This year’s NFL free agent quarterback class is very good and could allow teams to find the franchise signal-caller they have been looking for.
The NFL Free agent quarterback class is shaping up to be one like no other. There is a bevy of talent teams will be looking to add to make their teams better, but the quarterback depth is unprecedented. I’m not sure there has ever been a year where 3 sure-fire hall of famers are available. Let’s take a look at this year’s free-agent quarterback class.
Hall of Famers
Tom Brady – An argument can be made that Brady is the greatest football player of all time. There’s no doubt he’s the greatest winner of all time. There is a lot of speculation on whether Brady will return to New England or not. I think I can speak for most, if not all Dolphins fans we are ready to see Brady leave the AFC East. I think it’s going to happen. The Brady Belichick marriage is over. I think it’s a two-team race at this point. The San Diego Chargers or the Dallas Cowboys. Arguments can be made for both teams. The Chargers have officially moved on from Philip Rivers and will without a doubt draft a quarterback at #6 overall, assuming they don’t jump the Dolphins to do it earlier. Signing Brady as a bridge to a young guy makes all the sense in the world, not to mention the Chargers are moving into a new stadium this season. Brady would instantly sell tickets. The more intriguing option is Dallas. Dak Prescott is asking for way more money than he is worth, in my opinion. Prescott is still young and Dallas would be smart to come to an agreement with him assuming they can find a more palatable number. But if they can’t, then Brady makes a ton of sense, and we all know that Jerry Jones loves the big move. Even though Brady is old, Dallas could provide him a running game like he’s never had as well as one of the top offensive lines in the league. Just what an old fella needs. I believe Dallas and Dak will come to an agreement over the next few weeks and Tom Brady finally leaves the AFC East and finishes his career as a San Diego Charger.
Drew Brees – Just the mention of Brees’ name gives Dolphins fans the sweats. Fans will forever ask themselves, “what if?” Twice the Dolphins had Brees in their sights only to see him go elsewhere. There will not be a third time. The Saints are in a unique situation as their entire quarterback room is set to hit the free-agent market, Brees, Teddy Bridgewater and Taysom Hill. Brees is not going to retire, nor is he going to hit the free-agent market. Brees has a very good team in New Orleans, including one of, if not the best wide receiver in the game right now in Michael Thomas. Look for Drew Brees to re-sign with the Saints and make one more run at a Super Bowl.
Philip Rivers – This week San Diego made it official that they are moving on from Philip Rivers. The 38-year-old still has some gas left in the tank. Rivers recently moved his family from California to Florida. Is that a sign of what’s upcoming? Maybe. My question with Rivers is, is he looking for one last payday to feed his 9 children or does he legit want a shot at a ring? The problem with the latter is there aren’t many teams that can provide that to him and the hard reality is, Rivers has had plenty of talent in San Diego over the course of his career and yet he was never able to finish. I predict that Philip Rivers will, in fact, play in Florida for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. The Bucs are all done with Jameis Winston. Just like the Brady situation, Rivers would provide a proven veteran to bridge the Buccaneers to a young quarterback while still providing a chance to win football games. The Bucs finished with a 7-9 record in a year they saw their quarterback throw 30 interceptions. Rivers could certainly turn 2 or 3 of those losses into wins and have Tampa Bay competing for a wild card spot.
First Tier – Potential Starters
Ryan Tannehill – Tannehill is another name that gets a reaction from Miami Dolphins fans. You’d be hard-pressed to find a Phins fan who doesn’t truly like Tannehill the guy. He played his guts out for the Dolphins organization, unfortunately, the results on the field were not good enough. Last year saw Tannehill find the perfect situation for his skill set in Tennessee. Once taking over for Marcus Mariota, Tannehill led the Titans to a 7-3 record and fell one win away from a trip to the Super Bowl. I think Tannehill has found his home in Tennessee, so I look for the Titans to re-sign him to be their starter.
