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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One Last Look Back at Historic Super Bowl LI and the Patriots’ Magical Season — By the Numbers

Super Bowl LI left us all in awe, breathless, and wondering if we really saw what we just saw. Now that some time has passed and we have had a few days to reflect on the game, let’s take a look at exactly how the New England Patriots became Super Bowl Champions in a year where it seemed like that was impossible — right up until their final game.

93

Consecutive playoff games won by teams when leading by 19 or more points entering the 4th quarter — until Sunday. A lot of stats stand out from Sunday’s Super Bowl, but this one jumps off the page at me.

1

Head-scratching mid-season trade by Bill Belichick. Of course, there was. Belichick and the Patriots are known for a couple things when it comes to player personnel: (1) take a flyer on a risky player or older player — pay him less than his value and get everything possible out of him for a very short period of time; (2) trade a player before any other teams detect that player has lost a step. Jamie Collins was widely thought to be New England’s most athletic defender. But Belichick saw something on film he didn’t like and decided to trade away the talented linebacker for a compensatory pick to Cleveland. To matters even crazier, the Hoodie replaced Collins with a collection of players who either never seemed to catch on with other teams or were low draft picks — Kyle Van Noy, Shea McClellin, and Elandon Roberts. The Patriot Way. The Belichick Way.

108

Plays of 1st and 10 run from an opponent’s 22 yard line this season. None of which resulted in a punt. Atlanta failed to make that number 109. After the Julio Jones catch that should have been THE catch of the game and the play that sealed the title for the Dirty Birds, Atlanta had 1st and 10 at New England’s 22 and somehow, some way managed to turn that into 4th and 33 from the 45. And, thus, forcing them to punt.

4

Yes, I know — games Tom Brady was suspended. But I’m going to look at the flip side of that: four games that the Patriot coaching staff could see their two backup QBs perform in real games. And because of those games, New England could turn Jimmy Garoppollo into a couple of high drafts picks — if they choose to.

14

Catches by running back James White in Super Bowl LI. If his quarterback wasn’t named Tom Brady, White would have been the hands-down MVP of the game — although, if Brady wasn’t his QB, he likely wouldn’t have been on the winning end of Super Bowl LI. Which is exactly why Brady was the no-brainer MVP selection. Still, a record 14 catches in the Super Bowl is pretty special.

0

Points scored against the Buffalo Bills in their opening meeting in week 4. Why significant? The last time the Pats were shutout by the Bills was September 2003, opening week of the season. Both years, the Patriots won the Super Bowl.

13

Games won without Rob Gronkowski in the lineup or in a limited role. Seems pretty unbelievable to think without their All-Pro, record-setting tight end that the Patriots could go 13-0 in a season. But they did. It speaks to the other pieces in place, and it speaks to the job Brady does with those pieces. I don’t think there’s another franchise in football that gets more out of their players than New England does, year in and year out.

 

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

 

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Players to Watch, Matchups to Keep an Eye On in Super Bowl LI

It is Super Bowl week. Both conference representatives, the Atlanta Falcons and the New England Patriots, have arrived in Houston. There will be a lot to discuss all week. The headlines began a week ago: “Goodell Versus Brady”; “Can Matty Ice Cap His MVP Season with a SB Title?”; “The Belichick-Brady Drive for 5”; “Atlanta’s Quest for First Championship”.

We attempt to delve into some of those topics and much more, as we key in on some intriguing questions and matchups as the big game draws near.

 

Non-Quarterback MVP

This is a QB award and we know it. Of the 50 Super Bowl MVP trophies that have been handed out, 27 have gone to the quarterback position. So let’s eliminate Tom Brady and Matt Ryan from this discussion and look at some other guys who might be able to buck the trend and walk away with the hardware.

Vic Beasley — A quiet 15.5 sacks this season for the second year linebacker put him tops in the league in that category. Atlanta better come strong after Tom Brady, and you can imagine, if they do, that Beasley will be leading that charge.

Julian Edelman — The Atlanta defense can be run on. No team uses the short passing game as an extension of their running game more effectively than the Patriots. And few receivers (or running backs for that matter) in the league are as elusive, quick, or can take a hit quite like number 11 can. If Josh McDaniels and Tom Brady decide to attack that weakness of the Falcons defense, Edelman could be the beneficiary.

Others to Watch: Julio Jones — the guy is as good a receiver as there is in the league and Matt Ryan will certainly be looking to get him involved early and often; LeGarrette Blount — it would be just like the Pats to switch from throwing the ball all over the field to pounding the rock.

 

Surprise Breakout Performance

There are countless players who over the years have saved their best performances for the biggest stage. Some parlayed the performance into regular national recognition as a top player at their position — Malcolm Butler, for example; others did not see much come of their one-hit wonder performance in the big game — Chris Matthews and his 4 catches, 109 yards in Super Bowl XLIX two years ago for the Seahawks in a losing effort or Dexter Jackson in Tampa Bay’s victory in 2002. Who will hear his name called numerous times this Sunday by Joe Buck and Troy Aikman during the broadcast?

Taylor Gabriel is an explosive, fast receiver, and if the Patriots plan on bringing the safety up to help defend Julio Jones, Gabriel should enjoy some space downfield against the Patriots third cornerback. New England has perfected the “bend but don’t break” defense — give up the yards but hunker down and stop teams from getting into the endzone. Gabriel is just the type of player who can find space and collect yards downfield on this defense.

On the New England side, they have so many weapons. So this answer really boils down to who Bill Belichick, Josh McDaniels, and Tom Brady want to use to exploit matchups on Sunday. For me, I think running back James White has been a little too quiet this postseason — like, is-he-even-on-the-team quiet. One carry, four catches for 27 yards, and a TD is the totality of White’s postseason. Brady likes throwing to him out of the backfield and will even line him up as a receiver at times. How Atlanta guards against him might be more than that defense can handle.

