It is the most important position on the roster. Finding your franchise quarterback is the top priority, a player who can guarantee you a consistent chance of being competitive year-on-year. If you have one then you can be assured to challenge for a playoff spot most seasons; if not then you are usually doomed to the wastelands of the league.
This offseason may see more QB moves, either through free agency or the 2021 Draft, than ever before. Over half the league may need to make a change before the 2021 season kicks off. Who can teams count on and who might be looking over the shoulder?
Safe as Houses
Mahomes (Chiefs), Allen (Bills), Rodgers (Packers), Wilson (Seahawks), Jackson (Ravens), Mayfield (Browns), Brady (Buccaneers), Tannehill (Titans), Murray (Cardinals), Herbert (Chargers), Burrow (Bengals), Prescott (Cowboys), Jones (Giants),
Expect this group to taking those first snaps week 1 next September, injuries permitting. This is a mixture of the untouchable (e,g, Mahomes, Allen, Rodgers), impressive young QBs (Jackson, Mayfield, Murray, Herbert and Burrow) and of course TB12. It will be interesting in Seattle to see how the change in offensive coordinator and Pete Carroll’s renewed emphasis on the run game affects the “Let Russ Cook” mantra. Dak Prescott and Daniel Jones are included here because i expect the contract situation to be sorted in Dallas and I think the Giants want to see what Jones can produce with a fit Saquon Barkley and more options at wide receiver. If those pieces are around him then Jones does need to prove it in his year 3.
New Orleans Saints (Brees), Indianapolis Colts (Rivers), Atlanta Falcons (Ryan), Pittsburgh Steelers (Roethlisberger)
Following the Colts exit from the playoffs it is expected that the 2020 season may be Philip Rivers swan song. The same is known to be true for Drew Brees now the Saints playoff journey has come to an end. Neither have a definite replacement in play. The Colts have an untested option (Jacob Eason) and a serviceable backup (Jacoby Brissett) whereas the Saints have inconsistency abounds in Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston. The Saints could well be in the market for their next QB.
The Falcons and Steelers have similar issues but they are not as immediate. Both Ryan and Big Ben could return in 2021 and this is the most likely outcome. However, both QBs proved in 2020 that their powers are waining and a change is on the horizon. They do not fit the mould of the new dual threat QB, standing statuesque in the pocket, reducing their productivity as time moves on. Atlanta are sat at 4 in the upcoming draft which is an excellent opportunity to bring in Ryan’s heir apparent, even to sit and learn for a year.
Stick or Twist
LA Rams (Goff), Las Vegas Raiders (Carr), Minnesota Vikings (Cousins), San Francisco 49ers (Garoppolo), Philadelphia Eagles (Wentz)
In each case here the team could simply stick and go again in 2021. Goff and Garoppolo have both made Super Bowl appearances. Cousins and Carr were only a win or two away from the playoffs this season. Wentz was once regarded as a strong MVP candidate. And yet. Can these teams see a Super Bowl title with any of these players at the helm? For Wentz there are serious questions about his mechanics and whether the Eagles believe in him, especially with Jalen Hurts hot on his heels. Word is, with Doug Pederson now gone, the candidates for Eagles Head Coach have been told they would need to work with Wentz (particularly as his contract makes him almost untradeable in 2021). For the others, the contract situation may also be the main reason for sticking, although I would not put anything past the Raiders in terms of taking the gamble. However, can these teams see anything other than a record of around .500 and struggling to make the playoffs next year. Would it be possible to trade for a better alternative? Which leads me on to….
Detroit Lions (Stafford), Houston Texans (Watson), New England Patriots (Newton)
In very short order it has become apparent that Deshaun Watson may have taken his last snap in Houston. The working relationship with the front office has evaporated and Watson, at the height of his powers, is not going to put up with any more inadequacy around him. Imagine Watson at any of the teams in the group above or below! The price will be high but definitely worth paying.
Matthew Stafford has earned the right to escape from Detroit. Over a decade with the Lions he has consistently played at a high level. At 32 years old now Stafford will want to make sure if he does move it is to somewhere competitive as he enters the latter part of his career. He would be an instant veteran upgrade to a number of franchises.
For both players their current team is in the process of appointing a new Head Coach and General Manager so the time may be right for a change of scenery. However, in New England the scenery never changes. Bill Belichick will not have enjoyed 2020 as the Patriots limped their way through the season. Cam Newton was an answer to life without Tom Brady in 2020 but he was not the answer, certainly not long-term. It was a one-year arrangement which in essence did help both parties out, but I doubt it will continue into 2021. The Patriots need a new starting QB and I’m not sure Cam showed enough to convince another side he is still a sure thing in that role.
Miami Dolphins (Tagovailoa), Chicago Bears (Trubisky), Denver Broncos (Lock), New York Jets (Darnold)
Mitch Trubisky will definitely hit the open market in free agency although it is not easy to see where he might land as an assured starter. This results in the Bears actively looking for a new QB with Nick Foles unimpressive during his games as starter in Chicago. There is now enough tape on Lock and Darnold that they could be under threat at their starting position. The situation may be more acute for Darnold at the Jets given their 2nd position in the draft and a new Head Coach (Robert Saleh). Lock may be able to squeeze another season out in Denver.
The harshest one here is definitely Tua in Miami. He is here mainly by virtue of the Dolphins 3rd pick in the draft. This could be used either to draft another QB or as leverage to secure Deshaun Watson (the irony that they would be giving the Texans back their pick from the Tunsil trade is not lost here). It would be tough on Tua but the Dolphins 2020 10-6 record, just missing the playoffs, proved they are now a force in the AFC. Making a change at QB could really make them a challenger.
Destined as Backups
Jacksonville Jaguars (Minshew), Carolina Panthers (Bridgewater), Washington Football Team (Smith)
The Jaguars are drafting Trevor Lawrence, aren’t they? Even with the changes in Jacksonville, with Urban Meyer confirmed as the new Head Coach, surely the plan is still Lawrence with the 1st overall pick. The Rhule revolution in Carolina had an encouraging first year but Bridgewater is a caretaker until the Panthers can secure their leader for the future. At number 8 in the draft they are not out of range to move up for a QB and I expect them to be aggressive and to go get their guy, even if it is someone who sits behind Teddy for a season.
In Washington, a playoff appearance was secured despite the almost constant drama at the QB spot. Dwayne Haskins time is up and although it is incredible to watch the return of Alex Smith Washington needs more at that position than Smith can probably provide. Could Ron Rivera seek to pick up a veteran starter, like Matt Stafford, to help sustain the resurgence in Washington we’ve seen this season?
So, expect the quarterback carousel to be in full swing during the offseason and of the 32 teams in the league it is easy to see anything up to half the league with a new starting QB suiting up for action in week 1 of the 2021 NFL season.