Editors note: Due to extreme procrastination and laziness, this article has been two-months in the making. Free agency kicks off Wednesday, March 18th. Nothing like a deadline to finally pull the trigger on 1,600 words.
This NFL off-season is a little different in 2020 than it has been in years past. Typically NFL free agency, much like the trade deadline, comes and goes without much fanfare. Where the NBA off-season can stir up enough drama to fuel storylines for months, the NFL’s off-season doesn’t have the same peaks.
Nevertheless, this off-season has presented an interesting conundrum for teams looking for franchise quarterbacks. The inflated quarterback market has led to a high-profile contract stalemate between Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys. While many have debated whether or not he deserves “elite quarterback money” (north of $30 million). Prescott has expressed that he should be paid amongst the best, similar to that of Russell Wilson and his $35 million/year contract.
Then we have the interesting case of three ageing veterans with fuel left in the tank.
Drew Brees, Phillip Rivers and Tom Brady all appear to be hitting the open market in one month. While many pundits predict Brees and Brady will return, it has been confirmed that the San Diego Los Angeles Chargers are moving on from Rivers.
Then the final crop of quarterbacks is a mix of potential busts, journeymen quarterbacks and those looking for a second or third chance. That includes Jameis Winston, Marcus Mariota,
Ryan Tannehill, Teddy Bridgewater and Case Keenum. Andy Dalton could soon be joining them with the Bengals holding the first overall pick and Joe Burrows waiting in the wings. The Bengals can save $17 million in cap space by cutting Dalton.
So where could they all possibly go? Well the Wizard of Ste-, wait that’s already been done (my bad, Auzzie). Anyways, I’m here to tell you where they’ll all be going and if I’m wrong well it won’t matter because eventually the sun will expand consume the earth and no one will be around to know this article existed.
Without further ado.
Prediction: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
This isn’t exactly a bold take. Ever since it was reported the Phillip Rivers would be moving his family back to Florida, the two have been linked as the perfect marriage. The Bucs surprised many this season finishing the year with a 7-9 record in Bruce Arians’ first season. This included winning five of six games between Weeks 10-15. There was potential to finish 9-7, however, the Bucs lost those games 23-20 to the Houston Texans and 28-22 (OT) to the Atlanta Falcons.
A big reason for those losses was due in part to Winston’s recklessness with the football and the myriad of turnovers that has doomed his production since entering the NFL. Despite leading the NFL in passing yards (5,109), passing attempts (626) and finishing second in passing touchdowns (33), Winston also tossed a league-leading 30 interceptions.
That’s nine more than second-place Baker Mayfield (21). If the interceptions weren’t bad enough in their own right, seven of those went back the other way for six points. Oh, and there are those pesky five lost fumbles as well.
Right, this was supposed to be about Rivers. How can he improve this offence? Well, Arians famously led the Arizona Cardinals in the middle of the 2010s decade to a number of competitive seasons, including an NFC Championship appearance. A big part of that was due in part to the resurrection of Carson Palmer. From 2013 to 2017, Palmer threw for 105 touchdowns and 57 interceptions with a 62.5% completion percentage. It was at 36-years old that Palmer had one of his best seasons, tossing 35 touchdowns to just 11 interceptions.
Perhaps Rivers can serve as Act II to Arians’ quarterback resurrection tour.
Prediction: Los Angeles Chargers
Do I have any substantial evidence to back-up this prediction up? Of course not. It’s Tom Brady and I’m some guy blogging from a public library in Calgary, Alberta. Nevertheless, I like this move for a couple of reasons:
- I can watch/listen to Auzzie try to process this in real-time on the podcast.
- It would be a massive publicity boost that the Chargers desperately need in order not to end up as the forgotten Los Angeles team.
This isn’t a knock on Philip Rivers, he’s been the face of the franchise for more than a decade and brought them success throughout the tenure of his career there. However, since the move to LA has taken place, the Chargers have taken a backseat to the Rams in terms of share of the marketplace. The Rams have made the playoffs 2/4 years they’ve been in Los Angeles including a trip to the Super Bowl in 2018.
Tom Brady, while old and coming off of a down year would be exposed to a new batch of weapons that include the likes of Melvin Gordon, Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. The Chargers also hold the sixth overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, a piece that could be used to add an additional weapon or a piece of the offensive line that could further help Brady.
