5-for-5: The Quarterback Carousel
The first (and second) wave of free agency has passed us, and yet the quarterback carousel continues. This year, we will already see a minimum of 10 different teams with a different starting quarterback in week 1 of the 2020 season, than in week 1 of the 2019 season. And the NFL, the only sport still operating fairly normally amidst the coronavirus pandemic, isn’t finished yet. There are still quarterbacks that will likely be on the move in the weeks leading up to the start of the NFL season.
Thus far, we’ve seen Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Nick Foles, Marcus Mariota, and Case Keenum, all QBs who started week 1 in 2019 for their respective teams, prepare to change their uniforms for 2020. That doesn’t even mention Ryan Tannehill, who switched teams last year, only to lead the Titans on a magical postseason run, or Teddy Bridgewater, who played starter-caliber football in place of the injured Drew Brees last year, signing a new contract in Carolina to match. And there’s even more to come.
Between the remaining free agents, and likely trade pieces that remain, there could still be upward of five starting jobs still to be determined. In this piece, I’ve selected my best 5 quarterbacks whom I believe will be wearing a different uniform in 2020 than in 2019, and provided my top 5 destinations for each. These destination predictions are not based on NFL rumors, GM opinions, or previously made offers. They are also contingent on each QB actually leaving their former team, as I did not provide any commentary on the potential of each returning as a backup in their 2019 home. Without further ado, cue the circus music:
Cam Newton is not only the best QB free agent remaining, he’s almost unquestionably the best free agent available at any position. He should have a starting opportunity somewhere in a league that currently has Tyrod Taylor and Jarrett Stidham listed as starters.
The Patriots are still the best opportunity for a new starter, as it will be hard to convince a fan base that the loss of one player is enough to plunge the franchise from the longest win-now streak in recent memory into an instant rebuild, while their defense and coaching staff still have all the makeup of the win-now teams. I see Belichick having a field day with a guy like Newton running his offense.
We’ve seen this one before: new coach comes in to a team with a first round pick quarterback in place with one year of service time. Last time, Kliff Kingsbury walked away with a future star in Kyler Murray via the first pick in the draft. Maybe this time, Ron Rivera walks away with his own former MVP in place of Dwayne Haskins?
As mentioned previously, as of today, Tyrod Taylor is listed as an NFL starting quarterback. While the Chargers have publicly stated that they will not pursue another veteran quarterback, and sit in prime position to select one with the 6th overall pick of the NFL draft, the longer Cam sits without a job must grow more and more tantalizing.
The Bengals will very likely be solving their QB issue via the first overall pick in the draft. However, should they decide that Joe Burrow or Tua Tagovailoa aren’t the answer, maybe signing Cam Newton and drafting someone else, like Chase Young, would further improve their team.
The Dolphins have two potential starters on their roster, yet they couldn’t commit to either one last year and even when they did, they still ended up with a top 5 NFL draft pick. Most indications are that they’ll address the position via the draft, but, like the Bengals, they could go in a different direction with Newton and another piece at #5 overall.
Jameis Winston led the league in passing yards in 2019 by over 200 yards. He was second in passing touchdowns behind only MVP Lamar Jackson. He also became the first QB to throw 30 interceptions in one year in over 30 years. Because of the latter statistic, he is still a free agent, despite the two former. While he may enter 2020 without a starting job, he should have a job of some sort.
The Patriots will appear frequently in my projections because of the reasons stated above. They simply are too short removed from success to dive into an immediate rebuild. Jameis Winston in a Bill Belichick led offense could provide enough talent to keep the Patriots in the conversation as a contender, and could even vault Winston into the MVP conversation.
The Steelers have been a popular rumored destination for Winston, as Ben Roethlisberger has been a frequent occupant of the PUP and IR lists, and is likely nearing retirement. The Steelers proved last year that they are not prepared with an heir to their likely Hall of Fame quarterback, and Winston could fill the void.
The Chargers will also show up frequently in third article due to the fact that Tyrod Taylor is currently listed as the starter on a team that currently has few other holes in their roster.
The Broncos seem content with last year’s second round pick Drew Lock as their starter, so much so that they released last year’s week 1 starter Joe Flacco. But should Lock struggle or prove that he’s not ready to start in the NFL, Winston would be a very capable replacement until Lock is ready to fully take the reigns.
Again, the Dolphins will be seen under the names of many of these quarterbacks due to their volatility at the position and their excess of needs that can better be covered in the draft than with remaining free agents. Winston may not be the ideal answer, but he’s probably better than what’s already on the roster.
While Newton and Winston are the only starting caliber quarterbacks remaining in free agency, the other three listed here are trade pieces that have seen, or will see, their starting positions outsourced elsewhere. In the case of Andy Dalton, his position will likely be taken by this year’s #1 overall pick. Dalton has been a relatively average starter throughout most of his career, and could potentially see starting time yet again.
