We all know that the LA Chargers could be in the market for a new starting quarterback for the first time in more than a decade and a half and if you don’t know, just search Twitter for something like “Ok, what did Jay Glazer say about Philip Rivers today?” That’s a long search. Didn’t need all those words. Just the keywords, okay?
But the gist is that the Chargers could need a new QB. They could try to do that through the draft, but it’s more than possible that a rookie won’t help them get back to the postseason and that might be a scary proposition for Anthony Lynn coming off of a 5-11 campaign. Moving into SoFi Stadium next season, I think LA has to shoot for something better than a transition year.
Especially since a much bigger transition is coming with 2021’s star-studded Chargers free agent class.
Knowing that, I had to gain full perspective around the NFL at every QB situation. It’s just the way my brain will process this best and I bet it’ll give us a lot more insight into how good LA’s prospects for landing a new QB really are. Not just another quarterback with a laundry list of problems that they’ll have to work around, but one who presents them with the best opportunity to win now.
And then we must see if that best QB option is still Philip Rivers. Here’s what I found, opinions are obviously that. My opinions. But I’m more than open to corrections and additional, helpful info.
Patriots: Tom Brady (FA), Jarrett Stidham, Cody Kessler
Seems Bill Belichick will either re-sign Brady or go with Stidham and a different veteran option. Stidham was a fourth round pick out of Auburn, so he’s not exactly the wunderkind that every team is jealous of despite glowing practice reports. Yes Allen, we’re talking about practice. The Pats will either keep Brady off of the market or let the potential GOAT cause chaos as a free agent target a la Peyton Manning in 2012. If he leaves, that means New England likely takes another one off of the market since Stidham seems to carry too much risk (we just don’t know him at all yet) to go at it alone in 2020.
Jets: Sam Darnold, David Fales (FA), Trevor Siemian (FA)
They may switch out the backup but Darnold is the guy for 2020. For what it’s worth, the Jets were the worst passing team in the NFL last season by many measures. (But I don’t hate Darnold. Imagine what he could do one day after he escapes Adam Gase and goes to the Titans!)
Wow. I just remembered that Sam Darnold lead the 1-7 New York Jets to 7 wins after missing the first quarter of the season with a serious illness. I also just remembered that he did this with a historically putrid OL and very poor coaching from Adam Gase and Dowell Loggains.— Jets Opinion (@JetsOpinion) January 25, 2020
Dolphins: Ryan Fitzpatrick, Josh Rosen
I was surprised to learn that Fitzpatrick is not a free agent, so Miami still has both QBs under contract for next season. That also seems to imply that at least one of them will be on the move unless Brian Flores really wants to repeat his QB play next year. Fitzpatrick wants to be the guy, so does Rosen. And yet it could be someone not on the team yet. There’s probably no trade value left in Rosen beyond day three swaps. What could the Dolphins have had with that second round pick instead? It may sound crazy but my gut says that despite Miami’s potential intent to draft a QB, that they’ll give Rosen more time. Maybe they instead swap out Fitzpatrick for a veteran with a higher ceiling, but they actually could stick with both of these players.
Bills: Josh Allen, Matt Barkley
Ravens: Lamar Jackson, Robert Griffin III, Trace McSorley
Baltimore’s QB will be the MVP and yet they’ll spend barely more than $5 million total on Lamar and RGIII combined.
Bengals: Andy Dalton (Cut Candidate), Ryan Finley, Jacob Dolegala
Dalton is set to be the highest-paid player on maybe the worst roster, but at only $17.7 million. The Bengals would save all of it if he was released though and they’re going to be drafting Joe Burrow here soon anyway. They could make other moves to save money and decide to have Dalton as one of the most expensive backups, which is maybe not that bad of an idea. Would he be willing to take a paycut as an “I owe you” for that 0-4 playoff record? Cincinnati is looking, but not for a veteran. They’ve got their guy in waiting.
Player A:— Whodeynation_news (@whodeynationews) January 25, 2020
241.62 passing yards per game
1.55 passing TD's per game
1.03 INT per game
240.25 passing yards per game
1.53 passing TD's per game
0.88 INT per game
Player A is supposedly a future HOF'er
Player B is Andy Dalton
Looking? No, but maybe they should be
It would be crazy to say that Cleveland should replace Baker Mayfield after his poor performance in 2019, but maybe not so crazy to wonder if these next 1-3 seasons will just be spinning wheels on another high draft pick who eventually fades away with little in professional accomplishments. The Browns could be in the market for their own “Ryan Tannehill” this year, a backup who maybe has more skills than just another Garrett Gilbert or Drew Stanton.
Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger, Devlin Hodges, Paxton Lynch, Mason Rudolph, J.T. Barrett
Pittsburgh has five QBs under contract right now, including Ben at a $33 million cap hit in 2020. They’d save a little more than $8 million if they released him or he retired. At this point, neither of those seem implausible, though it is more likely that Ben returns to a team that may have had the NFL’s best defense last year. The thing is that Ben does have four backups right now but none of them look like professional starting quarterbacks. That means that the Steelers could be a team low-key looking at free agency and trades but high-key scouring the draft for a future.
Colts: Jacoby Brissett, Brian Hoyer, Chad Kelly
Chris Ballard may be a good GM, but he did not a good thing when he extended Brissett right after Andrew Luck’s retirement, perhaps as a reward or a vote of confidence or whatever. It did not work as a confidence boost as Brissett showed why he’s got an excellent future as someone’s backup. He’s also a good example of how the context around “good QB numbers” has shifted as his 18/6 TD:INT ratio seems good, but his 6.6 yards per attempt is very bad and the Colts finished as a bottom-tier passing attack. The same offense with Luck was in the top-10.
#Colts GM Chris Ballard joined @dandakich for almost 40 minutes today. Tons of topics:— Andrew Walker (@AWalkerColts) January 24, 2020
» Jacoby Brissett’s future in Indy.
» Andrew Luck’s retirement.
» 2019 rookie class.
» Quincy Wilson, Tyquan Lewis, Deon Cain, Chad Kelly.
» Much more.
So Indy is looking but they also have Brissett and they’ll save $9 million in releasing him. Brissett is looking at a $7 million roster bonus if on the team on the third day of the league year. The Colts could quickly go from “We have a starter” to a team with Hoyer and Kelly atop the depth chart entering free agency. Because of their reputation as a competitive organization with a solid offensive line and the most cap room in the NFL, Indy could emerge as the number one desired destination for any free agent QB.
Jaguars: Nick Foles, Gardner Minshew, Joshua Dobbs
Looking? Who knows...
Every team looking for a QB this season will hope to avoid being the next Jaguars+Foles. It was a bad $88 million deal then, and it’s even worse now. They can save $3 million if they traded him, but would still be left with $18.7 in dead money on the books for 2020 alone. Jacksonville will also be making significant cuts just to get comfortably under the cap for next season. But because of Minshew, it seems unlikely that the team would go for broke another high profile QB. They either bring back the duo or let Minshew take control.
Titans: Ryan Tannehill (FA), Marcus Mariota (FA)
Looking? I doubt it
They either franchise or re-sign Tannehill. I mean, I could make a pretty good argument for not doing that, but I’m 108% sure that they’re going to keep Tannehill.
Broncos: Joe Flacco, Drew Lock, Brandon Allen (RFA)
They aren’t desperate for cash but they could save $10 million by releasing Flacco, putting another vet on the market. Lock will be the starter.
Chargers: Philip Rivers (FA), Tyrod Taylor, Easton Stick
Looking? You tell me.
Raiders: Derek Carr, Mike Glennon (FA), DeShone Kizer
Looking? No, but they could
Last year may have been the time to start looking to replace Carr. At this point though Carr is close to being the longest-tenured starting QB among any team in the AFC. They’d save $16.5 million by releasing or trading him, but they aren’t cash-strapped yet. But Carr is nothing special and they’d generate more interest in Las Vegas if they drafted someone relatively early. Or signed Brady.
We’ve got PFF’s QB rankings from the 2019 season (including playoffs)!— PFF Las Vegas Raiders (@PFF_Raiders) January 29, 2020
Derek Carr had the second-best PFF grade of his career this year, leading to him coming in at #11 in the rankings!
Check out the PFF QB Annual for more detail on Carr’s season!https://t.co/xVFBvtqT4R
Cowboys: Dak Prescott (FA), Cooper Rush (RFA)
They aren’t going to part with Dak Prescott unless the NFL really has made a monumental shift in franchise QB philosophy.
Giants: Daniel Jones, Eli Manning (RETIRED), Alex Tanney
Looking? Only for a veteran backup
Looking? Only for a veteran backup, but maybe just re-sign McCown
Washington: Dwayne Haskins, Case Keenum (FA), Colt McCoy (FA)
Looking? Again, only for a veteran backup
In fact, the entire NFC East is basically a young-to-young(ish) starter, two of whom are no longer cheap, and a need at backup.
Bears: Mitchell Trubisky, Chase Daniel (FA)
The worst possible move here for Matt Nagy and GM Ryan Pace would be to try it all again with Trubisky and Trubisky alone. You took him over Watson and Mahomes. Oh well. It happened. Now how do you respond because Trubisky is just not looking like a starter in this league and the Bears have spent a lot to have a quality defense in a vulnerable division. In fact, they can’t use a first rounder on a QB because they dealt it for Khalil Mack. Speaking of which, they won’t have as much money to spend as other teams, but can they convince a Brady or a Rivers perhaps that they’re giving them the best shot to get to the Super Bowl?
