For years we would see various teams entering the season with serious question marks over the QB position – It was either a case of throwing a lot of money at a back-up who had shown a couple of flashes or hoping that a reach in the draft would somehow provide the answer.
That has changed over the past few years and it does feel like every franchise had at least one “competent” starting QB on the roster to start last season, while there are high hopes for some of the upcoming draft class too.
Suddenly it means that some genuinely high level QB’s could be available ahead of next season, so it does look like we might see a bit of movement and perhaps some sort of merry-go-round once the first domino falls, but first of all:
Teams who have no business engaging in the QB market this off-season:
- Eagles (Hurts and Wentz is already enough of a shambles to deal with)
- Packers (More on that later)
- Texans (Unless they are actually trolling the fans at this point)
- Cowboys (Presuming Dak stays and recovers well)
Every single one of those franchises already has a high level starting QB or find themselves in a situation like the Eagles where adding one more isn’t going to help anyone so it *should* be safe to rule these franchises out of the mix for now.
Teams who could be in the market under the right circumstances:
This is the most interesting bracket because there are several franchises who have good or even great QBs under contract for now, but they might feel there’s a better fit out there or it might be time to start planning for retirements.
The Rams and the 49ers are prime examples where Goff and Garoppolo are helped out by the scheme and they run it well, but both have shown in the Super Bowl when it all comes down to them to put up a drive they are likely to crumble.
The NFC South offers up the Bucs, Panthers and Falcons who should be fine for next year, but you do wonder if they might want to look further down the line for different reasons. Teddy Bridgewater is the safe pair of hands who might keep you in the play-off chase with a decent supporting cast, but he’s unlikely to elevate a team to the next level.
The Bucs will purely depend on Brady and Arians and how long they want to keep going. It’s very easy to see a situation where they lose the SB and look to make one final run next year before retiring – in which case they’ll have no interest in wasting a high draft pick or valuable cap space on Brady’s successor, but the the actual franchise needs to be thinking ahead for that eventuality.
Atlanta are in a more interesting spot with the number 4 overall pick as it does offer them the chance to move on from Matt Ryan if they want to, while Arthur Blank also admitted that he would be open to trade offers for the starting QB this offseason.
Ryan is only 35 so he could still have a few years left in him, but it won’t be a surprise if the Falcons make some kind of move to find his successor this off-season.
The WFT and the Giants are definitely interesting teams to look out for. Alex Smith is so easy to root for when you look at his story but he might not be good enough anymore, while it’s quite difficult to figure out if Daniel Jones is actually any good.
There are arguments to be made that both need better weapons in the passing game to help them out, but if someone better is available then it would make sense for both to pull the trigger – admittedly that’s a much bigger call for the Giants when you consider how high they Drafted Jones.
The Vikings could be another dark horse if they decide they want to move on from Kirk Cousins, but he’s also playing with a hefty contract that would result in $41m of dead money per Over The Cap if he was moved on so it does look very unlikely.
On to the AFC – The Dolphins find themselves in a fascinating situation due to the Texans and their incredible foresight in the trade market, so that number 3 overall pick will show us how much they really believe in Tua.
Clearly if they take another QB then they would be ready to move on from him already, but if they start loading up on offensive weapons then it shows he’s the man they trust for the long-term.
The Steelers have to be considered because Big Ben’s retirement has to be coming either now or at the end of next season, while Dwayne Haskins is a huge gamble and can’t be considered as the automatic heir until he proves himself through performances and good behaviour for an extended period of time.
READ MORE: Photos: Dwayne Haskins at the centre of controversy as pictures emerge of party with strippers and no masks
The final one in the “maybe” category has to be the Raiders. Derek Carr isn’t a bad QB at all – he had a strong statistical season last year with over 4000 passing yards and a TD:INT ratio of 27:9.
Henry Ruggs also added an explosive element to the Raiders offense and it allowed Carr to stretch the field at times, but you still get the feeling that he’s not the man to take them deep into the playoffs.
He has an awful knack of standing too long in the pocket and giving up a fumble (8 lost last year) when he’s hit on the blindside, while it’s also important to remember he would’ve led them to a loss against the Jets until Gregg Williams stepped in to help him out.
The weird thing about Carr is he’ll always keep you hanging around for wildcard contention and you might even sneak in to the playoffs every third year, but that also keeps the Raiders away from the top QB prospects in the draft and it could ne a never ending cycle.
Jon Gruden has been ruthless in the past, so don’t be surprised if he takes the chance to upgrade if it becomes available.
Teams that absolutely need a QB:
New Orleans Saints – There were clear signs that Drew Brees was starting to slow down this season and it culminated in the loss to the Bucs in the playoffs, so his retirement means something will need to be done.
Sure Taysom Hill is fun to watch in his spot moments, but there’s no way that he’s ready to be a starting NFL QB in a passing system. Jameis Winston would be intriguing but he’s also set to hit free agency, so either he or someone new is required as the Saints try to replace Brees.
