it’s tough to repeat that type of year — and no one will pick or expect the Panthers to navigate their schedule to a 15-1 record this year. More mistakes will happen, luck won’t always be on their side, and Cam Newton will at times look like the Cam of 2014 or 2012. Don’t forget that in his 5 seasons as Carolina’s starting QB, Newton’s only had 2 winning seasons — and if you take out the 15-1 year, he’s merely a .500 quarterback (30-31-1). Cam’s 2015 was magical, but his career as a whole has not mirrored that snapshot.

 

Atlanta Falcons

The Falcons will more closely resemble the team that started 5-0 last season rather than the one that lost 8 of its last 11.

The offense in Atlanta is better than it’s ever been in Matt Ryan’s time as the Falcons starting quarterback. Of course, Julio Jones is still there and dominating on the outside; and he has some nice complimentary pieces at theimages-4 position too — Mohamed Sanu has come over from Cincinnati and Justin Hardy should garner attention in his own right from opposing defenses. But the most important addition for Atlanta is their ability to now, consistently, run the football. Devonta Freeman proved himself as a workhorse back last season and second year player Tevin Coleman — while losing his starting job in 2015 to injury — is back competing for lots of carries and still has all the qualities of a starter in the NFL.

The offense has the potential to be very explosive, but also very punishing, if offensive coordinator Kyle Shanahan chooses to mix it up. On the other side of the ball, expect a faster Falcons defense and a meaner one. Head coach Dan Quinn comes from Seattle, where he helped build the Legion of Boom. In his second year now in Atlanta, Quinn has had some time to get his pieces into the puzzle. To win in the South, you have to be able to score points, but you also need to stop high-octane offenses, like Carolina and New Orleans — and Tampa Bay, who’s no slouch either.

 

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Jameis Winston will begin his NFL career by throwing for back-to-back 4,000 yard seasons.

When you have a wide receiver like Mike Evans at your fingertips and a tight end like Austin Seferian-Jenkins, it winston-lovie-vikingsgamebecomes pretty clear as to how you may have some success throwing the football. Jameis Winston has these two and also can rely on Doug Martin out of the backfield. New head coach Dirk Koetter will be comfortable with Winston throwing the ball a lot — and he’s probably going to have to be comfortable with it. Koetter was Winston’s OC last season so the two have familiarity with each other. And Koetter knows what he has on offense.

While the cupboards certainly aren’t bare, I’m not sure we can expect the Bucs to go tit-for-tat, score-for-score with division foes New Orleans, Atlanta, or Carolina. Winston and the Buccaneers are likely a year or two away from being a playoff contender — the defense needs to improve by a lot. But while they wait, Winston will certainly have his chances to pad his stat totals. Expect Tampa to be behind in many games this year so the aerial attack will be in full swing.

 

 New Orleans Saints

Brandin Cooks and Coby Fleener will combine to be the most productive WR-TE combo in the NFC.

Here’s what I can’t get past with the Saints: Rob Ryan’s defenses were utterly atrocious in his time with New Orleans, aside from 2013. But even before Ryan, it’s not like the Saints were ever known for having a top defense — or even a good defense. When they won the Super Bowl in 2009, the Saints ranked 25th in yards allowed and 20thbrandin-cooks-71415-getty-ftrjpg_c3l9wk1huhep1lck7i5ghqcvk in points allowed. Defense and the Saints go together like oil and water.

So what, right? You can make two things of this: (1) the Saints don’t need defense to win; (2) over the last few seasons since 2009, it’s evident that the Saints cannot win with just having a high-powered passing attack. I tend to take the latter.

Not to mention, Drew Brees is not a young man any longer and he doesn’t have all the weapons he used to have. But he does have Brandin Cooks, and they signed tight end Coby Fleener from Indianapolis during the offseason. Fleener should be the closest thing to Jimmy Graham that Brees has had since the team jettisoned Graham off the nonexistence in Seattle a couple years ago. Head coach Sean Payton knows how to use TEs in his system and loves to involve them — look no further then what he got out of Benjamin Watson last season.

As for Cooks, the speedy third year wideout should improve upon his very nice 2015 numbers, which saw him haul in 84 catches for over 1,100 yards with 9 TDs. He will be the unquestioned top option for Brees in this pass-happy offense. I expect Brees to sit at the top of the NFC in passing yards with Cooks and Fleener being the biggest beneficiaries.

 

Feedback is always welcome through the website in the comments box or on my Twitter feed — @brian22goodwin.

 

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