Free agency hasn’t even started yet, and several quarterbacks have already found new homes. This offseason promised to be one of the wildest in recent memory, and I predicted where everyone might land back in January. However, some of those guesses are already outdated, and it’s time to give an upgraded prediction on the remaining quarterback landing spots.
Possible Quarterback Landing Spots for the 2021 Offseason, Part 2
On the Move
Marcus Mariota – New England Patriots
Last year, the Las Vegas Raiders signed Marcus Mariota to serve as insurance in case Derek Carr continued to regress. Instead, the quarterback responded with his best season since 2016 while solidifying himself as the future of the franchise. This forces the Raiders to move on from Mariota, as parting ways would clear over $10 million in available cap space.
The New England Patriots need a lot of help on offense, but it all starts with the quarterback. Cam Newton wasn’t New England’s primary problem last year, as nobody could’ve succeeded with that supporting cast. However, Mariota is probably an upgrade and should bring some success with an improved supporting cast.
He could very well be the next Ryan Tannehill, as Mariota put up some good film early in his career before battling through injuries in 2018 and 2019. This shouldn’t stop New England from drafting a young quarterback, but it could provide some security at the position.
Ryan Fitzpatrick – Washington Football Team
The Washington Football Team has all the pieces for a great team. They have a young stud in Terry McLaurin, a solid offensive line, and arguably the best front seven in football. The one thing they’re lacking is a quarterback. Washington re-signed Taylor Heinicke to a respectable contract after going blow-for-blow with Tom Brady in the playoffs, and there is a chance he develops into a decent option. However, it was only one game, and the Football Team needs to have a backup plan in case Heinicke is just a flash in the pan.
Ryan Fitzpatrick is the perfect candidate for this job, as the Harvard product excels in this kind of role. Throughout the course of his career, Fitzpatrick has the ability to play one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL and one of the worst for extended periods of time. He’s good enough to guide Washington into playoff contention, but not quite so good that he’d automatically beat out Heinicke. No matter how you slice it, this is a perfect combination of talent and situation.
Cam Newton – Chicago Bears
Statistically speaking, Cam Newton was not very good in 2020. Of the 26 qualifying quarterbacks, Newton ranked 22nd in EPA+CPOE, EPA/play, and CPOE. However, Newton’s supporting cast was uniquely terrible, as Jakobi Meyers was the only skill-position player that consistently looked like he belonged anywhere near a football field. The 2015 version of Cam Newton is probably gone forever, but he can still be an average starter in the right situation.
Chicago has a chance to provide that aforementioned situation. The Bears have a great up-and-coming receiver in Darnell Mooney, and most leaguewide reports believe that Allen Robinson will be back for at least one more season. If Newton can’t make it work with that supporting cast, then he might have to accept life as a backup. However, he deserves one more season to prove himself as a legitimate NFL starter.
Sam Darnold – Denver Broncos
The Sam Darnold Sweepstakes are not going as well as the New York Jets anticipated. In most offseasons, you’d probably be able to find a team willing to give up a second-round pick for a former third-overall pick. However, in this wild offseason, nobody wants to settle for someone as underwhelming as Darnold. The USC product has not played well during his three years in the league, but he has also been in a terrible situation. There is a chance that the quarterback could improve in the right landing spot, but it’s hard to imagine anyone giving him a starting job.
Because of this, Darnold ends up in competition with quarterback Drew Lock. Like Darnold, Lock has largely underwhelmed since coming into the league but has had some moments of genuine promise. The Broncos will want Lock to win this battle, but they need to accept the reality that the proverbial next step in his development might never come. If it doesn’t, then Darnold will finally have a legitimate chance to prove himself with a supporting cast of Courtland Sutton, Jerry Jeudy, and Noah Fant.
Staying In Place
Jameis Winston – New Orleans Saints
The New Orleans Saints have no money, so there is a real chance that Winston leaves if a bidding war breaks out. However, said bidding war probably won’t come to fruition, as Winston didn’t receive any interest on the open market last season. This leaves New Orleans as his most likely fit while making him the heir to Drew Brees.
While Taysom Hill earned the starting job in place of Brees last year, all signs point towards Winston earning the job this year. Head coach Sean Payton reportedly told Cameron Jordan that Winston was the next man up, which should make for an absolutely fascinating season. After operating one the most horizontal offenses in the league, New Orleans will place their trust in one of the most aggressive downfield throwers in recent memory.
Teddy Bridgewater – Carolina Panthers
The Carolina Panthers clearly want a better quarterback, but it’s hard to see them getting one. The team reportedly offered a big deal for Matthew Stafford and are one of the frontrunners for Deshaun Watson. However, the Texans don’t appear interested in trading Watson (more on that later), which leaves the Vikings with Teddy Bridgewater.
The Panthers aren’t going to swap quarterbacks just for the sake of it, as leaguewide reports indicated that the organization had no interest in Carson Wentz. Bridgewater isn’t a great quarterback, but he’s a fine bridge. Chances are, the Panthers will keep Bridgewater for one more season and invest their first-round pick into one on the NFL Draft’s best quarterbacks.
Jimmy Garoppolo – San Francisco 49ers
Just like the Panthers, the 49ers find themselves with no clear path to upgrade the quarterback position. The team reportedly tried to make a move for both Stafford and Watson, but obviously came up short. This leaves Garoppolo as the best option available, which is truly unfortunate for San Francisco. The quarterback is currently on the books for $26.4 million, and the organization could clear $24 million by parting ways. Even when healthy, it’s hard to justify this type of salary for someone who is clearly a below-average starter.
Deshaun Watson – Houston Texans
Deshaun Watson does not want to play for the Houston Texans, and the Houston Texans refuse to trade Deshaun Watson. This stalemate is going to be one of the most fascinating elements of the entire offseason, and I’m going to bet that Watson gives in before the Texans do. Houston’s front office reportedly isn’t even listening to potential offers for Watson, and at the end of the day, they know that they can just wait him out. Watson probably won’t forfeit a years’ salary just because he doesn’t like the organization, so he will probably come back just before the start of the season, at the very latest.
Russell Wilson – Seattle Seahawks
After a decade of playing behind terrible offensive lines, Russell Wilson has had enough. The quarterback made public his issues with the organization and also released a list of teams he’d like to play for. This obviously looks bad on the surface, however, a deeper dive shows he’s probably not going anywhere. Wilson said he still wants to be in Seattle, and he never said anything about holding out. The Seahawks should get him some starting-caliber offensive linemen, and it really came down to it, the front office will probably fire Pete Carroll rather than trade away one of the best quarterbacks in football.
Dak Prescott – Dallas Cowboys
Who would’ve guessed back in 2016 that Dak Prescott would have the longest tenure with the team that drafted him? Prescott and the Cowboys have unable to come to terms for years now, and that might not change immediately. However, reports indicate that the Cowboys will use the franchise tag for a second straight year if both sides cannot come to terms on a long-term extension. One way or another, Prescott will be under center for the Cowboys at the start of the 2021 season.
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