The 2020 Free Agent class is filled with Quarterbacks who could find themselves as the face of a new franchise this offseason. This article will cover the top 12 potential free agent quarterbacks that will be available for hire when NFL Free agency kicks off on March 14th at 4 p.m. ET, 1p.m. PT. Three of these quarterbacks (Cam Newton, Andy Dalton, and Joe Flacco) are under contract for the 2020 season but could possibly be traded or released before the start of next season and thus were included on this list.
Last week I wrote an article stating that Tom Brady should sign with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers this offseason, joining a team that is loaded with offensive weapons. He would get the privilege of throwing passes to Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate, and Ronald Jones on a regular basis. The Buccaneers would instantly be challenging the New Orleans Saints as the likely favorite to win both the NFC South division and the NFC Conference in 2020. If Brady doesn’t end up in Tampa, my second-choice team would be the Los Angeles Chargers.
It has already been reported that Drew Brees has agreed to return to the New Orleans Saints for the 2020 season. This is exactly what I assumed would happen. I expected Brees would either return to New Orleans for another season or retire. After watching Brees throughout the season and in the playoffs, he looked like a player who could still come back and play at a high level for another season so it made complete sense for him to return for one.
In this photo, Phillip Rivers adequately shows what his plans are this offseason, he’s leaving Los Angeles. Phillips Rivers and the Chargers have already announced that he will not be back with the team for the 2020 season. Now the big question is: Does Phillip Rivers continue to play football, or decide to retire. If he retires, he will most likely be spending his days as a bus driver, driving his nine children around all day. Taking them from home to school, and then in the afternoon from school to all their practices, so my guess is that he continues his playing career.
He probably needs to continue playing honestly. I can’t imagine what the monthly bills must look like feeding and housing all those children under one roof. If he wants to put all his children through college, (which becomes increasingly more expensive by the day it seems) than he probably needs to continue playing football for as many seasons as possible.
If Rivers chooses to continue his playing career, the best possible landing spot for him is the Indianapolis Colts. Colts Head Coach Frank Reich worked with Phillip Rivers for three seasons as a member of the Chargers coaching staff. One of those seasons was spent as the quarterbacks’ coach and the two other seasons as the offensive coordinator. Rivers would already be familiar with Reich’s system in Indy and would be an instant upgrade over Jacoby Brissett, whom many believe will be replaced this offseason. My second-choice team would be the Tampa Bay Buccaneers (if Brady doesn’t sign there).
Dak Prescott is currently a free agent and is reportedly asking the Dallas Cowboys for $40 Million a year in his next contract. This would be an obvious overpay as the five highest-paid quarterbacks in the league make: $35M, $34M, $33.5M, $33.5M and $32M annually. Prescott is obviously playing hardball, trying to get paid as much as possible in the coming seasons.
The Cowboys have a few options, if they can’t agree to a deal before the start of free agency, they could always place the franchise tag on Prescott. He would play out this season under the Franchise Tag and re-enter contract negotiations after next season. Whether or not Prescott would be willing to play under the franchise tag is an altogether different question. Kirk Cousins did so for two straight seasons with the Washington Redskins and then was rewarded by the Minnesota Vikings with a three-year, $84 million dollar contract, which was fully guaranteed money. That was a risk Cousins was willing to take, which Prescott might not be willing to do.
Another option for the Dallas Cowboys would be to place the Transition Tag on Prescott, which would let teams like the Miami Dolphins, Tampa Bay Buccaneers, and others with a need at quarterback, determine the market value of Prescott. This is something that could either benefit or hurt the Cowboys. If another team in the league was willing to pay Prescott, say, the entire $40 million dollars a season, it would leave the Cowboys with the difficult decision of paying him that money or losing him to free agency and getting nothing in return. I don’t see a scenario where Dak Prescott starts next season in any uniform other than the Dallas Cowboys. At some point, a deal will get done between Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys and he will continue playing for them for many years to come.
Does this image look familiar? It should, it’s what Jameis Winston does after every interception he throws. Winston will be seen squinting towards the Jumbotron watching the replay of his interception hoping to see what he didn’t when he was on the field. Why is this, you ask? Because like myself, Winston has been nearsighted for most of his life. It wasn’t until this offseason, two weeks ago actually, that Winston decided to have Lasik eye surgery to correct his vision. Hopefully, this will help prevent any future 30/30 seasons (30 Touchdowns and 30 interceptions). This past season, Winston was able to throw for 5,109 yards and 33 touchdown passes. If bad eyesight was the only reason Winston has thrown so many interceptions throughout his career then look out, he is going to be tremendous next season. I’m not totally sure that’s the only reason he has thrown 121 interceptions in 72 career games, but only time will tell.
