This NFL offseason is shaping up to be a significant one when it comes to the quarterback position. And that's not referring to the ongoing debate about how many signal-callers will be taken in the first round of the upcoming draft.
Instead, it's about a loaded free-agent quarterback class that's highlighted by two surefire, first-ballot Hall of Famers and their younger peer who is likely to set a new record with his next contract. Thirty-three total quarterbacks are pending free agents, and while they aren't all guaranteed jobs for this coming season, there are enough quality options out there that could cause a ripple effect across the NFL depending on how the dominoes fall. And that doesn't include notable quarterbacks that could become available for other reasons. Andy Dalton, for example, is likely to get traded if Cincinnati takes Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow with the No. 1 overall pick in the draft, which is the expectation. Cam Newton and Derek Carr also have been discussed in that same vein.
But before we go down too far the rabbit hole of what could happen, here are the top 10 quarterbacks that qualify as a potential free agent. Again, it doesn't mean all of these guys will get to test the market (some could get tagged) or even want to, but several of these will definitely be in play when free agency begins next Tuesday (4 p.m. ET). (This could change if the NFL decides to delay the start of the new league year.)
1. Dak Prescott, QB, Dallas Cowboys
Prescott is no lock to make the Hall of Fame, but he heads up this list because of his age. Set to turn 27 in late July, Prescott is 16 years younger than Tom Brady (and 15 years younger than Drew Brees). He's also coming off of a breakthrough season as a passer while remaining a viable threat with his legs, something neither Brady nor Brees can claim.
Possible Landing Spots: Dallas, Indianapolis, Los Angeles Chargers, Tampa Bay, Las Vegas
Prediction: It seems kind of foolish to even mention any other team but the Cowboys. Dallas has by and large mismanaged contract negotiations with Prescott, but this just means Jerry Jones will have to write a bigger check than he may prefer to keep his quarterback. Whether Dallas signs him to a long-term contract or tags him first, Prescott isn't going anywhere.
2. Tom Brady, QB, New England Patriots
As hard as it may be to imagine Brady in a different uniform, it's entirely possible that his tenure in New England ended with a home loss to the Tennessee Titans in the Wild Card Round. Brady may be nearing the end of his career, but the number of teams that would dump their current starting quarterback even for a couple of seasons with him at the helm still vastly outnumber those who wouldn't.
Possible Landing Spots: New England, Tennessee, Los Angeles Chargers, Las Vegas, Indianapolis, Tampa Bay
Prediction: Not ruling out a return to New England, but the odds of that happening seem less than 50/50 at this point. And that's what makes Brady the ultimate domino in this entire free-agent class. Brady's best bet would be to go to a team that has the pieces ready to win and one where he's not asked to carry the entire offense on his shoulders. Some familiarity wouldn't hurt either, which is why it's hard to not like Tennessee's chances of winning the Brady sweepstakes. His friendship with Titans head coach Mike Vrabel is well documented, and more importantly, the Titans have an offense that's built around Derrick Henry running the ball. (Henry is a pending free agent but I don't think he's going anywhere.) Not saying Brady is the missing piece to Tennessee getting to the Super Bowl, but this is definitely a move Titans fans would love to see happen.
3. Drew Brees, QB, New Orleans Saints
Brees has already said he's coming back for another season, his 20th. All that's left for him to do on his way to Canton is to pad his stats and win another Super Bowl ring. A thumb injury cost him five games last season but not his title as the NFL's most accurate passer. A 27:4 TD-to-INT ratio is pretty impressive too, especially for a 40-year-old quarterback.
Possible Landing Spots: New Orleans (were you expecting to see another team here?)
Prediction: Brees is a free agent in name only. He'll be back for his 15th season with the Saints. It's just a matter of the number of years he signs for and the amount of money he'll make. It's Super Bowl-or-bust for the Saints.
4. Philip Rivers, QB, Los Angeles Chargers
Rivers isn't getting any younger (will be 39 before the end of this coming season), but it's premature to say he has nothing left in the tank. He's thrown for 4,200-plus yards in seven straight seasons and has started 224 consecutive games. Yes, he threw 20 interceptions last season, but the Chargers' shaky offensive line should take some of the blame for this. A change of scenery may be just what Rivers needs as he's still seeking that elusive Super Bowl appearance.
Possible Landing Spots: Indianapolis, Tampa Bay, Tennessee, Carolina, Las Vegas, Chicago, New England
Prediction: Some of these possibilities are tied to what happens with the current options on the team's roster. This is especially the case with Carolina, Las Vegas, and, of course, New England. However, even though Indianapolis has Jacoby Brissett, adding Rivers just makes a lot of sense, and the Colts have plenty of cap space to fit him. Tampa Bay is certainly an option if Bruce Arians decides to move on from Jameis Winston (see below), and Rivers has already moved his family to Florida. The dark horse could be Tennessee since the focus right now is with the Titans landing Tom Brady.
5. Ryan Tannehill, QB, Tennessee Titans
Tannehill didn't start the season as the No. 1 on the Titans' depth chart, but he ended there and in the process probably secured himself a nice payday. Tannehill wasn't prolific, but he was certainly effective (22:6 TD-to-INT ratio) and efficient (NFL-best 117.5 passer rating).
