NFL Free Agency Preview: QB
Free agency is almost upon us and as usual, the most talked-about free agents will be the franchise quarterbacks. Here we will take a look at the top 7 free agents at the position and decide where they could potentially land. The QB carousel has the potential to be a doozy this year, as there are some of the greatest to ever play the position testing the waters. A tier down from those guys there is a group of young players with flaws but loads of upside. Where will they be taking snaps in 2020? How much will they be getting paid? Let’s find out.
Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints (Age 41)
The best option available for 2020 is Brees. And there are really only two options for the New Orleans legend. Brees will either be playing 2020 with the Saints or he will retire. This means it will come down to a mutual decision by the Saints and Brees. The two decisions that could cause this relationship to fall apart are the Saints deciding it is time for a new era in New Orleans, or Brees deciding they are not going to pay him enough to suffer through another season. Being that Brees has made 244 million over the course of his career this seems like the less likely of the two options.
Spotrac has Brees’ market value set at 73 million over 2 seasons, for an average annual value (AAV) of 36.5 million. My prediction is that Brees cannot turn down the temptation of throwing the pigskin to Michael Thomas for another year and the last two seasons left a bad taste in his mouth. Given Brees’ talks of retirement, we won’t predict him to sign for 2 seasons, but we’ll go with Brees returning to the Saints for 1 year and 36.5 million.
Tom Brady, New England Patriots (Age 42)
Brady has spent the last 20 seasons with the New England Patriots. Brady is the epitome of the “Patriot Way” and is the most beloved athlete in Boston sports history. So, would the Patriots balk at bringing him back if he wants to keep playing? If you believe the reports coming out early this offseason, they might. Brady is reportedly going to take meetings with other teams during free agency for the first time in his career. That is already not a great look for the Pats because moving on from Brady means moving into a different, uncertain, era.
For a few years now there have been rumblings of discontent between the trio of Brady, Bill Belichick and Robert Kraft, mainly between how Kraft and Belichick would like to run the team. Kraft has a strong loyalty to Brady, and you can’t blame him after all the success (and money!) Brady has brought New England, while Belichick has a much more practical football approach. He sees an aging player who isn’t worth the money he’ll get paid so he could want to move on for good.
Brady has been linked to teams such as the Chargers, Bears and even the 49ers. And there are arguments to be made for each of these teams, but for me, he’ll be back with the Patriots in 2020. Since he does not seem to want to retire any time soon we’ll give him a 2 year 67 million dollar deal, to stay with the Patriots. At the end of the day, if Robert Kraft wants him back in New England he’ll be back, and the head honcho normally gets the last word.
Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers (Age 38)
The first player on this list whose 2019 team has already stated they are moving on is Rivers. Let’s start by saying Rivers did not look to be his normal self last season. There were many games in which it appeared Rivers was the main player holding back a fairly talented team. But this is where guessing his 2020 team is difficult, as there will absolutely be a team that is willing to pay the projected 2 years, 48 million dollar amount. If Rivers believes his services are worth more than that there is the option of retirement, which would give him the ability to spend more time with his 15 children. But given the high number of teams that need a new QB in 2020, or at least have questions at the position I assume he’ll be playing. But where?
The Buccaneers, Bears, and Colts all come to mind when thinking of a team that would be a steady veteran QB away from contending in 2020. We’ll take Rivers to the Colts for the 2 years 48 million. Jacoby Brissett didn’t show what he needed to be a franchise QB and Rivers, if he shows 2019 was a fluke, he could be just what the doctor ordered for the post-Andrew Luck era in Indianapolis.
Teddy Bridgewater, New Orleans Saints (Age 28)
This is the first guy who is no sure thing. Bridgewater has long been waiting in the wings to get another shot at being the consensus starter, ever since his horrific injury with the Vikings. You have to guess where he’ll be playing will come after Brees has made his choice about returning to the Saints or retiring. Bridgewater is projected to make more annually than he has over the course of his 7-year career. If Brees does decide to call it quits we’ll consider it almost a guarantee that Bridgewater comes back to the Saints as their full-time starter, especially after he showed he was capable during Brees’ injury absence last season. But given that I’m thinking Brees will be back for one more year, Bridgewater will be playing elsewhere in 2020.