What I can tell you is don’t expect him to be on the Buccaneers roster come this fall. At the end of the 2019 NFL season, Bruce Arians was asked by a reporter if his team could win with another quarterback? His response was: “With another quarterback? Oh yeah. If we can win with this one, we can definitely win with another one.” I don’t believe Arians has any desire to see Winston play another game in a Buccaneers uniform. That doesn’t mean other teams won’t be interested in his services. Would the Miami Dolphins consider signing him in free agency, so they can focus on taking the best player available in the NFL Draft at #5 overall? Are the Chargers interested in bringing him in to replace Phillip Rivers? Does Zac Taylor (head coach of the Cincinnati Bengals) think he would be a good fit for his team, which would allow the Bengals to take Chase Young #1 overall in the NFL draft? Does Matt Rhule think he can be the next starting quarterback of the Carolina Panthers? If Phillip Rivers doesn’t end up with the Colts, would they be interested in signing Jameis Winston?
All of these are interesting questions that will get answered in just a few weeks. My prediction for Jameis Winston is that he signs with the Los Angeles Chargers. With his vision corrected, hopefully, his turnover ratio drastically decreases. The Chargers just parted ways with the man who has been the face of their franchise for the past 14 years. In Winston they get a quarterback who has a stronger arm than Rivers, who can hopefully flourish within the pass-happy offense that is already in place there.
When leaving a place like Tampa Bay, that has Mike Evans, Chris Godwin, O.J. Howard, Cameron Brate and Ronald Jones, there aren’t many consolation prizes in the NFL better than the Los Angeles Chargers. They have talented receivers in Keenan Allen and Mike Williams, as well as the possibility of returning Hunter Henry, Austin Ekeler and Melvin Gordon to the team. This move would also allow the Chargers to use their #6 overall selection in the upcoming NFL Draft on the best player available to them rather than potentially reaching on a Quarterback. My second-choice destination for Jameis Winstonwould be the Miami Dolphins.
Ryan Tannehill is the next quarterback on this list. He had an interesting season in 2019. He began as the backup quarterback for the Tennessee Titans until he replaced Marcus Mariota who had been struggling through his first six starts of the season. After starting the season with a 2-4 record, Ryan Tannehill and Derrick Henry were able to lead the Titans all the way to the AFC championship game, where they lost to the eventual Super Bowl Champion Kansas City Chiefs.
Tannehill and Henry are both free agents this offseason and the Titans could go in a multitude of directions. The best direction though would be to re-sign both Tannehill and Henry and try to reproduce the season they had this year, except continuing in the playoffs to become eventual Super Bowl Champions. When your team falls one game short of playing in the Super Bowl, it is a sign that things are going well and that you should continue to try and build off what got your team that far. How this deal gets done I’m not sure. They may need to franchise tag Tannehill first so no other team can swoop in and sign him in Free Agency. The Titans could then negotiate a new contract with Tannehill without the fear of losing him this offseason. Ultimately, he should be suiting up in a Titans uniform for the 2020 NFL season.
Cam Newton is in an interesting situation. He is entering the last year of his contract and is scheduled to make $21.1 million dollars. Only $2 million of Newton’s 2020 salary is guaranteed money though, so if the Panthers decided to trade or release Cam Newton, they would save $19.1 million dollars. If they decided to part ways with him, they could use the newly acquired increase in cap space to upgrade their team elsewhere. This is something that I believed could happen until I recently read that the Carolina Panthers are currently moving forward with Cam Newton as their starting Quarterback for the 2020 season. So, for now, I guess we are forced to believe he is staying in Carolina.
`Things can change fast though in the NFL, so if the Panthers eventually change course and decide to part ways with Newton it would be interesting to see where he ends up. The most common team I’ve heard of as a possible landing spot for Newton would be the Chicago Bears. Mitch Trubisky has obviously not played up to the potential many NFL scouts and executives thought he could reach thus far in his career. A healthy Cam Newton would provide an instant upgrade for the Chicago Bears, but one of the biggest reasons I don’t see this happening is that the Chicago Bears do not have the salary-cap space available to pay Cam Newton anywhere near what he will be wanting on the free-agent market.
A scenario that I think could be more likely is if he ended up with the Miami Dolphins, potentially on a two-year deal, with most of the guaranteed money coming in season one. This would give the Dolphins flexibility on how they use their #5 overall pick in this years NFL draft. If say, for example, they draft Tua Tagovailoa, it would allow the team to sit Tua behind Cam Newton for a year before letting him take over the Dolphins offense in 2021 or 2022.
Drew Brees has re-signed with the New Orleans Saints, and it has grown increasingly likely that Taysom Hill will return to the Saints as a gadget tool in their offense. Because of this, I expect Teddy Bridgewater to sign with a different team this offseason, where he will get the chance to compete for a starting quarterback job. I initially wrote that Teddy Bridgewater should join the Carolina Panthers as the younger, healthier version of Cam Newton who can come in and run the zone-read with Christian McCaffrey. There are some obvious differences between Bridgewater’s and Newton’s styles of play. Namely that Newton is a powerful runner who takes on a lot of contact from defenders when running, while with Bridgewater it is more likely that he slides or gets out of bounds when running, to avoid that contact. One other big difference is the arm strength Newton has in comparison to Bridgewater, but even with these differences, I think Teddy could run the offense well with McCaffrey as his running mate.