Teddy Bridgewater – Bridgewater may be the most intriguing free agent this year. At 28 years old he’s certainly still young enough for a team to invest in the long term. Many thought that was going to happen last year but instead he signed a one year deal with the Saints to be Brees’ backup. Fortunately for the Saints, Bridgewater filled in for an injured Drew Brees and went 5-0 during those games. Bridgewater may turn out to be the prize of this year’s free-agent class. While the Brady, Brees, and River will get the buzz, Bridgewater has the potential to fill a team’s need for the long haul. If the Carolina Panthers decided to move on from Cam Newton then Bridgewater might make a lot of sense there but that’s a big if. To me, the Indianapolis Colts make a lot of sense. Jacoby Brissett has been fine, but fine isn’t good enough to be a starter in the National Football League. I think the Colts make the change and announce Teddy Bridgewater as their 2020 starting quarterback.
Dak Prescott – There were rumors last year that Prescott was asking for a contract in the $35-$40 million per year range. That’s just ridiculous. He’s done nothing to warrant that kind of payday. Prescott is another quarterback who has been solid but has not yet been spectacular. The good news with Prescott is that he’s only 26 years old so a team could certainly invest long term in him. But again, does he have the ability to carry a team? In Dallas, he has an excellent offensive line and one of the best running games in the league. This combination should have definitely produced more than one playoff win thus far. If Prescott hits the market on March 18th he will have plenty of suitors but unfortunately for those teams, I don’t think that happens. The Cowboys have talked about using their franchise tag Dak if they cannot come to a longer-term agreement. It makes sense for both parties to hammer a contract out. My prediction is that is what happens and Prescott remains the starter in Dallas for the foreseeable future.
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Jameis Winston – Winston is an interesting one. From the eyebrows down there may not be a more talented quarterback in this year’s class but there are many times when he leaves you wondering, “what was he thinking?” Winston turns the ball over way too much. Over the course of his career, he averages 1.25 interceptions and .7 fumbles per game. That’s basically 2 turnovers each every game. Compare that to Dak Prescott who averages .5 interceptions and .4 fumbles per game. Extrapolated out that’s potentially 16 fewer possessions over the course of a season between the two quarterbacks. Like Prescott, Winston is also only 26 years old so there is definitely plenty of treads left on the tires. The question becomes, is there a coach who can turn Jameis around. I think there is one that will be willing to try and his name is Jon Gruden. Derek Carr has turned into Ryan Tannehill. Pretty good on the field, even better off the field, but none of that is equating to enough wins. A change of scenery may be what Carr needs. Or, maybe the Las Vegas Raiders can sign Winston on a “show me” contract to come in and compete with Carr for the starting job. Either way, Winston just seems like a Raider to me. Another question though is can Jameis handle being in Las Vegas. Maturity has never been a strength of Winston’s. My prediction is that Jameis Winston becomes a Las Vegas Raider.
Marcus Mariota – Mariota has the best chance, in my opinion, to become a starter in the NFL again. We’ve seen a shift in NFL offenses over the past couple of years with the read-option with an athletic quarterback becoming the rage (see Lamar Jackson). This type of scheme would be a good fit for Mariota. Marcus Mariota rushed for more than 700 yards in each of his three years at Oregon. Including a season in which he rushed for 15 touchdowns. Not sure how credible the whispers are but there has been some talk that maybe Belichick and McDaniels could rework their offense to more of a read-option should Brady leave. New England is going to need a quarterback in my opinion, and again being only 26 years old, Mariota could still be someone’s long term option. The Patriots are rumored to like Jarrett Stidham but also feel that he’s not quite ready yet. I think Mariota goes to New England on a low-end contract where Belichick and McDaniels try to show how much smarter they are than everyone else and try to resurrect Mariotta’s career.
Second Tier – Backups
Teams looking for a back-up quarterback will have plenty to choose from, including some who will win some games in the short term should their starter go down. I’m not going to spend time breaking them down or making predictions but here’s the best of what’s left.
Case Keenum – 32 years old
Taysom Hill – 30 years old
A.J. McCarron – 29 years old
Brett Hundley – 27 years old
Blake Bortles – 28 years old
Nick Mullens – 25 years old
Kyle Allen – 24 years old
The one thing I can say is that for those who love the free agency part of the NFL, the next 2 months leading up to the draft will be extremely entertaining.