While it’s difficult to imagine Brady in anything else than a Patriots jersey and many would like to keep it that way. It’s fun imagining the possibilities for Brady and his brand on how it could influence an entire marketplace.
Prediction: New Orleans Saints
News has recently broken that Drew Brees won’t be retiring. It appears as though they’ll be making another run at it in an attempt to avoid their fourth straight heartbreaking defeat in the playoffs.
Prediction: New England Patriots
In this simulation, Tom Brady has taken his talents to the West Coast. This has left a void at the quarterback position for the first time in 20 years. Bill Belichick knows he still has a top 5 defence and would like to not squander its talent. Sure the draft is an option but Belichick may take a safer route here. Enter Teddy Bridgewater.
Bridgewater has had one of the most interesting career arcs in the last decade. Drafted with the 32nd pick in the 2014 draft Bridgewater threw for 2,919 yards and 14 touchdowns in his rookie season. In 2015, he passed for 3,231 yards, 14 touchdowns once again but this time lead the Vikings to a playoff appearance where they dropped a 10-9 contest against the Seahawks after Blair Walsh’s missed kick.
Unfortunately, during practice prior to the 2016 season, Bridgewater tore his ACL and incurred other structural damage to his knee. This injury would keep him out two full seasons. After a short tenure with the Jets, Bridgewater was traded to the Saints where he would replace Brees for five games throwing for nine touchdowns, two interceptions and a 99.1 passer rating.
Why New England?
If the Patriots do indeed neglect to bring Tom Brady back into the fold, they’ll seemingly look to take advantage of their talented defence. Bill Belichick doesn’t strike me as a coach who’s looking to enter a full rebuild or even a re-tool at 67 years-old.
Bridgewater at worst is the perfect BRIDGE quarterback (I’ve been waiting on this one let me have it). But he can also potentially be a franchise quarterback at 27 years-old. The Patriot Way may offer the exact system he needs to fully utilize his talents. Bringing the Patriots back to the top of the AFC.
Prediction: Dallas Cowboys
I won’t spend too much time on this one. Unless Jerry Jones goes all out on a marketing mindset and wants Brady wearing the star on his helmet, no other quarterback in this free-agent class makes sense. Dak Prescott is the answer for the Cowboys.
Prediction: Tennesee Titans
The Titans find themselves at a crossroads. The emergence of Tannehill was a welcome sight for many Titans fans. Enroute to a miracle run that saw Tennesee make it all the way to the AFC Championship. However, this coincided with Derek Henry taking over the rushing crown in the regular season and proceed to bulldoze all those who were brave enough to step into his path in the playoffs.
They’re both free agents. There has been plenty of debate (right here on this podcast in fact) on the importance of the running back in a modern NFL offence. There is a danger in paying Henry long-term and feeding him the ball as many times as Titans did in 2019. The shelf life of a quarterback is much longer than that of a running back, even the most elite like Henry.
The Titans likely won’t have to choose between either. But the cap space may come at the expense of other free agents on the team. I foresee a three-year extension for Tannehill with the team he revived his career with.
It has since been reported that The Tennessee Titans and Tannehill have agreed to terms on a four-year extension worth $118 million, including $62 million in fully guaranteed money and $91 million in total guarantees, per NFL.com.
Prediction: Indianapolis Colts
It seemed as though that the Colts under Jacoby Brissett didn’t take as many chances in pushing the ball downfield. Winston has the fourth-highest deep pass percentage amongst quarterbacks in 2019 as per Colts Wire. Once again, it’ll come down to how much they believe Winston can limit his turnovers.
The Colts have likely seen all they want out of Brisset after last season. Coupled with ample cap space they have, Winston isn’t out of the realm of possibilities.
Marcus Mariota & Case Keenum
Prediction: You guess is as good as mine
Both of these pivots could still start for a handful of teams in the NFL. However, the days of being considered a franchise quarterback are long behind them. They’ll likely get deals after the first wave of free-agent quarterbacks sign.
I wrote 1500+ words on predictions of landing spots of quarterbacks loosely based in reality. If just one of them comes true, it will have been worth it. Where do you see these quarterbacks ending up? Comment below or let’s chat on social media!
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