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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3 NFL Items for Discussion as We Wait for the Weekend’s Games

After four very non-competitive games on Wildcard Weekend, we are all chomping at the bit for some exciting postseason football. The Divisional round starts on Saturday afternoon — but that’s still a few days away. So what else is there to quench our NFL thirst? Here are 3 things to keep your eye on — we may not get any vindication or answers until the spring on a couple of these thoughts while one we should know in a matter of a week or so. But either way, we’ve got some meaty topics to sink our teeth into, as we await the actual games.

1. The Detroit Lions will make Matthew Stafford the highest paid player in NFL history.

This isn’t shocking — especially to Lions’ fans, who’ve been prepped for this for over a year when the Detroit front office did not trade the QB. But what becomes more clear, as that day approaches, is that the Lions are on their way to resembling the Indianapolis Colts — both have quarterbacks that are good enough to keep them from losing 9 or 10 games every year, both will have no money to realistically spend on other key positional players, and both put tremendous pressure on their GMs to hit home run after home run on their foreseeable drafts because they just flat-out can’t afford to have misses or busts.

Don’t get transfixed on Stafford being the highest player in the history of the league — that just comes with the territory. Someone — who’s probably underserving — will surpass him in 6 months or a year and so on and so on the cycle goes. As long as the salary cap keeps going through the roof, owners will have to spend the money they have — so what a player makes is in no way by any means indicative of how good that player actually is. For example, LeVeon Bell, Antonio Brown, Tom Brady, Aaron Rodgers — none are the highest paid in the NFL nor have any of them ever been the single highest paid in the league. Instead, names like Matt Ryan, Matthew Stafford, and Ryan Tannehill are atop that list — or at least will be atop that list soon.

The problem with paying the former Georgia Bulldog is not that it is an underserving contract — you can’t kill the guy for being in a position to be offered $25 million a year by other grown adults. The problem is that the Lions are, and have been for 50-plus years, a team unable to consistently win for their fans. And now they seem to have a QB good enough to at least get them to the playoffs every other year and they have a GM who’s given fans in the city a shred of optimism because his background is with the New England Patriots. So all that said, the Lions could be, might be trending in an upwards direction — until they are handcuffed by a contract to Stafford that will eat up roughly 15% of their team salary moving forward for the next 5 or 6 years. Add in the contracts of defensive standouts — who they will feel compelled to keep — Ziggy Ansah and Darius Slay, and you’re now talking about a third of your money being tied up with 3 “good” players.  And yes, while other teams tie up lots of money in only a handful of players also, the good teams who compete for titles on a regular basis, put that money in players who are much better than Stafford, Ansah, and Slay.

It won’t happen for another 5, 6, 7 months, but make no mistake, Lions’ fans — it is going to happen.

2. Josh McDaniels may be on the verge of becoming the 49ers head coach with his own GM and his own quarterback.

The idea of the Patriots offensive coordinator getting his second shot at being a head coach in this league is one that falls into the “it’s only a matter of time” category. McDaniels has spent the better part of his NFL career learning under the likes of Bill Belichick, Charlie Weis, Scott Pioloi, Nick Caserio, and coaching the likes of Tom Brady. To say McDaniels would be a logical candidate for any head coaching vacancy is a considerable understatement. The question, ultimately, boils down to where and when?

The when is any minute — maybe we’re even on borrowed time with McDaniels still in New England. The where is starting to become clearer. Of the positions that McDaniels interviewed for last Saturday, as he and Pats prepared for their AFC divisional round opponent, the one that stands out is the 49ers job. The offensive minded coach isn’t saddled with a quarterback in SF like he would be in Los Angeles with Jared Goff or Jacksonville with Blake Bortles — he can take one as early as #2 overall in the upcoming draft. He also isn’t married to a sitting general manager. And the more reports you hear, the more it looks like San Francisco has their eyes on ESPN analyst and former NFL defensive back Louis Roddick, who just so happens has hinted at coveting the New England OC.

We’ve seen plenty of nondescript, unimpressive turns for former Belichick disciples over the years, as they fly from the cozy nest up in Foxborough to see what they can accomplish on their own. How McDaniels fares, if he departs for the Bay Area, isn’t a reflection of Belichick or anything in New England; it will be a reflection of what the 40-year old has learned since his first head coaching gig in Denver seven years ago, where he went 11-17 and was dismissed 12 games into his second year.

3. DeShaun Watson will go from top of the college football mountain to the doldrums of the NFL when he is selected #1 overall by the Browns.

After throwing for over 400 yards in back-to-back title games the last two seasons against the vaunted Nick Saban defense, the Clemson QB is, undoubtedly, riding the highest high of his very impressive collegiate career. Strong arm, mobile, good vision, proven leadership skills, and the intangibles it takes to win an NCAA national championship — all traits that should suite Watson well, as he moves on to the next level.

Will it pan out for the kid? Will all this success in college translate to the pro game, where every play is sped up exponentially? Who knows. But what we do know is maybe the saddest thing of all — he’ll get to try this whole professional football thing in Cleveland, where quarterbacks go to, well, we know what happens. Brandon Weedon, Brian Hoyer, Josh McCown, Jason Campbell, Colt McCoy, Johnny Manziel, Robert Griffin III, and Cody Kessler are just a few quarterbacks to take regular season snaps for the Browns over the last few seasons. So yeah, forgive me if I’m of the belief that DeShaun Watson’s best days of football are behind him. Hope you didn’t erase the title game from your DVR yet.

 

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

 

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