The Best Potential Landing Spots for Mitchell Trubisky in 2021
Mitchell Trubisky's 2020 season ended on a sour note.
He threw one touchdown pass to tight end Jimmy Graham as time expired in a 21-9 wild-card game loss to the New Orleans Saints. However, some teams may look at his 2018 Pro Bowl year and a string of decent performances this season through December as a sign of untapped potential.
In Week 12, Trubisky reclaimed his starting job as Nick Foles nursed a hip injury. With the former under center and a strong ground attack, the Chicago Bears made a run for a playoff spot and clinched the seventh seed in the NFC.
Yet according to NFL Network's Ian Rapoport, Trubisky needed to win in the playoffs or else his return to Chicago would seem unlikely. The Bears will retain general manager Ryan Pace and head coach Matt Nagy, so the fourth-year quarterback probably hits the free-agent market in search of new beginnings this offseason.
As the No. 2 overall pick from the 2017 draft, Trubisky should resurface elsewhere. Teams can sign him for a primary backup role, or he could battle a starter on the hot seat for the first-string job.
We'll take a look at four teams that could work out for Trubisky and may sign a quarterback.
The Dallas Cowboys may need to find another backup signal-caller or perhaps something more if negotiations with Dak Prescott fall apart.
On 105.3 The Fan (h/t The Athletic's Jon Machota), Cowboys executive vice president Stephen Jones expressed interest on Jan. 4 in re-signing Andy Dalton and made a clear statement that the Cowboys are "very committed" to Prescott.
Dalton intends to test the free-agent market with an open mind, per Rob Phillips of the Cowboys' official website.
"There's a lot to be decided this offseason," Dalton said. "This is my first time being a free agent when the new league year starts, so I'll go through the process of everything and weigh all of my options and see what I got."
Because of the Cowboys' commitment to Prescott, Dalton could eye another team that has a less stable quarterback situation and would give him a chance to start again in the near future.
Schematically, Trubisky makes sense for the Cowboys.
He played well alongside an effective ground attack at the end of this season. Between 2014 and 2019, Dallas fielded a top-10 rushing offense each term. In 2020, the unit fell below that mark partially because of injuries to top offensive linemen Tyron Smith, La'el Collins and Zack Martin.
If the Cowboys come back healthy in the trenches, Trubisky would have a complementary run game in the event he has to start in place of Prescott.
The Cowboys have talked about a long-term deal for Prescott since 2018. If the two sides continue to stalemate on a new contract agreement, Trubisky could have a shot at the lead position.
Trubisky could also open the season as a starter if Prescott isn't ready to play Week 1 after undergoing ankle surgery in October. Head coach Mike McCarthy didn't give a timetable for the quarterback's return to action, per ESPN's Todd Archer:
"He's here every day going through rehab. He's making progress, and just as you'd expect, he's going after it full speed. "So as far as the timeline, I don't have the specifics on when he's going to be doing on-the-field work and dates and things like that. I don't have that for you. But I do know based on the plan for his surgery and what he's supposed to be doing and where he is, everything is right on course."
At times, Trubisky struggles with his accuracy, but he would have a talented wide receiver group that features Amari Cooper, Michael Gallup and CeeDee Lamb to help his efficiency. The 26-year-old also has comparable mobility to Prescott (1,314 rushing yards in five seasons), logging 1,057 yards on the ground in four seasons.
While we can easily draw the connection between former Bears defensive coordinator and current Denver Broncos head coach Vic Fangio and Mitchell Trubisky, this fit goes beyond their familiarity in the past when they were in Chicago during the 2017 and 2018 terms.
John Elway relinquished his general managerial duties. To fill the role, Denver hired George Paton, who will make roster personnel decisions. Although Elway is tied to 2019 second-rounder Drew Lock, the former Vikings executive may want to add veteran or rookie competition.
Lock didn't solidify himself as the long-term starter. In 2020, he threw 16 touchdowns and 15 interceptions, completing just 57.3 percent of his passes through 13 starts. For comparison, Trubisky had a more efficient 2020 campaign, throwing for 2,055 yards, 16 touchdowns and eight interceptions with a 67.0 percent completion rate in 10 contests.
At the end of the season, Fangio chose not to name Lock the starter for 2021 and made a comment about the need for improvement.
The Broncos could go into the upcoming campaign with Lock in the pole position to start, but Trubisky would give the team a chance to pivot if the Missouri product doesn't make strides in his third season.
Denver can still use the No. 9 overall pick on a quarterback to groom for the future, though Fangio may prefer to sign an experienced starter who has helped lead his team to two playoff appearances. Under a new general manager, Fangio goes into a crucial third year with a 12-20 head coaching record.
New England Patriots
The New England Patriots don't have a clear-cut long-term starting quarterback.
According to Jeff Howe of The Athletic, the Patriots will look at other options before making a decision on Cam Newton.
"While the Patriots have not ruled out re-signing Newton, the belief is they'll initially seek other alternatives," Howe wrote. "If those don't pan out and they believe Newton can be better with more help around him, he could be back."
Newton only threw for 2,657 yards and eight touchdowns with 10 interceptions this season without much help. Julian Edelman missed 10 contests after undergoing surgery on his knee. Jakobi Meyers led the Patriots in receptions (59) and yards (729).
Jarrett Stidham hasn't shown enough to put himself in the discussion for the lead job. He's yet to start a game and completed just 50 percent of his passes (24 of 48) in eight career contests.
Trubisky would probably struggle with the Patriots' current pass-catching group, but he can use his legs to offset the shortcomings at wide receiver and tight end if necessary. The Patriots could use his mobility along with running backs Damien Harris and Sony Michel to field a top-five ground attack in consecutive seasons.
Nevertheless, the Patriots will have a projected $58.7 million in cap space for 2021. They certainly have the financial capital to add an impact receiver or two in order to help an experienced play-caller such as Trubisky.
Patriots offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels may be able to mold Trubisky into a more consistent starting quarterback. Newton, 31, has likely already peaked in his career.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Mitchell Trubisky would have no chance to start over Tom Brady in 2021. However, with some patience, he could contend for the starting job in 2022.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers don't have a quarterback under contract beyond the 2021 season. At the end of Brady's age-44 term, the front office may have to scramble for his successor.
If the Buccaneers remain playoff contenders for another year with Brady, they won't have a high first-round pick for the 2022 draft. Barring a trade up, Tampa Bay would need to hit on a prospect outside of the top 10 or acquire a veteran for a long-term plan under center.
Trubisky could reinvent himself in a new chapter with the Buccaneers. He would have Mike Evans, who's under contract through the 2023 campaign, and perhaps fellow wideout Chris Godwin if Tampa Bay re-signs him to a new deal this offseason.
The Buccaneers shouldn't put all their hopes in Trubisky, but he would provide an experienced veteran option who's helped lead two Chicago Bears teams to the playoffs.
Player contract details and team cap-space projections provided by Spotrac.