I just can’t see this #Bears team basically saying “whatever happens happens” next season with a Bridge QB while you hire 2 former QB’s to join the staff. I believe it’s going to be 1 of these 3. pic.twitter.com/g4JrTmi0ng— DolphinLoaf (@DolphinLoaf) January 23, 2020
Lions: Matthew Stafford, David Blough, Kyle Sloter
Stafford was having his best statistical season in 2019. But it’s hard for me to feel compelled to believe that Detroit is going to ever compete on their current path. If we wanted to get really speculative and fantastical, would a team ever consider trading two first rounders to Detroit for Stafford, potentially getting the most out of a talented QB who may be misused with the Lions? Simultaneously giving Detroit a new direction, even if they won’t save any money in the short-term. Imagine the Colts dealing picks 13, 34, and 73, opening next season with Stafford behind that offensive line instead of Brissett.
Packers: Aaron Rodgers, Tim Boyle
But Rodgers is 36. When the Packers drafted Rodgers, Brett Favre was 35.
Vikings: Kirk Cousins, Sean Mannion (FA)
Looking? In the draft
They’ve got $31 million going to Cousins. Unless they trade him, in which case they’d save $29.5 million. But are they going to be packaging a high draft pick with Cousins in order for someone to take him off their hands? Interestingly enough, Minnesota is in the worst cap situation right now, so those savings are not nothing. I mean, are the Buccaneers willing to say, “Yeah, we’ll take Cousins and a third round pick”? Is Minnesota willing to go into 2020 with a rookie or a moderately interesting veteran knowing that Cousins has likely reached his ceiling and is not going to take them to the Super Bowl?
Is Kirk Cousins the greatest QB of all time? pic.twitter.com/KRQT6hScfq— Tony Digs (@ToneDigz) January 24, 2020
Falcons: Matt Ryan, Matt Schaub, Matt Simms (FA)
Looking? A little bit
They just drafted Grier in the third round, but we’ve seen plenty of day two QBs get written off almost immediately. Not that Grier is written off, but his debut was in fact terrible and the team is open to searching again. Especially given that they have a new head coach who may want a different system. I’ve never thought Cam would be the guy to take a team to a Super Bowl win, and yes I know they came close once. That may be as close as he ever gets. Given Cam’s recent injury woes, I think they’ll need better options than Grier.
Saints: Drew Brees (FA), Teddy Bridgewater (FA), Taysom Hill (RFA)
Looking? I mean, yeah, I guess
I think Brees will return. If he retires instead, as he said he would rather than go to another team, Bridgewater easily slides into the role. However, I think Bridgewater is less than mediocre and a “starting money” commitment seems like a bad idea. They could do it, but I won’t be surprised if the Saints get active in outside free agency and especially the draft. Are they really preparing Hill to be the 2021 starter? He’s not that young and he’s never been a good QB, not even in college.
Smart. Would like to see Teddy Bridgewater land there. Wouldn't be surprised if Rivers goes to Tampa (Jameis to Oakland?) https://t.co/034UacGN8s— Ian Wharton (@NFLFilmStudy) January 27, 2020
Bucs: Jameis Winston (FA), Ryan Griffin, Blaine Gabbert (FA)
I do expect them to keep Winston. But if they let him go, I expect Winston to be the best free agent option on the market for anyone not in the twilight of their career. Where does Tampa turn if not Winston? Well, they’d obviously want to be going in a whole new direction, whether that means cheaper or just better at protecting the football, but I imagine Bruce Arians still wants a guy who can air it out. The Bucs have a lot of cap space, a really good defense, and some big weapons. It may be the most attractive destination for a QB, next to Indianapolis.
Cardinals: Kyler Murray, Brett Hundley (FA), Drew Anderson
Rams: Jared Goff, Blake Bortles (FA)
There’s actually a notable amount of relief if they traded Goff before his $140 million extension even kicked in ($16 million in cap savings for 2020 per OTC) and the Rams are overloaded with key free agents, but any QB they bring in would cost more than $16 million. So it’s a moot point unless it’s a QB and the Rams, oh yeah, don’t have a first round pick again. No trades. No rookie starters. It’s Goff and maybe that’s fine.