I’m going to send Bridgewater out west to replace Rivers with the Chargers for 3 years and 60 million. This does not break the bank for LA, and it gives Bridgewater the playing time he wants. Of course, this will all go away if the Chargers decide they really want a young gun named Tua.
Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers (Age 26)
This is my favorite QB to sign this offseason. Look, we all know the weaknesses of Winston. The man cannot stop throwing into coverage and he continues, even at this point in his career, to make bad decisions under center. But there is something still so tantalizing about Winston’s potential. He might not ever turn into a Drew Brees type of player, but he could be more of the Brett Favre gunslinger (no, this is not saying he will reach Favre heights). But I think Winston will be a starter for years to come, *insert joke about his Lasik surgery here*, and I think the Buccaneers think the same. I doubt they will be letting him walk as they won’t be in the running for one of the aging QBs listed above.
The Bucs have the option to franchise tag Winston, which they should consider, but I’ll go with them signing him to an extension as this is potentially the lowest value he’ll ever have at the negotiating table, which is the most important part he won’t break the bank but offers more upside than any other QB on the market. We’ll go with the full Spotrac market value and have him return to the Buccaneers on a 4 year 107-million-dollar deal, which comes out to 26.7 AAV.
Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans (Age 31)
The most interesting case in this year’s free-agent class. Tannehill has had a roller coaster 2019. He went from being traded from the rebuilding Dolphins to the Titans, sitting for the first 6 games of the year, to taking over and going on a run that ended in the AFC championship game. As if his situation was not complicated enough, he had multiple games during the playoffs in which he threw for under 100 yards. So, putting a value on Tannehill, and how much control a team might be willing to give him, is hard. He seems to fit what the Titans want to do: grind out wins through the run game.
I find it hard to believe another team will put the same value on Tannehill as the Titans will because outside of a 10-game window, he’s never showed he should be trusted as a franchise QB. This is not to say that a team can’t win with Tannehill under center, but he is probably just more of the Alex Smith type and not the next star QB who decided to break out during his age 31 season. Because of all this, I’ll take Tannehill returning to the Titans on a 3 year 90-million-dollar deal. One less year than Spotrac is predicting.
Dak Prescott, Dallas Cowboys (Age 26)
Oh, another season of Cowboys contract drama, isn’t this fun? I fully expect this one to go the distance, with the Cowboys slapping the franchise tag on Prescott as soon as they can and continuing to attempt a long-term extension over the offseason. Wasn’t it so smart of Jerry Jones to cave to a running back’s holdout and potentially sacrifice the most important position on the team? Well now the Cowboys have gotten themselves into a position where Prescott is clearly the most important player, and he wants a bigger contract than he would’ve asked for last offseason.
The simple fix, and the one I’ll predict, will be that the Cowboys franchise tag Prescott for this season for around 26.8 million. They will attempt to sign him to a long-term deal but coming up with the money, this offseason will be tough. Spotrac has Prescott listed as deserving 33 million AAV over the next 5 years. So, since a tag would be under market value for him, this could cause a bigger rift between Prescott and the front office. But, as a player that made a total of 4.7 million over his first 4 years in the league I’d venture to guess that at the end of the day he’ll play for 26.8 million, try to further raise his value (he will) and demand even more money heading into 2021.
Drew Brees to the Saints (1yr/36.5 million)
Tom Brady to the Patriots (2yrs/67 million)
Philip Rivers to the Colts (2yrs/48 million)
Teddy Bridgewater to the Chargers (3yrs/60 million)
Jameis Winston to the Buccaneers (4yrs/107 million)
Ryan Tannehill to the Titans (3yrs/90 million)
Dak Prescott to the Cowboys (1yr/26.8 million, franchise tag)