Possible Landing Spots: Tennessee, New England, Los Angeles Chargers, Indianapolis, Las Vegas, Chicago
Prediction: Tennessee makes the most sense, but the Titans' priority is re-signing Derrick Henry, which means another team could make Tannehill an offer he can't refuse. New England makes the most sense there, especially if Brady signs with Tennessee. The Chargers and Colts appear to offer him the best chances of being the starter right away, unless the Raiders move on from Derek Carr. I'm not sure Tannehill wants to go somewhere like Chicago where he'll again have to beat someone for the No. 1 spot. Since I am on the Brady-to-Titans bandwagon, I'll say Tannehill gets the first crack at being New England's new signal-caller.
6. Teddy Bridgewater, QB, New Orleans Saints
Drew Brees' return likely means the end of Bridgewater's time in New Orleans, as the Saints can't afford to keep him and Taysom Hill (see below) as high-priced backups. Bridgewater wants to be a starter, which could impact his market somewhat.
Possible Landing Spots: Los Angeles Chargers, Indianapolis, Tampa Bay, New England, Carolina, Chicago
Prediction: The Chargers and Colts seem to make the most sense, although the Patriots and Buccaneers, and even Panthers, could be in play depending on what happens. I'll say the QB musical chairs have Bridgewater landing on the West Coast, where he'll compete with Tyrod Taylor for the Chargers' starting job, unless Bruce Arians decides to move on from Jameis Winston.
7. Jameis Winston, QB, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Has there been a more polarizing quarterback in recent seasons? Winston's 30-TD/30-INT 2019 performance was a first in NFL history. So is he a franchise quarterback or just another signal-caller with so much untapped potential?
Possible Landing Spots: Tampa Bay, Las Vegas, Miami, Indianapolis, Chicago, New England, Tennessee
Prediction: Winston's talent alone will intrigue many teams but it has to be the right situation and with a coaching staff that will give him every opportunity to succeed. That’s why I think Winston will be in a Bucs uniform for at least one more season. He may have to settle for a prove-it contract or play under the franchise tag, but I think Bruce Arians is willing to give Winston one more shot. If not Tampa Bay, teaming up with Jon Gruden out in Las Vegas just feels right.
8. Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans
Mariota simply has not lived up to the expectations that came when he was the No. 2 overall pick in the 2015 draft (one pick after Jameis Winston). To be fair, Mariota has had to deal with a number of injuries as well as plenty of coaching instability. However, he lost the starting job last season in Tennessee to Ryan Tannehill, so it's obvious Mariota needs a change of scenery to try and jump-start his career.
Possible Landing Spots: Chicago, New England, Las Vegas, Los Angeles Chargers, Indianapolis, Tampa Bay
Prediction: Most likely Mariota will have to go somewhere to compete for the starting job instead of having one handed to him. However, there are opportunities for him to start, especially if teams such as the Patriots, Raiders, Chargers, or Buccaneers have to or choose to go a different direction at quarterback. However, even before things went south with the Titans, the fit I kept going back to is the Bears. In bringing on Mariota to compete with Mitchell Tribusky, it would give Matt Nagy two similarly skilled quarterbacks to increase the chances of the Bears' offense reaching its full potential.
9. Case Keenum, Washington Redskins
Keenum hasn't been able to repeat his impressive 2017 season with Minnesota, but that doesn't mean he's done in the league either. The record (1-7) doesn't show it, but Keenum wasn't horrible in Washington last season, and there are certainly worse backups around the league.
Possible Landing Spots: Washington, Minnesota, Los Angeles Rams, Chicago, New York Jets, Las Vegas, Tampa Bay, Tennessee, New England, Cleveland, Detroit, Carolina, Arizona
Prediction: Keenum's market is one of the hardest to get a handle on because it comes down to how teams value him (just a backup or a ready-to-fill-in starter) and whether he wants to give himself the best chance of being a starter or is content with possibly sitting on the bench all season. Re-signing with the Redskins makes a ton of sense considering the chatter coming out regarding doubts about Dwayne Haskins, but he also could go back to Minnesota to a somewhat familiar situation and serve as Kirk Cousins' backup. Unless Washington does something drastic (like take a quarterback with the No. 2 pick), staying put seems like the best choice, but I also could see him as a backup for a number of teams, particularly the Jets, Raiders, Titans, and Browns.
10. Taysom Hill, New Orleans Saints
Hill probably shouldn't be included in this list, not if the Saints place a first-round tender on the restricted free agent, as has been reported. Under that scenario, New Orleans has the right to match any offer made to him and would receive a first-round pick if the team lets him sign elsewhere. But until that becomes official, Hill is technically a potential free agent and would receive plenty of attention from other teams.
Possible Landing Spots: New Orleans, Chicago, Kansas City, New England, Indianapolis, Tampa Bay, Carolina, Philadelphia
Prediction: While some of these fits (Patrick Mahomes' backup in Kansas City in Andy Reid's offense?) are just fun to imagine, the reality is Hill is going nowhere. Unless there's a team that believes in Hill's future starting potential more than Sean Payton and the Saints, no one is going pay both the draft capital (first-round pick) and the accompanying contract (first-round tender is valued around $5 million for one year) it would take. This doesn't mean that Hill is the heir apparent to Drew Brees, but it does mean he'll be in New Orleans for at least one more season.
Other Names to Watch (in alphabetical order):
Blake Bortles, Los Angeles Rams
Chase Daniel, Chicago Bears
Colt McCoy, Washington Redskins
Matt Moore, Kansas City Chiefs
Trevor Siemian, New York Jets