Chicago Bears – In fairness the Bears usually need a new QB most off-seasons, but it’s now clearer than ever after some truly uninspiring performances this time round.
If you’re a neutral then it’s pretty easy to feel sorry for Mitch Trubisky and it would be nice to see him play well, but he’s just not good enough to elevate an offense with no run game and limited weapons, while the same could be said of Nick Foles too.
The Bears didn’t pick up Trubisky’s 5th year option and he looks set to depart in free agency this off-season, so there will be fresh hope that they’ll finally find that franchise QB this time round.
Detroit Lions – The Lions have made it pretty clear that they plan to move on from Matt Stafford ahead of next season so they will need to find a replacement from somewhere.
They do pick 7th overall so there’s a chance to get someone there, while they may even hope to get enough in return for Stafford to allow them to move up and grab someone else if needed.
Stafford as a legitimately great NFL QB who could easily shine if he leaves and moves to a franchise with a decent roster and history of winning, so time will tell if the Lions will regret letting him go if and when that happens.
Jacksonville Jaguars – This one looks like a fairly simple open and shut case, the Jags have the number 1 pick and Trevor Lawrence is in the draft, so it’s hard to see anything else happening in this situation.
READ MORE: NFL Draft 2021: Did Justin Fields just complicate the inevitable number one pick in Trevor Lawrence?
Indianapolis Colts – Philip Rivers went down fighting in the playoff loss to the Buffalo Bills, while the overall quality of the roster should make this one of the most attractive destinations for any QB who could be on the move.
Jacoby Brissett doesn’t look like the natural successor and he’s also set to hit free agency, so don’t be surprised if the Colts move for a veteran starter and a developmental prospect in the draft to back him up.
New England Patriots – The biggest problem for the Patriots finding a new QB is that nobody would really want to be the man who would come in to replace Tom Brady.
Fortunately they will now be remembered as the man who came in to replace Cam Newton who had some bright moments in his year as a Patriot, but it deteriorated towards the end and it actually looked like he was trying to throw a shot-put as his mechanics went from bad to worse.
There’s little to suggest that Jarrett Stidham is the answer with limited playing time last year, so expect the Pats to be aggressive in the trade market or free agency – Jimmy G could even return as part of the giant merry-go-round that could ensue.
New York Jets – It won’t surprise anyone if Sam Darnold leaves and actually has a solid career somewhere else, but there’s probably a feeling from both sides that a fresh start might be best.
Darnold hasn’t had a great time with the Jets and he may forever by haunted by the “I’m seeing ghosts” performance, but it’s absolutely fair to say that he’s been forced to play with minimal weapons and a poor OL for most of his time.
The Jets pick at number 2 and they finally appear to be in play for a top level QB rather than wasting a high draft pick on the highly touted D-lineman who doesn’t fulfil his potential. That draft pick opens up options in the draft and in the trade market, so this is one of the more exciting situations to watch.
Denver Broncos – Drew Lock certainly hasn’t been a disaster, but the Broncos do need to upgrade if they want to become a contender in the division again.
Picking at number 9 overall might put them out of the picture when it comes to the top QBs in the draft, but they’ve been aggressive when going after veterans before, while they could also clear $18m in cap space by parting ways with Von Miller which could be possible after some troubling reports lately.
There are weapons in the passing game with Jerry Jeudy and the returning Courtland Sutton, while Noah Fant went for over 650 yards last season so that will be temping for any incoming QB.
Perhaps there is hope that Lock can suddenly take the leap next year, but the Broncos should be looking to make a move this off-season.
QB’s set to hit free agency (still time for franchise tags and extensions)
Dak Prescott – Dallas Cowboys
You always hate to see any player go down with a long-term injury while playing under the franchise tag, but there’s still a very real possibility that Prescott is in control here.
It’s been suggested that the Cowboys could franchise him again at a cost of $36.9m, but that’s one hefty cap hit and we can’t rule out the possibility of him refusing to play under it after what happened last year.
There’s also no way of knowing if he’ll still play at the same level after the injury, so any team that signs him will essentially be gambling on him making a full recovery and playing at the same level.
It’s clearly a risk for the Cowboys to cave and give him a long term deal but it’s an even bigger risk to let him test free agency where there will be interested teams, so he’s still the number one impending free agent for now.
Ryan Fitzpatrick – Miami Dolphins
Obviously he’s never going to be a long-term prospect, but he was outstanding at times for the Dolphins last year and he had them on the path to the playoffs until he was mercilessly dropped for Tua halfway through.
He’s still a threat in the rushing game, hard as nails and he didn’t throw too many needless INTs last season so some teams may convince themselves that he’s maturing and improving at the age of 38, so there’s merit in signing him as a stop-gap option for sure.
Jameis Winston – New Orleans Saints
There’s every chance that the Saints bring him back as the long-term answer to Drew Brees, but he will be a free agent and it would make sense to test the market and seek assurances that he won’t be the back-up to Taysom Hill if he does stick around.
