NFL free agency is set to begin, along with the 2020 “league year,” March 18, at 4 p.m., and there are a handful of intriguing free agent quarterbacks that could reshape the landscape of the NFL as we know it.
Quarterback Tom Brady is going to be the first quarterback domino to fall this offseason as rumors have yet to stop about what Brady’s next move could be. Brady has spent all 20 years of his illustrious career in New England. Much like everyone else, I find it hard to believe that, at age 42, Brady is looking to learn a new organization and playbook. The three teams with the best chances to land Brady this off-season are the New England Patriots, Tennessee Titans and Las Vegas Raiders.
The speculation behind each team varies as Brady is very familiar with the Patriots. The Titans are an interesting option due to Brady’s connection with Titan head coach Mike Vrable. Brady and Vrable played together in New England from 2001 to 2008. The two have maintained a strong personal relationship and the Titans are the team that eliminated the Patriots from the 2019 postseason.
The Las Vegas Raiders are the least likely option in my opinion. However, the Raiders have a plethora of draft picks, a deep pocket and an eager head coach in Jon Gruden. The reason I don’t find the Raiders a likely option, despite the rumors going around that they are going to aggressively pursue Brady, is the fact that current Raiders quarterback Derek Carr had a solid season in 2019. He threw for over 4,000 yards and under 10 interceptions with a very injured supporting cast. My prediction is that Brady re-signs with the New England Patriots on a two-year, 30 million dollar contract.
The next quarterback being spotlighted is Jameis Winston. Winston was the number one overall pick in the 2015 draft and has had a bizarre career to this point. In 2019, Winston led the league in throwing yards at 5,109 yards, passing touchdowns at 33, and, unfortunately, also led the league in interceptions at 30. In an effort to combat his interception issue, Winston finally addressed his vision problem. Winston underwent Lasik eye surgery in an effort to fix his vision so he would no longer be seen squinting in order to see down the field.
The three most attractive options for Winston are the Chicago Bears, Los Angeles Chargers and Indianapolis Colts. It would be easy to say the Tampa Bay Buccaneers are going to bring Winston back, but comments made by Tampa coach Bruce Arians such as, “if we can win with this quarterback, we can definitely win with another one too,” lead me to think that Tampa is ready to move in a new direction. However, the Bears may not be very aggressive in attempting to sign Winston because they have Mitchell Tribusky as quarterback, whom they drafted second overall in the 2018 draft.
The Bears could be ready to move on from Tribusky after multiple disappointing seasons and Winston could come in and learn from head coach Matt Naggy. If Winston can limit his turnovers and an already stacked Bears defense continues to play as well as they have, the Bears could transition themselves into legitimate competitors this offseason.
The Los Angeles Chargers have long been rumored to be all-in on draft prospect Justin Herbert, but if he is off the board at their selection, the Chargers could elect to go with Winston. Winston would present no obvious drop off from the way former Charger quarterback Phillip Rivers plays this offseason. A change of scenery to the west coast could do Winston good, as he has spent all of his pro and collegiate career in Florida.
The Indianapolis Colts and Winston should have a mutual interest in each other. The Colts have one of the best and youngest offensive lines in the NFL, as well as a brilliant head coach, strong defense, money and draft capital.
My prediction is that Winston remains unsigned until after the NFL draft before signing with a team that misses out on a quarterback in the draft. I like Winston to the Colts on a five-year contract worth market value, but if Winston is left waiting too long after the draft, look for him to take a one-year deal somewhere in hopes of landing a long-term contract next offseason.
The final quarterback highlighted in this article is going to be Phillip Rivers. The longtime face of the San Diego/ Los Angeles Chargers has officially agreed to part ways with the franchise and has been linked to a few teams. The veteran and potential hall of fame candidate has been linked to the Indianapolis Colts, Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Carolina Panthers.
The Colts have seemed to be interested in Rivers for months now and it’s easy to see why. He is a cheaper option compared to someone like Winston, he is a proven veteran and is a short-term option for a team who is ready to win now.
The Buccaneers would be an interesting option for Rivers, as they have arguably the best set of receivers to throw to with two receivers finishing in the top 10 in yards last season along with a top 10 ranked defense and a coach who has proven he can win with a veteran quarterback in Bruce Arians.
The dark horse in the Phillip Rivers sweepstakes is the Carolina Panthers. Rivers, who played his college ball at NC State, could return to North Carolina to play and mentor a potential rookie draft pick if the Panthers decide to move on from Cam Newton. Newton may still be able to play, but he has been unable to stay healthy enough to be on the field. I expect Rivers to be patient in his decision and make what is probably the last contract of his career. I expect Rivers to want to sign with the Colts if that option is there, on a one-year deal. If not, I expect Rivers and Tampa Bay to come to a two-year contract worth market value.