Potential QB Landing Spots for 2021
If you thought last year was wild for quarterback movement, this offseason is and will continue to be even crazier.
We are already off to a massive start with Matthew Stafford and Jared Goff switching teams and Carson Wentz traded to Indianapolis. Deshaun Watson, Russell Wilson, Sam Darnold, Derek Carr, and possibly others are either trying to find a new team or seen as a tradeable commodity.
There is also choice in the backup/bridge starter market with players like Joe Flacco, Tyrod Taylor, Jacoby Brissett, Nick Mullens, Mike Glennon, Colt McCoy, C.J. Beathard and several others available.
Let us look at the teams where the options appear to be clear cut. We would estimate there is a slim chance of these players being on a different team in 2021.
Arizona will start Kyler Murray
Baltimore will start Lamar Jackson
Buffalo will start Josh Allen
Cincinnati will start Joe Burrow, fitness pending
Cleveland will start Baker Mayfield
Detroit will start Jared Goff, but we will talk more about this situation
Green Bay will start Aaron Rodgers, but we will talk more about his situation
Indianapolis will start Carson Wentz and will have a backup plan.
Kansas City will start Patrick Mahomes II II, but we will talk more about his situation
Los Angeles Chargers will start Justin Herbert
Los Angeles Rams will start Matthew Stafford
Miami will start Tua Tagovailoa
Minnesota will start Kirk Cousins, but we will talk more about this situation
NY Giants will start Daniel Jones
Pittsburgh will start Ben Roethlisberger after a rocky contract situation took some resolving.
Tampa Bay will start Tom Brady
Tennessee will start Ryan Tannehill
Before we get to the remaining 15 teams, let us look closer at the four players mentioned above and interesting contract situations.
Jared Goff and his contract are now going to be in Detroit. With a bevy of future draft picks in hand, Detroit has the luxury of seeing what they have in Goff while they rebuild the roster in the image of their new head coach. They could also take a quarterback with the seventh pick in the draft or even move up if they like an option. Goff was a bonus in acquiring so many future selections from the Rams. He is on a hiding to nothing with a revamped receiving group quite probable.
Patrick Mahomes II II in Kansas City.
He signed the richest contract in, at the time, sports history. He definitely will hold the NFL record contract for the near future. Usually, there is an early exit possibility for the team in these contracts, but it seems ironclad that he will cost more than $80 million in dead cap space were he not to be a Chief before at least 2025.
Kirk Cousins will now be in his 5th year with the Vikings. All in a guaranteed contract structure. The team almost have no alternative but to play him. The 49ers could blow the Vikings away with an offer, but Minnesota remains a contender to draft a rookie this year to replace him in 2022.
Aaron Rodgers is an interesting situation. Technically he will be cheaper to move on from than Matt Ryan and Carson Wentz, but just as Rodgers was allowed to learn behind Favre, an extra year is highly likely to be needed for Jordan Love to develop. In 2022 Green Bay can trade Rodgers for high value or keep him for another year. The post-NFC Conference championship discussion had Rodgers introspectively evaluating his situation. Maybe he is angling for a contract extension? Rodgers holds the cards this year. Next year he will not.
Now let us look at the remaining 15 teams and their options.
Teams where there is a 5-50% chance of a new starting quarterback in 2021.
Matt Ryan has a dead cap figure for 2021 of almost $50 million. The fine print in these contracts means they may be able to lower that figure. We will see. With a new coaching group arriving and Ryan a possible choice to land in San Francisco, this is the season to move on. It is more likely that the cost is too prohibitive, and Ryan plays out 2021 as a bridge to the next starter.
Teddy Bridgewater had his moments, but Carolina is trying to land a big fish. Publicly trying to get Matthew Stafford and being reasonably open about wanting Deshaun Watson makes it apparent that they do not see Bridgewater as a long term option. He may eventually have competition from a guy that fails to land a starting job elsewhere. He is an easy roster cut in 2022 and would also be a bridge for a possible rookie with the eighth pick in the draft.
Dak Prescott looks so much better after watching the other three guys Dallas started behind a decimated offensive line. It essentially comes down to his recovery from his serious leg injury, his desire to stay in Dallas and their efforts to keep him or start anew. Prescott has done all the right things and played his heart out. If other teams beat down his door, he may move on. I would suspect he stays.
An opportunity for Denver to at least challenge Drew Lock’s handle on the starting job is there. John Elway will not control decision making. Elway invested a ton of draft capital in upgrading the receiving group. Drew Lock had his moments of looking like the starter but was inconsistent and made crucial mistakes at others. If Denver thinks there is a chance at grabbing a potential elite option, Lock may be holding a clipboard.
Las Vegas Raiders
Derek Carr has done enough to be a top 16 quarterback in the NFL. The problem is that teams rarely are happy with this and want better. The good news for Las Vegas is that Carr can be traded or released for less than the price of a good kicker. Marcus Mariota had a good showing at the end of the season, but he will be a free agent, and his demands may exceed the purse strings available. It is likely that Carr stays with the Raiders and maybe even Mariota as well, but the team will explore its options and maybe we finally see coach Jon Gruden fall in love with a quarterback like Deshaun Watson.