49ers: Jimmy Garoppolo, Nick Mullens (ERFA), CJ Beathard
If you wanted to be really scandalous, the 49ers would save $22 million by releasing Garoppolo and let’s be honest, he’s not that good. He is, however, on the right side of the one word every Tebow wants to be on: “Winner”
Seahawks: Russell Wilson, Geno Smith (FA)
I think it would be smart for every organization to monitor the Seahawks and teams like them and ask, “Did they get better by extending the QB to a record contract or did they get worse?” It’s not necessarily true that Wilson’s contract made them worse, but Seattle did lose players in free agency, trade, retirement, and did get worse. They have less to spend and they have a lot of outgoing players right now. What if Seattle had pulled a KC in 2017 and traded up for Patrick Mahomes? Where’d they be right now? But Wilson is a top-3 quarterback and that’s also hard to argue against. I’m just saying, it’s important to be asking questions on all sides of the logic problem, not just the obvious ones.
Teams that I said are “Looking”:
Patriots, Dolphins, Bengals, Steelers, Colts, Bears, Saints, Bucs, Panthers, Titans, and Chargers
That is to varying degrees though. Teams that are hard looking for sure:
Chargers, Dolphins, Bengals, Colts, Bears, Bucs, and Titans
Teams that will address that issue in the draft for sure:
Bengals (probably, I mean, come on, not even for you, Cincy...)
Teams that seem likely to secure QB need with tag or new deal first:
Titans, Saints, and potentially the Buccaneers
Teams that could present the best case for a high-end free agent QB:
Patriots, Bears, Colts, Bucs, and to some degree, Chargers
The best free agent QBs:
Brady, Brees (not really an available QB), Rivers, Winston, Tannehill, Dak (I highly doubt it), Bridgewater, Keenum, McCown, Dalton (it’s coming), Mariota
Potential trade target QBs:
Brissett, Foles, Trubisky, Flacco, RGIII, Rosen, Fitzpatrick
Why so low on Chargers?
While LA presents an argument of having gone 12-4 in 2018, with weapons like Keenan Allen, Mike Williams, Austin Ekeler, and potentially Hunter Henry, they are also coming off of a 5-11 season and present a worse front office case than New England. I’d also argue, with likely little resistance, that Ballard and Pace are better GMs than Tom Telesco. Los Angeles is a major market, but so is Boston and Chicago. Indianapolis is a small market, but also home to Peyton Manning and Andrew Luck’s careers, and they could re-sign Anthony Castonzo to keep together one of the NFL’s best offensive lines. They also have $91 million in cap space, most in the league.
That sounds like bad news to me if you’re the Chargers and you’re thinking that your solution for 2020 is to sign the best and most attractive free agent QB.
If you’re Brady, do you want to play behind LA’s line or Indy’s?
If you’re Tannehill, do you want to go to a division with the defending AFC champs or stay in the one that you fairly well dominated after becoming a starter?
If you’re Winston, do you want to play for Telesco and Lynn or Belichick and Belichick?
The Chargers are at a pivotal transitional moment, we know this, and how they act doesn’t just reflect what they think of Rivers. It also reflects what they think of themselves and their standing among NFL teams as attractive destinations. Despite the $5 billion stadium opening next season, is LA really attractive to any player whose number one desire is to win a Super Bowl? You could make the argument in a vacuum, but compared to potentially open spots in New England, Chicago, and Indianapolis — plus maybe Tampa Bay, New Orleans, and in a not-that-distant universe Carolina or Tennessee — the Chargers begin falling down the list at a rapid pace.
A source told DP to keep an eye on the Colts as a possible landing spot for veteran QB Philip Rivers pic.twitter.com/n56OK4RH0l— Dan Patrick Show (@dpshow) January 28, 2020
That gives me pause then that if the Chargers end up parting ways with Rivers, they may open with the intention to sign Brady or Winston and come away with Nick Foles, Jacoby Brissett, or Marcus Mariota. That may be fine, to pair Mariota or Dalton with Justin Herbert or Tua Tagovailoa (read: what I don’t like about the Tua option), but speaking strictly based on my opinion of the options, that is going to leave LA with another high draft pick in 2021.
Their free agents in 2021?
Keenan Allen. Joey Bosa. Melvin Ingram. Mike Pouncey, Mike Williams. Russell Okung. Brandon Mebane. Denzel Perryman. Dan Feeney.
In other words, a much bigger transition is coming, full steam ahead, in one year. That makes 2020 perhaps LA’s best push for AFC title contention before the next exodus of a star player or five. That’s why it may be more crucial for the Chargers to count themselves among the “winners” headed in the right direction in a year, rather than a rebuilding franchise that is coming off another 5-11 season, with Mariota, Jordan Love, and another holdout with Joey Bosa.
Looking around the NFL, the Chargers have to make a decision that gives them the best option to win and to compete for the services of a QB who can help them do that. Unless they’re going to be the ones to try and woo Detroit’s ears in a blockbuster Stafford trade that I’m totally just making up right now in the moment, retaining Rivers may actually be their best option.
I’m not sold on the idea that they’ll be a top-3 free agent destination for a top-3 free agent.
Follow on Twitter: @kennetharthurs