He barely played last season so there was a positive of no INT’s in his 12 passing attempts, but that’s no where near enough evidence to judge him on.
There’s been plenty of talk about his LASIK surgery as we wonder if that might fix his chronic turnover problem, but he’s certainly entertaining to watch and will give the right team a fighting chance in every game.
Andy Dalton – Dallas Cowboys
The good thing about Andy Dalton is you know exactly what you’re going to get and he’s seen as a safe pair of hands, but the undoubted downside is that you know exactly what you’re going to get from him.
There was plenty of talk about how well the Cowboys did to get him as a back-up last year but that enthusiasm disappeared when he actually had to play for the bulk of the season, while his numbers don’t really excite you.
Just over 2000 passing yards in 10 starts isn’t exactly bringing you to the edge of your seat, but he could be an effective game manager if a team has a solid scoring defence and an outstanding running game.
He’s likely seen as a high-end backup at this point rather than a starter, but he’s a decent option if anyone wants to go down the experienced known quantity route.
Other notable names: Josh Rosen, Joe Flacco, Mitch Trubisky, Cam Newton, Tyrod Taylor, Blake Bortles, Nick Mullens
There’s little doubt that the main reason for the excitement in the QB market this off-season is the names who are potentially available in a trade, so let’s have a look at how likely some of these could really be.
Aaron Rodgers – Green Bay Packers
Rodgers certainly set alarm bells ringing at Lambeau when he made comments about his future being uncertain after the loss to the Bucs in the NFC Championship game last weekend.
Usually this could be put down to a star player being pissed off after losing a game they should’ve won, but there’s every reason to believe that he has some deep-seated resentment towards the franchise after they drafted Jordan Love as his likely heir last year.
It’s far too simplistic to suggest they would be in the Super Bowl if they used that first round pick on a WR or on the O-line instead of love, but it’s very fair to point out that he was routinely sacked on Sunday as the O-line gave up too much pressure and his receivers weren’t getting open quick enough.
Perhaps he thinks he needs one final move to fire him up, while there could also be some pettiness on his side where he’s annoyed that the Packers felt the need to draft his replacement so he wants to leave on his own terms rather than being phased out.
The Packers would be crazy to let him go and they’ll surely want a decent haul to let him go, but if he continues to speak out and makes things uncomfortable then he might succeed in forcing his way out.
It still feels like this is just him venting after a defeat rather than a genuine possibility, but it’s definitely one to watch.
Deshaun Watson – Houston Texans
The Texans have correctly been ridiculed for some horrendous trades in recent years, so it’s hard to see how they would keep the fans on side if they do let Watson go.
For years they struggled with some average QB’s and Watson is seen by many as a top 5 player in that position, so letting him go would require multiple 1sts, probably some mid round picks and some players on top of that.
The firing of Bill O’Brien felt like the beginning of a new era where they would start to rebuild with their current stars and make some sensible decisions going forward, but this would immediately go back on that.
The Jets and the Dolphins seem like logical landing spots due to their high draft picks this year and their ability to offer up more picks on top of that, but it’s also worth remembering that the likes of Trubisky and Jones went very high in the draft in recent years.
If the Texans trade a legit superstar for a middling QB and some good-but-not-great picks then the new regime will have crippled themselves before they’ve even started, so they need to do everything possible to get Watson on side and make sure he stays.
Matt Stafford – Detroit Lions
Stafford is still only 32 years old, he’s an experienced starting QB with a cannon of an arm and he generally throws for over 4000 yards and 20 TD’s every season where he plays it through.
He’s had a couple of injury issues in recent years so that is a concern, but his contract is only worth $43m over the next two years so that is pretty cheap for an established NFL QB who could be a top 10 player if he’s surrounded by a solid offense.
It’s also been confirmed that the Lions are looking for trade offers and there’s talk that they might want a first rounder at least to make it happen, but it could still be worth it.
For teams in need there’s no guarantee that using a first rounder on a rookie QB is going to lead to success, so while Stafford might only have a few years left in his game, he’s a proven commodity who’s more than good enough for a team with play-off ambitions.
Jimmy Garoppolo – San Francisco 49ers
This would be dependent on the 49ers going out to get someone else, but it would then make so much sense if Jimmy G found his way back to New England to finally take on the role as Tom Brady’s replacement.
He would understand the system and Josh McDaniels should have a great idea of how to use him, while there are question marks over his game so that familiarity could be important in deciding his final destination.
The timing of this could be interesting as the 49ers have less leverage if they move for their QB first, but Jimmy G looks like he will be moved on if a replacement is found.
Obviously the draft also offers plenty of options for QB needy teams and you can read more about the latest batch of prospects here as Daniel Jeremiah broke down his top 50 for the NFL, but it certainly looks like we’ll be seeing plenty of teams with a new face under centre at the start of next season.