With NFL free agency set to officially start on March 17, teams are readying to fill out their roster under a shrinking salary cap. However, if they're looking to make major changes at quarterback, they'll have to look elsewhere.
After the Cowboys locked up Dak Prescott, the top signal-caller on the market, to a record-setting deal, the rest of the QB class gets thin in a hurry. There is potential upside with a pair of former No. 1 picks, but no quarterback has the combination of high floor and high ceiling that recent classes had. In fact, none of these quarterbacks crack our top 25 free agents.
Teams have already looked to the trade market to land new starters. The Lions and Rams swapped Matthew Stafford and Jared Goff. Carson Wentz reunited with Frank Reich in Indianapolis. Deshaun Watson has asked out of Houston, and even Russell Wilson may be available.
Even if there may not be slam-dunk starters like Tom Brady, Drew Brees and Philip Rivers in last year's class, not every team can find a new starter through the draft. And a few teams will find major contributors through free agency.
1. Cam Newton, New England Patriots
Newton hasn't shown his MVP form in several years, but let's be honest here: the pickings are slim in this free-agent class. However, no quarterback has his upside if he can stay healthy. And that's a huge question. If you twist and squint, you can come up with reasons why last season went sideways in New England. His shoulder looked off even before he caught COVID, and that really wrecked his season — as it did for several other players, including Ezekiel Elliott. Still, underlying all those red flags is the talent of perhaps the only quarterback on this list capable of carrying a team to the playoffs.
Possible Landing Spots: Chicago, Denver, New England, New Orleans, San Francisco, Washington
Prediction: Newton may not get a starting job like he did last offseason, but he'll compete for one at least. One of his best opportunities to start would come with a reunion with his former head coach Ron Rivera in Washington. He wouldn't be the only former Panther quarterback on the roster either as Kyle Allen put up mediocre numbers in four starts (1-3) as the starter before suffering a season-ending ankle injury.
UPDATE (3/12/21): On Friday morning, it was reported that Newton and the Patriots had agreed to terms on a one-year deal worth about $14 million.
2. Jameis Winston, New Orleans Saints
Few players are as infuriating as Winston, who has all the talent in the world but can't help but turn the ball over. There's an equilibrium of risk-taking that's necessary to make big plays — Tua Tagovailoa has been far too conservative in his rookie year — but Winston takes it to the extreme. We only got to see 11 pass attempts last season in New Orleans, but Winston could be a quality starter at just 27 if can turn the ball over just a little less.
Possible Landing Spots: Chicago, Denver, Detroit, New England, New Orleans, San Francisco, Washington
Prediction: A return to New Orleans is possible, but it's perhaps telling that Sean Payton chose to play Taysom Hill over him. They may look to draft a quarterback in the first round, but the Broncos would be a good fit, where Winston could push Drew Lock for the starting job and would have an incredible array of weapons. John Elway may not be calling the shots anymore, but it's hard to resist a big quarterback with a strong arm.
3. Ryan Fitzpatrick, Miami Dolphins
Fitzpatrick is very much a quick fix in the mold of Philip Rivers last season, but he can still help raise the floor of a team with a young quarterback. Just don't expect to go far if you do reach the playoffs — there are years of proof of that. Fitzpatrick finished fifth among qualified passers with a 78.3 QBR despite having the fifth-highest interception rate (3.0 percent). He can inject some extra juice (and variance) to an offense and serve as a mentor if he's not a starter. There also have been reports that Fitzpatrick may opt to retire.
Possible Landing Spots: Chicago, Denver, Miami, New England, New Orleans, New York Giants, Washington
Prediction: A return to Miami is certainly possible, but Fitzpatrick may want one more shot at a starting quarterback. One good fit may be in New England, where he could collect the final AFC East Infinity Stone and bring life to a team that should be more competitive as players who opted out of the 2020 season return.
4. Mitchell Trubisky, Chicago Bears
Don't be fooled by the end of Trubisky's final season on his rookie deal: His 70.1 percent completion rate and 96.0 passer rating in his last six games belied the fact that he was barely throwing any passes beyond 10 yards. Trubisky was miscast as a franchise quarterback — and he'll certainly never live up to 2017 draft classmates Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson's standards — but he could be an interesting gamble for a team with uncertainty at the position. Overqualified backups are always in vogue, and Ryan Tannehill's career looked much like Trubisky's up to this point.
