NFL Free Agent Predictions: Quarterbacks

 

The 2020 NFL offseason has the potential to be one of the most eventful in years. With multiple big-name quarterbacks entering free agency and the trade block, several teams will go into the season with a new offensive identity. 

Some of the quarterbacks listed have a clear destination while others may have five or six possible landing spots. The high amount of movement at the league’s most noteworthy position may be the closest the NFL can come to competing with the pure insanity that is the NBA offseason.    

 

Dak Prescott: Dallas Cowboys

Let’s get the obvious out of the way early. Dak Prescott will be a Dallas Cowboy in 2020 and probably the rest of his career. Prescott made a substantial leap in 2019 and considering that he’s only 26-years-old, he’s likely to continue improving.  

Sure, it’s fun to speculate about Dallas making a run at Tom Brady but replacing a rising star with a declining 42-year-old doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. Neither does letting Prescott walk so they can sign a worse player to a cheaper contract as some have suggested. Prescott played like a top-level quarterback last season and whether it comes from the franchise tag or a long overdue contract extension, he’s finally going to be paid like one.  

 

Cam Newton: Las Vegas Raiders 

Putting Cam Newton on the Raiders may sound a bit outlandish but hear me out. The Raiders are playing their first season in Las Vegas and they need to sell their product to a new fanbase. Derek Carr is fine, but he’s not as exciting or even remotely as talented as Newton. 

Newton’s $21.1 million cap hit this season is a bargain by quarterback standards and with roughly $51.8 million in cap space ($43.9 million if they cut Carr), the Raiders can take on his deal with ease. 

Obviously, this all hinges on two factors. The first is Newton’s health which has been a major question mark for over a year now. The former league MVP missed 14 games with a foot injury in 2019 and Carolina’s lack of commitment towards him going forward is certainly a red flag about his health. 

The second factor is if the Panthers even decide to trade him or not. If their optimism about his rehab grows throughout the offseason, it’s possible that they elect to keep him since a healthy Cam Newton is by far their best option at quarterback if they want to be competitive in 2020. 

For the sake of entertainment, let’s say the Panthers do decide to move him. There will be a significant number of teams with interest but what separates the Raiders apart from the rest is their trade ammunition. Las Vegas has two first-rounders and three third-rounders in the 2020 draft. Depending on how confident they feel about Newton’s health, the Raiders can build a trade package that’s hard to compete with.        

 

Tom Brady: New England Patriots

There’s no doubt that Tom Brady is reaching the end of his career as his production on the field is finally starting to catch up with his age. That said, his supporting cast wasn’t great last year. Considering that there isn’t a better option currently on the roster or in free agency, it makes sense for New England to rebuild their receiving corps and bring Brady back for one last run. 

Outside of a one-game flyer on Antonio Brown, the Patriots made no significant moves to make up for the loss of Rob Gronkowski and Chris Hogan. Clearly, that was a mistake. In the past, Brady could play elite level football with anyone the Patriots brought off the street, but those days appear to over.

However, that doesn’t mean Brady can’t still be an effective quarterback. If New England can add a capable receiver or two and improve their consistency with running the ball, Brady should do fine. 

The Patriots are not looking to rebuild yet. They want to win the Super Bowl this season and Brady gives them a better shot at doing so than anyone else who is realistically available to them. 

 

Philip Rivers: Indianapolis Colts

Mandatory Credit: Denny Medley-USA TODAY Sports

It’s clear that Rivers’ best days are also behind him but like Brady, he would benefit from being in a better situation. In what seems to happen every year, the Chargers dealt with a significant amount of injuries and managed to lose almost every game by a touchdown or less in 2019. Throwing 20 interceptions in a 5-11 season made Rivers an easy target for criticism but he was far from LA’s only problem. 

Rivers should still be able to be an efficient passer in a good system and the Colts fit that bill as well as anyone. Indianapolis has a terrific offensive line and Frank Reich would be one of the best coaches Rivers has ever played under. Plus, the Colts have an insane amount of cap space with $86 million that could be used to add more playmakers around T.Y. Hilton.

The argument against signing Rivers is that he wouldn’t be a long-term solution. That’s true, but it was apparent last year that Jacoby Brissett isn’t either. Since the Colts aren’t picking high enough in the draft to get a highly touted quarterback, signing a potential Hall of Famer for one or two years may their best option to win now while players like Quenton Nelson and Darius Leonard are still on their rookie deals.  

 

Jameis Winston: Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Winston is not the Buccaneers long-term answer at quarterback. Throwing 30 interceptions in an era where it’s never been easier to pass the ball will tell you that. Tampa Bay will have to address the position in the draft at some point but it’s okay if they don’t this year. The Bucs have the No. 14 pick in this year’s draft and unless they make a blockbuster trade to move up, they won’t be in position to draft any of the top quarterback prospects. 