With the team and Adam Gase making a mess of an almost sure-fire rookie quarterback in Sam Darnold, a new regime will need to figure out what happens with Darnold. He may need to get his head straight on an NFL team that is prepared to be patient as they fix his issues, but with the Jets not ending up with the first draft pick, the odds of Darnold remaining skyrocketed. I wouldn’t rule out Darnold moving this offseason, but another team would need to want him. It is also possible the Jets fall in love with another quarterback and use the second overall pick on the next big thing.
The fall of Carson Wentz has been one of the biggest shocks of 2020. There were several locker room stories before the season, indicating issues with his leadership. Philadelphia has the luxury of playing Jalen Hurts on a second-round rookie contract for a few years. By eating a large-cap hit in trading Wentz, they have the reality of a rebuild. It is possible, but unlikely they draft a quarterback with their first pick. Best to see what Jalen Hurts offers in 2021 and put themselves back into play the following year.
Russell Wilson surprised everyone by declaring his desire for a say in team decisions and throwing his offensive line and decision-makers under the bus. Trading Wilson will be difficult given his contract. Common sense tells you the team placate him. Wilson should remain a Seahawk, but it wasn’t even a possibility until Wilson, who usually makes positive statements surprised with his comments.
These teams have a more than 50% chance of seeing a new starter, with most closer to 100% than the other end.
It appears that Mitchell Trubisky will be hunting for a new team in 2021. That was always likely after the Bears declined his fifth-year option earlier in 2020. Considering the team passed on Deshaun Watson and Patrick Mahomes II II to take Trubisky, it will go down in history as one of the worst draft choices in NFL history. Best to be done with it and move on. Nick Foles could stay as a bridge to a rookie. If another veteran is signed, Foles is likely to be cut. If the Bears lose Allen Robinson and cannot interest a serious starting option, Trubisky could be back.
This situation escalated quickly. Deshaun Watson looked like a career Texan, but the front office soon made a series of decisions that boggled the mind. Watson could stay, but the Texans seem intent on tripping over their own feet in any attempts to achieve this goal. Could Watson go to Miami with Tua Tagovailoa going the other way? Who starts in Houston? It’s likely to be the last friendly location with Will Fuller V probably gone, both starting running backs and Brandin Cooks strongly tipped to go as well. The Texans should try and get as big a deal as possible for Watson and then take whatever scraps fall into place or continue to make a bad situation worse.
The late-season win streak by the Jets was good news for Jacksonville. They now have the number one draft pick, and barring an insane decision, select Trevor Lawrence. In extra good news for the team, their backups for 2021 are dirt cheap in Gardner Minshew and Jake Luton.
With so many Patriot players opting out for 2020 and the Patriots quarterback situation post-Tom Brady being a mess, Cam Newton gave the team a focus and leadership. He may return, but I would bet against it. Maybe Jimmy Garoppolo becomes available? They could take a rookie or do the unexpected again. The team does need to improve its receiving group, whatever happens. A situation to watch with great interest.
Drew Brees has a contract for 2021, but out of all the older quarterbacks, Brees is most likely to retire joining Philip Rivers. What happens next? Taysom Hill has a nice contract and performed well but had clear limitations. He may be best suited to his jack of all trades role and short term starter. Jameis Winston could be explosive in this offense, but turnovers will always be a problem. The team has potential salary cap issues, which makes landing a big name difficult. Winston may draw interest from other sides desperate to improve. The Saints will need to move quickly to keep him.
The 49ers had depth in the quarterback room for 2020. Nick Mullens and C.J. Beathard will be free agents. The team is unlikely to have them both return, maybe one as a backup. Jimmy Garoppolo is an interesting one with a dead cap figure of less than 3 million. San Francisco will attempt to improve at the position. If they can get Matt Ryan, Sam Darnold, Derek Carr or Kirk Cousins, it will be a great result. An excellent destination for any prospective quarterback.
Alex Smith will be an excellent mentor and backup to a rookie quarterback on another team or be good enough to keep his team in games should he start. Given his salary-cap figure, Washington let him go. Dwayne Haskins was a disaster, while Taylor Heinicke impressed in the playoffs and will return as a depth option. The team will have options ranging from Cam Newton to Marcus Mariota or another rookie. They may aim higher.
Atlanta - Matt Ryan and a rookie with the fourth overall pick.
Carolina – Teddy Bridgewater and a rookie with the 8th pick or trading higher
Chicago – Mitchell Trubisky
Dallas – Dak Prescott
Detroit – Jared Goff and a rookie with the 7th pick
Houston - Derek Carr
Jacksonville - Trevor Lawrence with the first pick
Las Vegas - Deshaun Watson
Minnesota- Andy Dalton
New England - Jimmy Garoppolo
New York Jets - Sam Darnold
Pittsburgh - Ben Roethlisberger
San Fransisco - Kirk Cousins
Seattle - Russell Wilson