Possible Landing Spots: Chicago, Denver, Detroit, New England, New Orleans, Washington
Prediction: As long as he is open to a backup role or competition, there should be plenty of interesting homes for Trubisky. Maybe playing under a bright offensive mind like Sean Payton's in New Orleans will unlock his potential.
5. Jacoby Brissett, Indianapolis Colts
Brissett was fine in his two years as a starter in 2017 and '19. There were slight improvements in his touchdown and interception rates. At 29, he's probably not going to take a leap, but he can still be a quality backup. For a team with an injury-prone starter that would be okay with a game manager, Brissett is a great fit.
Possible Landing Spots: Chicago, Denver, Detroit, Miami, New England, New York Giants, New York Jets, San Francisco
Prediction: The 49ers may prefer to address their quarterback situation through trade, but if they can't land a big fish there, Brissett would be an upgrade at backup over what Kyle Shanahan has had in recent years with C.J. Beathard and Nick Mullens.
6. Tyrod Taylor, Los Angeles Chargers
It's easy to forget that before a Chargers team doctor accidentally punctured his lung, Taylor was slated to be a starting quarterback last season. And he's been a competent one since 2015, even if he hasn't played much the last three seasons. With tempered expectations, Taylor can be one of the best backups in the league or even push for a job as a stop-gap.
Possible Landing Spots: Chicago, Jacksonville, Miami, New Orleans, New York Giants, New York Jets, San Francisco, Washington
Prediction: Finding a role like he was supposed to have with the Chargers last season might be ideal. But he probably would also be the best quarterback in Chicago, where he could make one last push as a starter.
7. Andy Dalton, Dallas Cowboys
Dalton was completely serviceable in his nine starts in Dallas last season, posting a 53.8 QBR that ranked 25th among 35 qualified passers. No team is going to make the playoffs because of him, but he can prevent a total collapse. As he gets older (he turns 34 in October) he may soon take over the mentor role, though.
Possible Landing Spots: Jacksonville, Los Angeles Chargers, Miami, New England, New York Giants, Philadelphia
Prediction: Dalton may prefer to fight for a job, which could make him a good fit for a team with a young quarterback who needs a push. Giants GM Dave Gettleman still loves Daniel Jones, but perhaps some better competition than Colt McCoy could help.
8. C.J. Beathard, San Francisco 49ers
It's hard to know what to make of Beathard and fellow Niner free agent Nick Mullens because Kyle Shanahan's offense has created competent — albeit not overwhelming — players year after year. However, Still, Beathard only turns 28 in November and posted impressive numbers (105.7 passer rating, 6:0 TD-to-INT ratio, 8.7 AYA/A) in limited action last season. He's an interesting gamble as a backup.
Possible Landing Spots: Dallas, Detroit, Minnesota, San Francisco, Washington
Prediction: The Lions seemingly took on Jared Goff to land even more draft capital for Matthew Stafford, so bringing in someone like Beathard would be a good call. Assuming Detroit doesn't draft a QB with their first-round pick.
9. Joe Flacco, New York Jets
He may no longer be elite, but Flacco can still serve as a steadying presence in many locker rooms. His completion rate was way down, and his interceptions were up, but no team is trying to sign him to make the playoffs at this point.
Possible Landing Spots: Cincinnati, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, Los Angeles Chargers, Miami, New York Giants, Philadelphia
Prediction: Serving as a role model for another big, young quarterback may be Flacco's best fit at this point. It would look odd after his decade-plus in Baltimore, but playing under Joe Burrow in Cincinnati would be an intriguing fit.
10. Alex Smith, Washington Football Team
Smith's story is one of the best of a strange 2020 season, but his Comeback Player of the Year Award was not given because of outstanding stats. The good news is most teams don't need their backup quarterbacks to be world-beaters, and having a well-liked veteran who is ideally never going to play may not be the worst thing.
Possible Landing Spots:Chicago, Cincinnati, Miami, San Francisco, Washington
Prediction: Miami will need someone to back up Tua Tagovailoa, but perhaps they don't want to jerk him in and out of the lineup like they did last year. A backup like Smith could be great to boost his confidence and help his development.
(Top photo courtesy of patriots.com)