Others to watch: Austin Hooper (ATL tight end) — second best TE in the NFL as far as DVOA goes; Aldrick Robinson (ATL wide receiver) — speed kills; Kyle Van Noy (NE linebacker) — most productive defensive player for the Patriots in their win over Pittsburgh.

 

Matchup to Watch

The fun, headline-grabbing matchup is the one happening on the edge, between all-pro WR Julio Jones and Super Bowl XLIX hero Malcolm Butler. While that could very well be an exciting matchup, the one that could determine the game will be fought down in the trenches — as it oftentimes is: Atlanta’s pass rush versus the New England offensive line.

The Patriots o-line was their major weakness in 2015-16, and may have been the biggest contributing factor as to why they lost to the Denver Broncos in the AFC Championship. Brady was hit — a lot. Brady was made uncomfortable — a lot. Brady felt pressure up the middle, in his face — a lot. Seemingly, every time he dropped back to pass, he was hurried and rushing his throws. So New England did what New England does — they made a point to fix it by hiring former Patriots (and at the time retired) offensive line coach Dante Scarnecchia. For what it’s worth, Brady has been extraordinarily complimentary of his blockers up front — whether that’s true praise or whether it’s simply knowing where your proverbial bread is buttered, can be debated.

But the stats do bear it out: according to Football Outsiders, New England’s offensive line ranks 6th in pass protection. How that unit stacks up against the league’s best sack artist, Vic Beasely, could tell the story of Super Bowl LI.

Others to Watch: LeGarrette Blount versus all 11 Atlanta defenders at once (you did see the run against the Steelers, right?); and of course, the aforementioned Julio versus Butler.

 

Under the Most Pressure

Hard selection on the New England side. Who really on that sideline has a lot to prove? Certainly not Belichick or Brady — their legacies are firmly cemented and each will already go down as two of the very best, if not THE best, at their respective jobs. So how about the hero from Super Bowl XLIX — Malcolm Butler? The undrafted cornerback has already defied odds and expectations by making it to the NFL, winning a Super Bowl, and making, quite possibly, the biggest interception in Super Bowl history. So how, you ask, is Butler the one with the most pressure on him? Well for starters, it’s difficult finding any Patriot with an ounce of pressure on them — so you might need to stretch it a bit. Secondly, Butler has the task of shadowing the league’s best and most dangerous wide receiver in Julio Jones. And his tweet that became public from years ago about wanting to cover Jones will have a way of getting the media’s attention all week.

You could make a strong case for the entire Atlanta or New England defenses as well — both have the challenge of facing highly-potent offenses. Also, of course, Matt Ryan faces the pressure of closing out his magical, probable-MVP season with a win in Houston.

 

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

 

 

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Week in Review: Henrik-Phil Shootout, Brock Being Bad, Brady’s Still Suspended, and More

It’s the middle of July and, no, there’s little going on the world of sports. That’s why do agree to go on summer vacations with family now and take a long weekend up north, right? Don’t get me wrong – no one’s ever had to twist my arm to get away during the summer for a little R&R. But it’s also a nice touch that the summer is the dead period for sports – NFL training camps haven’t started, NBA and NHL players are away on vacations themselves, and MLB is merely in the middle of their dreadfully long regular season. However, now that I’ve returned from a week-long escape with the family, I see there are a few things worth looking back at. And if you yourself missed any, take the time to catch up.

The Open Championship Turns into a Two-Man Shootout at Royal Troon

Henrik Stenson and Phil Mickelson began separating themselves from the field on Saturday, and the gap only increasingly widened as the final round played out. The two engaged in a shot-for-shot battle for the ages. The AFP 554090457 S GLF GBR“Duel in the Sun” between greats Jack Nicklaus and Tom Watson at Royal Turnberry in the 1977 Open Championship has long been considered the greatest tit-for-tat showdown in the sport. And Johnny Miller’s 63 at Oakmont in the final round of the 1973 U.S. Open is widely regarded as the greatest round ever in golf. What on-lookers witnessed last Sunday may have surpassed both of those in the historic annals of golf.

Stenson’s 63 was incredible on it’s own; add Phil’s 65 to that and the fact the two matched each other’s shots over and over again makes the feat even more breath-taking. What entertainment, and who’d have thought it’d have come from two guys not named Jordan or Jason or Rory.

“Deflategate” is Finally Over

Tom Brady’s appeal of his 4-game suspension handed down by NFL Commissioner Roger Goodell for his role in “Deflategate” was rejected by the 2nd U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New York. So Brady now sits out until October after issuing a statement saying he will not seek an appeal to the U.S. Supreme Court. The Patriots will get to see what Jimmy Garoppolo brings to the table, and Bill Belichick gets to fume and plot and plan how best to embarrass the other 31 teams in the league – a la what happened after “Spygate”.

MLB Trade Deadline

Ok, so no one has missed anything worth reporting here. Yet. As with every July, names get thrown around and many go nowhere; but there’s always action and sometimes the big names do get dealt. Stay tuned.

Brock Lesnar Fails Two Doping Tests

The WWE and UFC star enjoyed a short-lived celebration after defeating Mark Hunt at UFC 200. It became public that Lesnar failed not one, but two drug tests during the pre-fight and post-fight testing conducted by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. The violation is clearly not a good look for Lesnar, who has been surrounded by allegations of doping dating back to his collegiate wrestling days, 20 years ago. But the news comes as an even bigger blow to UFC, who just suspended star Jon “Bones” Jones for a similar failed test.

Rio Olympics

Yep. They’re still set to happen. No amount of common sense can stop the runaway train that is the International Olympic Committee.

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

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