Let’s dispense with the Derek Carr-Tom Brady scenarios first and get down to the business of figuring out who might go where in what promises to be an active free agency period for quarterbacks.
Brady was reportedly a possibility for the Raiders were he to leave New England, according to a Super Bowl Sunday report by ESPN’s Adam Schefter. The same day he had a mysterious social media post that later turned out to be a commercial for the streaming service Hulu.
As for Carr, in some quarters he’ll be rumored to be on his way out up until the day he takes his first snap for the Las Vegas Raiders.
A look at Carr and Brady, as well as other quarterbacks scheduled for unrestricted free agency and a couple who are still under contract but could be headed elsewhere:
Publicly and privately, Carr believes he’s headed to Las Vegas. My stance on this hasn’t wavered. When you sort through all the options, putting a better team around Carr would happen quicker than starting over with new quarterback, whether it be a veteran or a rookie.
That’s not to say Jon Gruden and Mike Mayock won’t consider other options, but the feeling here is they’ll wind up in the same place.
Carr has never played on team with a good defense. Even in 2016, the Raiders leaked like sieve en route to 12-4 but thrived with a plus-16 turnover margin that had an element of randomness to it. The whole balance and relatively safe passing game can work when you’ve got a defense. Carr hasn’t had that yet.
Gruden and Mayock do love draft picks however, especially after last year, and you have to allow for a team overwhelming the Raiders with an offer for Carr. It would be hard for a portion of the Raiders fan base to believe, but Carr would be a commodity given a contract that’s fairly reasonable by current standards.
Team to watch: Indianapolis. Would be a clear upgrade over Jacoby Brissett as Colts embark on second year of life without Andrew Luck.
So Brady takes less all these years to help the Patriots with their salary cap and now he wants $30 million or more in free agency when his skills are finally in decline?
The thought of the Raiders or anyone else putting out that kind of money for a 42-year-old quarterback who has played for one team and been entrenched in a system of football for his entire professional life would be a huge roll of the dice.
The likely scenario is he takes a look around and stays with Bill Belichick and Josh McDaniels. Although the tampering period for free agency begins March 16, a key date is March 8. On that day the Patriots take a $13.5 million salary cap charge for the acceleration of his previous signing bonus. If he’s not a Patriot by then, the chances of him leaving increase.
Team to watch: L.A. Chargers. Yes, they’d be trading one old quarterback for another, but this one throws a lot fewer interceptions and is one year removed from the playoffs.
Potential unrestricted free agents
Similar to Brady in that Brees is near the end of the line and has built a Hall of Fame career under a system of football created by Sean Payton in New Orleans. I suppose he could move on from that system like Joe Montana did going from the 49ers to the Chiefs, but that’s not the way to bet. More likely, the unrestricted free agent finishes his career with the Saints. He even said as much on Jan. 24: “I’ll always be a Saint.”
Team to watch: L.A. Chargers (see above). Plus, Brees would be returning to the franchise where he started his career.
All indications are the Cowboys are going to use the franchise tag if necessary and have no intention of allowing Prescott out the door as an unrestricted free agent. But Jerry Jones will have to swallow hard to pay Prescott a salary commensurate with the Russell Wilson-Aaron Rodgers realm. Prescott has always had a great line and a feature back in Ezekiel Elliott and there’s no guarantee he’d as good somewhere else.
Team to watch: Chicago. The Bears have to realize by now Mitchell Trubisky was a huge mistake.
Another case where it’s tough to determine if Tannehill suddenly came into his own as an upper level quarterback with help from a terrific running game and a solid system or if it was all a mirage. Maybe he was simply stuck in a bad situation in Miami. Will be tempting for Titans to use the franchise tag and pay more than $27 million to see if the jump in scoring from 16.3 to 30.4 after Tannehill took over was something sustainable.
Team to watch: Raiders. Not sure what impressed Gruden more, the 391 yards passing or the open field tackle on Maurice Hurst after a deflected interception at the Coliseum.
The Chargers gave Rivers little help in terms of pass blocking. But while Rivers has always thrown a lot of 50-50 balls, last season he seemed willing to go 40-60 or 30-70 with the defense having as much as an opportunity as the offense. Still, Rivers’ competitive fire could be useful to a team looking for a bridge quarterback. He and the Chargers have already said their goodbyes.
Team to watch: Tampa Bay. Rivers has already moved from California to Florida and he’d still probably throw fewer interceptions than Jameis Winston.
Winston had never thrown for 30 touchdown passes and had 33 for Tampa Bay in 2019. He’d never had more than 18 interceptions and threw 30, to go along with 5,109 yards passing. He also lost five fumbles, turning it over 35 times in 16 games. Exactly where that leaves Winston with Bruce Arians is uncertain.
Team to watch: Denver. The Broncos haven’t gotten it right since Peyton Manning retired. No reason to think they will this time either.
Performed well while Brees was injured for Saints, completing 67.9% of his passes in nine games with five starts and nine touchdown passes and two interceptions. But his arm strength has always been suspect and he’s not all that mobile after nearly losing his career early on to a torn ACL and dislocated knee. A rarity in that he’s a backup that could operate effectively for a good team in the postseason. Wise move would be to stay where he is.
Team to watch: New England. If Brady leaves, Bridgewater’s a stop-gap who can win.
The Titans took off under Tannehill after Mariota was sent to the bench, and he’ll likely be seeking a backup job somewhere. Has never showed he could be a be a winner on the strength of his passing skill.
Team to watch: Pittsburgh. Insurance in case Ben Roethlisberger is slow to recover from elbow surgery.
Has a year left on his contract and it’s conceivable he could be kept around for that year assuming Cincinnati drafts Joe Burrow No. 1 in the draft. Cincinnati could even give Burrow the Carson Palmer treatment, sitting him a year before putting him on the field. If not, could be the best of the bridge quarterbacks available for teams awaiting their next quarterback of the future.
Team to watch: Miami. Ryan Fitzpatrick is the projected starter and usually ends up back on the bench.
The final year of his contract with an $18.6 million salary and health concerns after shoulder surgery. Has taken a beating over the course of his career. His run-pass days could be limited and who knows if he can carry a team with his arm after the injury?
Team to watch: Washington. Was an MVP under Ron Rivera in Washington and Dwayne Haskins will be starting all over after his rookie year learning a new offense.
Not going anywhere
Patrick Mahomes (Chiefs), Lamar Jackson (Ravens), Russell Wilson (Seahawks), Aaron Rodgers (Packers), Deshaun Watson (Texans), Jimmy Garoppolo (49ers), Matt Ryan (Falcons), Kyler Murray (Cardinals), Ben Roethlisberger (Steelers), Carson Wentz (Eagles), Jared Goff (Rams), Baker Mayfield (Browns), Matthew Stafford (Lions), Kirk Cousins (Vikings), Sam Darnold (Jets), Josh Allen (Bills), Daniel Jones (Giants), Dwayne Haskins (Washington)