Updated QB Carousel Predictions After NFL Combine Rumors, Buzz
Media sessions from the 2020 NFL Scouting Combine didn't clear up much when it comes to this offseason's potentially historic quarterback carousel.
It's impossible to say which move happens first, although Brees seems to be a lock to return to New Orleans. Otherwise, rumors and quotes from various team personnel in Indianapolis muddied the picture, as everyone seemed to play a game of hot potato with who makes the first move at quarterback.
While looking at some of the latest noise, let's predict where some of the top names end up based on team need, cap space, fit with the coaching staff and surrounding talent, among others. Once the first domino falls, the rest figure to follow in a flurry.
While the Dallas Cowboys have yet to lock up Dak Prescott on an extension, it feels more like a leverage standoff than a team ready to make a change under center.
New head coach Mike McCarthy was pushing that idea at the combine, according to NFL.com's Kevin Patra.
"Dak Prescott, definitely (is our franchise quarterback). It's exactly where we want to be with Dak. What he's done to this point speaks to itself. Really, Dak is in a business situation right now—I've gone through this as a coach with a number of my players in the past. I think like anything, it's just time to be patient and let the business people work out the business matter. And that's really where we are as an organization. And that's where Dak is in his personal fight to get a contract done."
Plenty of teams would love to sign Prescott if he does become available. The 26-year-old has thrown for nearly 16,000 yards and 97 touchdowns in his first four NFL seasons.
But if the standoff keeps going, the Cowboys have made it clear that they'll franchise-tag Prescott.
Nothing stands in the way of Dallas signing Prescott to a long-term deal. The Cowboys currently boast more than $77 million in cap space. They also must juggle star receiver Amari Cooper and other notable free agents, but nothing surpasses the importance of re-signing Prescott.
Nobody in Dallas should want to attempt another gamble at the position.
Destination: Dallas Cowboys
Marcus Mariota is quietly one of the most interesting free-agent quarterbacks this offseason. Unlike draft classmate Jameis Winston, the 26-year-old may still have untapped upside in the right situation.
Mariota dealt with nagging injuries and three different coaching staffs during his five years in Tennessee. Despite all of that, he completed 62.9 percent of his passes with 76 scores and 44 picks during the regular season, and he guided the Titans to a Wild Card Weekend win over the Kansas City Chiefs in 2017.
However, the marriage between the Titans and Mariota appears to be over. Tennessee figures to ride the hot hand with Ryan Tannehill, and Mariota would presumably like a chance to start somewhere else.
He might get that with the Los Angeles Chargers.
The Chargers are officially moving on from Philip Rivers. Head coach Anthony Lynn made it clear that Tyrod Taylor will have a chance to compete for the starting job. That could be an attractive opening for Mariota, who isn't likely to get a starting job handed to him outright.
In L.A., Mariota would have a handful of pass-catching backs flanking him, perhaps a big-play tight end like Hunter Henry and a strong one-two duo at wideout with Keenan Allen and Mike Williams. Even if he's only a stopgap until the Chargers draft a rookie in a year or two, the 2015 No. 2 overall pick would get a chance to recapture his predraft hype.
Destination: Los Angeles Chargers
Philip Rivers is moving on from the Los Angeles Chargers, but his market might be more muted than expected.
The 38-year-old is fresh off a season in which he threw 20 interceptions and only 23 touchdowns. He completed 66 percent of his passes and threw for 4,600-plus yards, but the Chargers sputtered to a 5-11 record.
Rivers' age and propensity for mistakes could make some teams wary of an inevitable falloff, but Tampa Bay Buccaneers head coach Bruce Arians doesn't seem to be in that group.
"As a head coach, you have to decide: 'Is there a better option?'" Arians said, according to NFL.com's Gregg Rosenthal. "I really don't know who's available. [GM Jason] Licht can talk to agents now, so we'll find out hopefully in 36 or 48 hours."
When asked who in particular would intrigue him, Arians replied: "Tom Brady. Philip (Rivers) is another guy. We'll see."
That doesn't seem to be great news for incumbent Bucs starter Jameis Winston. Don't be surprised if Rivers ends up replacing him. Rivers, by the way, just moved to the state.
Rivers is in the twilight of his career, and Tampa Bay is going to have to settle given the relative weakness of its home market and general lack of desirability compared to other openings. There are worse ways to end a career than throwing to Mike Evans, Chris Godwin and O.J. Howard.
Destination: Tampa Bay Buccaneers
A few years ago, Cam Newton was an MVP taking the Carolina Panthers to a Super Bowl.
Now, it's unclear whether he'll be on the Panthers when the 2020 season begins.
Yahoo Sports' Charles Robinson reported Monday that the Panthers are "open for business on the trade market." And why wouldn't other teams have an interest in Newton at a respectable price?
The 30-year-old has had some nagging injuries in recent years, but he's still a dynamic threat when healthy. He could also be a one-year rental, as he's entering the final year of his deal at a cap hit of $21.1 million.
However, new Panthers head coach Matt Rhule pumped the brakes on Newton trade speculation at the combine, telling reporters, "I really want him on the team." Ian Rapoport of NFL Network added the Panthers "are moving forward" with Newton as their starting quarterback, although he noted "a lot can still happen in the coming months."
Even if the Panthers do keep Newton, they could select at quarterback of the future at No. 7 this year or trade up. Meanwhile, they would have a year to see whether Newton can get healthy and how he fares in Rhule's system before making a longer-term decision about his future.
Destination: Carolina Panthers
Teddy Bridgewater isn't getting much national attention yet. Taysom Hill even outshined him for a moment.
But Bridgewater deserves a shot to start somewhere.
Before suffering a serious knee injury prior to the 2016 season, the 2014 No. 32 overall pick had two seasons in which he completed at least 64 percent of his passes. With Drew Brees sidelined by an injury last year, Bridgewater went 5-0 as a starter while throwing nine scores and only two picks.
While other teams gun for bigger names, the Indianapolis Colts should focus on Bridgewater.
The Colts already might be over the Jacoby Brissett experience. If nothing else, they may want to open up a competition without breaking the bank. Bridgewater would get to play behind one of the NFL's best offensive lines, throw to star receiver T.Y. Hilton and an assortment of capable complementary weapons and do so under the watchful eye of a strong offensive mind in Frank Reich.
Since Bridgewater won't get to take over for Drew Brees this year, going to Indianapolis could help him revitalize his career while rejuvenating a franchise that's still looking for answers under center after Andrew Luck's unexpected retirement.
Destination: Indianapolis Colts
It would be anticlimactic for Tom Brady to end up right back with the New England Patriots.
Still, speculation has gone wild over whether Brady will end up leaving Foxborough.
Tennessee Titans head coach Mike Vrabel was specifically asked about his former teammate at the combine.
"I think when you look at players that are still under contract, it's important for us to evaluate each and every position but understand that there's a time frame to have those conversations," Vrabel said, according to the Tennessean's Erik Bacharach.
But while outside noise continues to build, it's hard to see Brady going anywhere else and starting from scratch as he heads toward his 43rd birthday in August. According to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Brady's reps and the Patriots will meet at the combine. And while ESPN's Jeff Darlington reported Brady intends to hit the market and look at other teams, even that smells of a leverage play.
Despite all of the speculation, Brady likely won't explore his options in free agency. The posturing has created fun hypotheticals, but the marriage between Brady and the Patriots won't end now.
Destination: New England Patriots