The 2021 NFL off-season figures to be one of the wildest in recent memory. Many a quarterback appears to be on the move and trying to predict their landing spots is going to be one of the most followed storylines over the next few months. Going by my count, there are at least 12 starting-caliber quarterbacks that stand a realistic shot of switching teams in the coming months. Let’s take a dive into who might be on the move, and where they might be going.
Possible Quarterback Landing Spots in the 2021 Off-season
On the Move
Matthew Stafford – Traded to San Francisco 49ers
The Detroit Lions and Matthew Stafford have mutually agreed to go their separate ways. This means that, barring something completely unforeseen, Stafford will probably be the first domino to fall. As of this posting, the Los Angeles Rams and San Francisco 49ers appear to have the most interest in the former first-overall pick. However, the 49ers are far more likely to land the quarterback, as they have the better salary cap situation and draft capital.
Jimmy Garoppolo – Signed by New England Patriots
Putting Stafford on the 49ers makes Jimmy Garoppolo completely expendable. The one-time Super Bowl champion currently carries a $26.4 million cap hit, but only $2.8 million in dead money. Assuming the 49ers can’t find a trade partner, they could easily release the oft-injured quarterback and move on with Stafford. Once this is done, Garoppolo will probably end up with the team that drafted him back in 2014.
Cam Newton – Signed by Washington Football Team
Cam Newton was fine last year, but he wasn’t good enough to overcome New England’s terrible supporting cast. While the door isn’t closed on a reunion, the Patriots would probably prefer to bring back their hand-selected heir to Tom Brady. This leaves Newton looking for a new team and probably reuniting with his former head coach in Washington. Last year at this point, the Football Team passed on Newton because they were still trying to turn Dwayne Haskins into their quarterback of the future. With that experiment over, Newton can come in and help the Football Team defend their NFC East title.
Ryan Fitzpatrick – Signed by Los Angeles Rams
Head coach Sean McVay is looking for an upgrade at quarterback but doesn’t have the draft capital or cap space to make any splashy moves. With this in mind, the Rams still trade Jared Goff (more on that later) and move forward with Ryan Fitzpatrick serving as the bridge quarterback. Fitzpatrick is probably a slight upgrade on Goff and can help bring the team back to the playoffs for the fourth time in five years.
Jared Goff – Traded to Denver Broncos
The Denver Broncos aren’t giving up on Drew Lock quite yet, but they’re going to have a backup plan in case he doesn’t improve. Jared Goff is the perfect quarterback for this situation, as he’s good enough to start, but not good enough to automatically beat out the guy already familiar with the system. While the Broncos should probably set their sights a little higher, this is a good way to encourage Lock to win the job while still having a viable Plan B in case he doesn’t take the next step.
Jameis Winston – Signed by Indianapolis Colts
With Drew Brees likely to retire, most expect Jameis Winston to take over in New Orleans. However, Taysom Hill is already earning $16 million and started over Winston when Brees went down in 2020. Sean Payton seems to genuinely believe that Taysom Hill is franchise quarterback material, which means Winston will probably hit the open market. If he does, he’ll clearly be the best option for the Indianapolis Colts. The Colts have a fantastic roster but are just a quarterback away from Super Bowl contention. Winston might not be a superstar, but he’s certainly good enough to guide this roster to the playoffs.
Teddy Bridgewater – Signed by Detroit Lions
New Detroit Lions head coach Dan Campbell wants to win football games by running the ball and playing good defense. In order to do this, he’ll need a quarterback that can take care of the ball and won’t make too many mistakes, even if he lacks the ability to take over a football game. That skillset perfectly defines Teddy Bridgewater, as the Panthers will probably part ways with the passer after the season.
Deshaun Watson – Traded to New York Jets
Deshaun Watson clearly wants out of Houston, but there are so many teams that could actually afford his services. Chances are, the Texans wouldn’t actually trade Watson unless they were guaranteed a shot at one of the elite quarterbacks in the upcoming draft class. This means that the Jets and Dolphins are the only teams that could realistically afford Watson’s services, and the Dolphins don’t appear interested in making a trade (more on that later). Watson reportedly wants to go to New York, so this trade would make sense for both sides.
Staying Despite the Drama
The Miami Dolphins aren’t willing to give up on Tua Tagovailoa after one disappointing season. According to several members of Miami’s front office, the team will roll with the 2020 first-round pick for at least one more year and are out of the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes. This wisdom of this move is certainly up for debate, but the fact remains that Tua Tagovailoa will enter the 2021 season as Miami’s starting quarterback.
There is no way that the Dallas Cowboys are dumb enough to let Dak Prescott walk away in free agency. After destroying defenses through the air early in the season, Andy Dalton proved that not just anyone can succeed with this supporting cast. Prescott might not be an elite quarterback on par with Patrick Mahomes, but he’s the next best thing. Most teams would love to have Prescott as their franchise quarterback, so look for Jerry Jones to spend whatever he needs to in order to keep Prescott in a Cowboys jersey.
Sam Darnold is not a good NFL quarterback. While he has yet to play in a good situation, the former third-overall pick has not lived up to the billing and has yet to consistently read a defense or deliver an accurate football. Chances are, the Houston Texans would rather have an extra draft pick instead of the quarterback, so Darnold stays in New York to serve as Watson’s backup.
Mitchell Trubisky played well down the stretch, which could give the Chicago Bears a false sense of confidence in Trubisky’s ability. Make no mistake, I am not saying that sticking with Trubisky is the wise move. I am saying, however, that Ryan Pace and company have a history of trying to make Trubisky work, regardless of what it means for the long-term health of the franchise. Chances are, this team brings Trubisky back for one more year and rolls with the same formula from 2020.
Left at the Altar
Of course, not every team is able to get the quarterback of their dreams. In this scenario, the Carolina Panthers are left standing all alone at the proverbial altar. Fortunately, it’s not all bad news for the Panthers. While they probably won’t have a shot at Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, or Zach Wilson, Carolina should be able to land Trey Lance. Lance is a fascinating prospect in his own right and could very well turn into a franchise passer in time. Drafting him and signing a stopgap option like Andy Dalton or Jacoby Brissett would still leave the Panthers in solid positioning for the future.
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