With NFL free agency fast approaching, the market at the league’s most important position is more intriguing than it’s been in years.
The talent at the position on the open market is unlike what we normally see, but the drama may be overblown, considering the best of the best have been around for years and may sail off to retirement rather than sign with a new team. Nevertheless, we can break down what may happen with the 10 best quarterbacks on the free agent market in 2020.
Honorable Mention: Chase Daniel, Chicago
It seems like he’s been around forever, but Daniel is just 33 years of age.
He’s long been considered one of the better backups in the NFL, though he’s never had to start more than two games in a season.
His two years with the Bears have been his most productive, throwing for 950 yards and six touchdowns. With Mitch Trubisky’s struggles as the starter in Chicago, it would make a lot of sense for the team to keep him, although they may go for one of the signal-callers with more upside on the market.
10. Blake Bortles, Los Angeles Rams
Bortles’ AFC Championship season in Jacksonville feels like ancient history now. At 28, he may have another shot at a starting gig if he gets lucky.
With the Rams’ system being a good fit for both Bortles and Jared Goff, and the latter not having a great season following a Super Bowl run a year ago, he may yet get a shot in an effective offense – if LA decides to hold onto him. I don’t know that another team would start him out of the gate in 2020.
9. Marcus Mariota, Tennessee
He won’t be the last 2012 draftee or Titans quarterback to show up on this list.
Mariota got his starting job taken away thanks to the resurgence of Ryan Tannehill in 2020. Mariota’s fate lies entirely on what happens with Tannehill, regardless of the opinion that Tennessee should keep them both.
While Mariota hasn’t been what the league hoped him to be, he’s still got a shot at starting regardless of where he lands.
8. Case Keenum, Washington
Another quarterback relatively far removed from the most successful stint of his career, Keenum saw time in 10 games for Washington, who looks likely to head in the direction of Dwayne Haskins long-term.
Both Keenum and Colt McCoy, the other QBs in the locker room, are free agents, but simply having the brain of Alex Smith around for Haskins to pick should suffice enough to let one of the others walk. Considering Keenum is still a fringe starter, he will be more expensive and less necessary in D.C.
7. Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay
It’s pretty obvious that the 30-touchdown, 30-interception season Winston had in 2019 will not suffice to his salary request of $30 million.
The biggest question here is not his potential – he’s very likely to be a late bloomer and still have a generally successful NFL career. But are the Bucs tired of him?
This is the year Tampa can move on from him for good, and even if they don’t pick up a quarterback who has the potential of Winston, they can grab someone decent and end up with a win-win scenario; either they surpass expectations on a bargain, or they have a better draft pick to find the future.
6. Teddy Bridgewater, New Orleans
The Saints’ quarterback room is arguably the most interesting in the league right now. Each of their top three guys, Bridgewater, Drew Brees and Taysom Hill are all currently free agents (Hill of the restricted variety) and each of them can make a case to be a starting quarterback right now in the NFL.
If Bridgewater wants to be the starter-in-waiting, then it shouldn’t hurt him all that much to hang out in New Orleans for another year or two if they also bring back Brees (and decide to pay both of them). But multiple teams don’t have a QB as good as the 28-year-old, and he may get the chance to start right away somewhere.
5. Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers
Rivers’ situation has more clarity than anyone else on this list, as he is not going to return to the Chargers after spending his entire career with the team. This is the half of the list where retirement becomes a clear option for multiple talented veterans, and it could be the most likely option for Rivers. But I have a feeling he still has the competitive itch in him, with some putting him on the edge of the Hall of Fame. A ring in his twilight years would make those arguments sound a whole lot better.
4. Dak Prescott, Dallas
He may be the best quarterback on this list overall when considering age and consistency, but the 27-year-old just hasn’t been good enough to take the Cowboys where they expect to go.
Unless they’re really impressed by the No. 3 quarterback on this list, they’re not likely to find someone better than Prescott. They could just blow it up and trade up in the draft for a rookie QB, but with a relatively decent team and new head coach, Dak is likely the answer for Dallas.
3. Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee
Most people had completely written Tannehill off as he could never prove himself to be a decent starting QB with Miami. But it turns out a change of scenery was exactly what the 32-year-old needed as he led the Titans to the AFC Championship as the starter in 2019.
Today’s NFL is smarter than it was in the past and no team is likely to break the bank for Tannehill’s services. With that being said, someone will still be desperate enough to overpay for them. Will it be the Titans or someone else?
2. Tom Brady, New England
The GOAT becomes the free agent for the first time in his career. Brady, 43, has been surrounded by rumors of disconnect with head coach Bill Belichick and owner Robert Kraft for years, mostly stemming from the trade of Jimmy Garoppolo. There’s nothing really left to prove for Brady, unless he wants to prove the people wrong who say that he is only good because of Belichick’s coaching. Not many teams will pay a quarterback as old as Brady for very long, but he probably has an OK season or two in him. With two teams who have uncertain quarterback situations moving into new stadiums in 2020, his best option salary-wise may be to play for a team looking to sell tickets.
1. Drew Brees, New Orleans
Brees may not have the prestige of Brady, but his talent and his age (two years younger than Brady at 41) are on his side.
Rumors of retirement have also surrounded Brees, but it’s clear he’s been good enough with recent Saints teams that, in the right situation, he has a shot at a second ring if he sticks around, regardless of where he may go.