Here we go, back to the Patriots. If there’s anyone who can win with Andy Dalton, it’s Belichick. While the Patriots may not be keen on trading draft picks for an aging quarterback, it could be a win win for a QB needy team and a QB in need of a second chance.
The Dolphins, as we know, need a quarterback, and if they’re going to draft a young prospect, bringing in a veteran with a long history of starting in the NFL could be beneficial to learn from.
The Jaguars seem content with Gardner Minshew II at quarterback for now, but they did trade away last year’s week 1 starter Nick Foles. A veteran presence in the quarterback room, who could step in and start a few games should Minshew struggle in his first full season, could be beneficial.
The Chargers will likely draft either Justin Herbert or Jordan Love, if the mock drafts hold and they remain at pick #6. Dalton possesses a similar skill set to both pocket passer prospects, and could help in their early development. And, should they not be able to make an impression at first, Dalton could start until the rookie is ready.
The 49ers proved in 2019 what a difference a competent quarterback makes to their roster. Should Jimmy Garoppolo fall victim to injury once again, like 2018, they’ll need a quarterback with starting experience to lead a team that’s ready to win.
When asked about Brissett, owner Jim Irsay responded “all options are open” when it comes to the quarterback position. While this was a lukewarm response at the time, the addition of Philip Rivers in free agency make it seem like the Colts are prepared to move on from Brissett.
Wouldn’t it be fitting if Philip Rivers’ new team traded Brissett to Philip Rivers’ former team? They’re planning on starting Tyrod Taylor as it stands now, so wouldn’t Brissett be an upgrade from that? Judging by Irsay’s comments, Brissett shouldn’t come at much of a cost, likely a late round draft pick. They could then use their early draft picks to further improve a roster that could be ready to contend in an open AFC.
We’re back to the Patriots, with a new wrinkle this time. Could the Patriots bring back their former third round pick, whom they traded in 2017 for Philip Dorsett? He was once thought of as the heir to Tom Brady, and that could prove true after all.
Speaking of Tom Brady, could Brissett yet again be groomed as Brady’s heir? Tom Brady’s new team, the Bucs, could bring Brissett back as both a capable backup and an answer for eBay their direction could be after the 42-year old Brady finally hangs it up.
— New England Patriots (@patriotsfanpage) September 1, 2017
Another option is another team with an aging QB in need of an heir. Last year, it seemed that Teddy Bridgewater could be the answer to that question, and now he’s a Panther. Perhaps the Saints bring in a new heir apparent to Drew Brees who could not only learn from him, but step in if necessary, as Bridgewater did last year.
Aaron Rodgers is still some time away from retirement it seems, yet their backup quarterback is one Mr. Tim Boyle, who has no NFL starting experience nor any highly competitive college experience. Brissett could bring in experience behind Rodgers, should his services be required, in a way that Boyle cannot.
Mitchell Trubisky is in danger of becoming one of the bigger draft busts in recent memory. In 2017, the Bears traded 3 picks to trade up one spot to draft Trubisky in a draft that included Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson later in the first round. Now, with limited success, the Bears will likely be forced to trade Trubisky with a backup’s valuation, with Nick Foles now on board and ready to take over the starting spot.
As mentioned earlier, Tom Brady can’t play forever, and is in need of an heir. Should anyone be able to mentor Trubisky into the value of a quarterback once worthy of being selected #2 overall, why not the best to ever do it?
The Colts have Philip Rivers on board for one year. If they’re not going to stick with Brissett, perhaps investing in a backup like Trubisky could prove beneficial, given he’ll be able to watch and learn from Rivers’ ability to read defenses.
And we’re back in Foxborough. Maybe Belichick sees the first round talent that the Bears did in 2017 and has some ideas as to how to bring it out. Maybe he’ll just want a competent backup or competitor for any other quarterback he brings in. Trubisky seems like he could benefit from a change in scenery, and perhaps a new mentor.
There’s been talk of Deshaun Watson joining the Patriots quarterback room in 2021. In fact, he’s near or at the top of the Vegas betting lists for the position. If this is in fact Watson’s last season in Houston, perhaps they’ll want someone who can step in and back him up this year, while learning the offense for the years to come.
The Chiefs would plainly be making this move to provide a backup for Super Bowl MVP Patrick Mahomes. Last season, in Mahomes’ absence, Matt Moore filled in nicely, winning 1 of 2 starts with over 250 yards passing in each game. Moore is now a free agent, and the Chiefs are now in need of a better backup than Chad Henne. Could Trubisky end up backing up a player who was drafted after him in the same draft? Or, better still, learning from him, en route to another starting gig later in his career?
Thank you for reading, and stay healthy and safe. Long live the NFL, and let us eagerly await the return of the rest of the sports world.