Yet, since the Panthers are reportedly sticking with Cam Newton this season, I will have to find a different landing spot for Teddy Bridgewater. With that being said, the next best fit would probably be with the Miami Dolphins. They could sign Bridgewater to a shorter contract but pay him NFL starting quarterback money over that duration. This would allow them to lean on him as their starting quarterback, while also drafting Tua Tagovailoa #5 overall. The Dolphins can sit Tua behind Bridgewater this year and allow him to bulk up as much as possible to hopefully avoid future injuries. Then, after year one, Tua can compete with Bridgewater for the starting job in the preseason of year two. Tua would get the chance to be the eventual long term answer for the Dolphins, while Bridgewater provides an immediate short term answer at the starting quarterback position.
Last week I wrote an article saying the Chargers should trade up for the #1 overall pick and draft Joe Burrow, if that does happen the Bengals could keep Andy Dalton since he would be QB1 on that roster. The Chargers haven’t traded up for the #1 overall pick yet, and still need to decide what to do at quarterback. As you saw earlier in this article, I sent Jameis Winston to the Los Angeles Chargers, based on the premise that they haven’t traded up to attain the right to draft Joe Burrow. No matter what happens with Joe Burrow and the #1 overall pick, I believe the Bengals are ready to move on from Andy Dalton. They could just outright release him and save $17.7 million but in this scenario, I see the New England Patriots sending a late-round draft pick for Andy Dalton. Thus, beginning the Andy Dalton and Bill Belichick tandem that we’ve all been waiting for, right? Well maybe not, but I wouldn’t be the least bit surprised if Andy Dalton was running the Patriots offense next season.
Marcus Mariota was drafted #2 overall by the Tennessee Titans in the 2015 NFL Draft, but things haven’t quite gone as planned. Mariota’s passing yards, passing touchdowns, and QBR have declined in each of the past four seasons and culminated in his benching in Week 6 of the 2019 NFL season. He was replaced by Ryan Tannehill who went on to lead the Titans to the AFC Championship game. Mariota’s time in Nashville is over and it’s time for him to look for a new job. Plenty of teams will be calling, offering him their backup quarterback job this summer. Whether any teams will offer him a chance to compete for their starting quarterback position I’m not sure.
My ideal landing spot for him would be to the Cincinnati Bengals on a two years contract totaling around $20 million. If the Bengals take a quarterback in this upcoming draft, Mariota would provide solid competition and be one of the best backup quarterbacks in the NFL. If their rookie quarterback isn’t quite ready to start at the beginning of the season, Mariota could always begin the season as the Bengals starting quarterback until they feel their rookie quarterback is ready to take that next step. A similar example to this would be when the Cleveland Browns began the season with Tyrod Taylor as their starting quarterback. This was during Baker Mayfield’s rookie season, and Baker eventually took over as the starter in week four of the season.
The Denver Broncos could move on from Joe Flacco this summer. If they did, it would clear out $10 million dollars in cap space, which they could use to re-sign some of their own players or use to pursue free agents from other teams. If they do release Joe Flacco, the team will also have a dead cap of $13.65 million this season. That’s a lot of money to pay a player to not be on your team. I don’t think Joe Flacco gets moved this summer. I believe he can provide a solid backup for their young developing quarterback Drew Lock. Flacco is an experienced veteran who could provide quality insights to the 23-year-old as he continues to learn how to prepare as an NFL starting quarterback.
If the Broncos do in fact decide to part ways with Flacco I think his most likely landing spot could be to the Buffalo Bills as a backup quarterback to Josh Allen. Flacco similarly could provide a great veteran presence for the young developing quarterback in Josh Allen. Allen will be 24 years old this upcoming season and probably could use a veteran QB who can help him prepare for the Bills opponents each week.
Case Keenum is the last free agent on my list. He is a journeyman quarterback who has spent time with the Texans, Rams, Vikings, Broncos, and most recently the Redskins. Keenum provides a team with one of the best backup quarterbacks in the league. One who can step in and start whenever is needed. This is exactly why I think he is a perfect fit for none other than the Philadelphia Eagles. Carson Wentz is the Eagles franchise quarterback. The one big problem: he tends to get hurt a lot. Nick Foles led the Eagles to a Super Bowl victory after Wentz got hurt in the 2017 season. This year when Wentz got hurt the Eagles called on Josh McCown to try and fill that void but he isn’t the best option to have as a backup quarterback, and considering he will be 41 years old when the 2020 NFL season rolls around he probably isn’t the best option at backup quarterback going forward either. Case Keenum could provide the Eagles with a quality backup in case Wentz goes down with another injury next season. Signing Keenum to say, a 3-year $21 million dollar contract would solve the Eagles backup quarterback situation for the foreseeable future.
This concludes my article on where the top 12 potential free agent quarterbacks should go this offseason. If you liked what you read, subscribe to my website www.watermansportstalk.com and you will continue to see great sports content.