That leaves Tampa with free agency to find a passer. They could sign someone like Philip Rivers or Andy Dalton to bring more stability to the position but neither raises the team’s ceiling by much. Brining back Winston on a one-year deal makes sense considering that Tampa most likely doesn’t have high expectations for this season. They know what Winston brings to the table and he somewhat knows how to run Bruce Arians’ offense. Winston can get them through the season and allow the Bucs to start preparing for a rookie to take over in 2021.     

 

Nick Foles: LA Chargers 

It remains to be seen what Jacksonville plans to do with Nick Foles and the $88 million contract they gave him last offseason. The smart move would be to try and trade Foles and free up a ton of cap space by going all-in on Gardner Minshew who is set to make a little over $2 million combined over the next three seasons. 

As a rookie, Minshew outplayed the veteran for the majority of last season so it would make sense for the Jaguars to stick with the younger and cheaper player. Foles’ large cap number may deter some teams from trading for him but in a league that has few starting-caliber quarterbacks, there’s sure to be some interest. 

One of those teams could be the Chargers who just like the Raiders, are moving into a new stadium in 2020 and need to sell tickets in a state that doesn’t seem to notice that they exist. Foles wouldn’t move the needle like a Cam Newton would but acquiring a former Super Bowl MVP would show fans that they’re at least trying to win games. 

On the other hand, parting ways with Philip Rivers may be a sign that the team is ready to fully rebuild and trading for a 31-year-old with three years left on his deal would be counterintuitive. That said, LA could look to put together the best roster possible considering that they still have a number of talented players on the roster. With Keenan Allen, Melvin Ingram, Joey Bosa and $48 million in cap space to work with, they could build a competitive roster around a quality player like Foles.    

 

Teddy Bridgewater: Carolina Panthers

Bridgewater will likely be looking for a starting opportunity elsewhere with all indication pointing to Drew Brees returning to the Saints. Last year he showed the ability to be a competent quarterback in the NFL by going 5-0 as a starter and throwing for nine touchdowns and nearly 1400 yards in the process. Playing in Sean Payton’s offense and having Michael Thomas to throw to obviously helped, but his improvement as the season progressed may inspire a team like Carolina to give him a shot at a starting gig. 

Moving on from Newton would signal that the Panthers are ready for a full-scale rebuild that would inevitability involve drafting a quarterback at some point. In that case, Bridgewater may serve as the team’s ironically named “bridge quarterback” who only holds the starting spot until the new guy is ready to play. Bridgewater turned down a contract offer from the Dolphins last offseason and an offer from a team in a similar position may not excite him, but there may not be any better opportunities out there.  

While not as exhilarating as playing for the Bears or Colts, Bridgewater could find success in Matt Rhule’s offense that will likely be focused on running the ball. Rhule ran the run-pass-option (RPO) a lot at Baylor and while he’ll have to dial it back a bit in the NFL, an offense centered around backfield misdirection and quick reads may help Bridgewater as he won’t be asked to do too much.

If that doesn’t appeal to him, he could always stay in New Orleans for another year and wait to see what’s available next offseason. 

 

Andy Dalton: Chicago Bears

Mandatory Credit: Jasen Vinlove-USA TODAY Sports

Andy Dalton may be the least exciting quarterback in NFL history. Signing him is unlikely to rejuvenate the Bears fanbase who have had their sights set on Cam Newton for months now. But don’t mistake unexciting for bad. Dalton has proven that he can play at a high level on a good team. Hell, he was in the MVP discussion in 2015 before a thumb injury ended his season. 

Dalton gives Chicago the competence and consistency that they’ve been waiting three years to see from Mitchell Trubisky. He can’t single-handedly win you a game each week like Patrick Mahomes can, but he doesn’t have to. The Bears have enough talent on both sides of the ball to make up for his shortcomings. Chicago just needs average play from the quarterback position to take a step forward as a playoff contender and they would get that from Dalton.  

The Bears currently only has $5.5 million in cap space, so they will have to do some maneuvering if they trade for Dalton’s $17.7 million cap hit. 

 

Ryan Tannehill: Tennessee Titans

Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hanewinckel-USA TODAY Sports

It’s hard to see Tannehill playing for anyone else besides Tennessee in 2020 after their run to the AFC Championship. He’s clearly loved within the locker room and has earned the right to be the team’s full-time starter. 

His postseason numbers weren’t astronomically in the Titans run-heavy offense, but he did what was asked of him. Much like Andy Dalton, Tannehill falls into the average tier of quarterbacks and that’s okay for the system the Titans run. Plus, his extension likely won’t be longer than two or three years which gives the team flexibility if they ultimately decide he’s not their franchise guy in the years ahead.    

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