This offseason is primed to be the most exciting one we've seen in quite some time, as over half of the teams in the NFL are looking to potentially move on from their 2020 quarterback(s). On Saturday night, the Detroit Lions and Los Angeles Rams got things rolling by swapping Matthew Stafford for Jared Goff (and a few draft picks) in a move that will likely set off a slew of quarterback trades and signings, the likes of which we've never seen. Poor performances, massive contracts, organization issues, and retirements drive most teams' desires for new QBs this offseason.
In this article, I'm going to be predicting who I think will be lining up under center for each team in the league in week 1 of the 2021-22 season. Some of these predictions will be easy, as there are still several teams who have already found their franchise quarterback. For the others, I'll be basing my predictions on team fit, salary cap room, gut feeling, and other speculation that has been circulating the internet already. Honestly, I won't be surprised if almost all of these projections are wrong because no one really knows what's going to end up happening and circumstances can change daily in the NFL. Still, it will at least spark some fun discussions for fans of teams whose QB for next season is still up in the air.
Buffalo Bills: Josh Allen
Allen had his break out season in 2020 and delivered two playoff wins to a Buffalo fan base that hadn't experienced that feeling in 25 years. Buffalo loves Allen, and Allen loves Buffalo. It seems like a perfect match for the Bills.
Miami Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa
The Dolphins sacrificed some wins last season by moving on from Ryan Fitzpatrick so early in the season for their first round draft pick. They seem to be bought in fully on Tua's long-term potential, at least for the time being.
New England Patriots: Jimmy Garoppolo
The Patriots are almost assuredly going to move on from Cam Newton, and who better to bring to New England than the guy Bill Belichick sent to San Francisco just a few years ago. Garoppolo was intended to be Tom Brady's protege and take over the dynasty when Brady left. However, the Patriots dealt Garoppolo in 2017 after it appeared that Brady was going to play for another decade. Jimmy G has been a solid QB in San Fran, but I know he would fit great in Belichick's system, and the two are already familiar with each other.
New York Jets: Justin Fields
There are a lot of different ways the Jets can go this offseason. They have a young, fairly promising quarterback they can stick with if they want to improve elsewhere. They have a ton of cap space if they want to go after a big name, such as Deshaun Watson. And they have the second overall pick in the draft if they want to start fresh with a new rookie. I think they choose the last option and take Justin Fields with pick #2. Fields showed off his toughness and arm talent in the College Football Playoff despite his team only playing five regular season games, and he looks like he can potentially be really good at the next level.
Denver Broncos: Drew Lock
The Broncos were reportedly interested in Matthew Stafford, but didn't want to give up Drew Lock in any proposed trade talks. This leads me to believe that John Elway wants to stick with Lock for at least one more season. He's shown glimpses of promise in his young career, and his team was decimated by injuries last season. Denver will probably give Lock one more "prove it" year with a fully loaded team to see if he can cause some damage in the AFC West next season.
Kansas City Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes
The Chiefs will be competing for Super Bowls for the next decade with Mahomes. They wouldn't trade him for the world (literally, probably).
Las Vegas Raiders: Derek Carr
Derek Carr's future with the Raiders was briefly up in the air after a late season injury, but it appears he will be back in Vegas next season. Jon Gruden likes Carr, but he has just two years left on his deal and a suitable replacement in Marcus Mariota to back him up if things go south in 2021.
Los Angeles Chargers: Justin Herbert
Herbert is the favorite to win Rookie of the Year at the time of writing this article, and I would be thrilled to see what the future holds if I were a Chargers fan. I'm sure all 14 of them are jumping for joy.
Baltimore Ravens: Lamar Jackson
Lamar finally won a playoff game this season and the Ravens will look to build off of that next year. The league's most exciting player won't be switching teams any time soon.
Cincinnati Bengals: Joe Burrow
Joe Burrow suffered a nasty injury that cut his stellar season short, but he appeared to be a legitimate #1 overall pick in his limited appearances despite a horrid offensive line. He may not be back for week 1 depending on his rehabilitation, but he'll undoubtedly regain control over Cincy's offense as soon as he is able.
Cleveland Browns: Baker Mayfield
Mayfield quietly led the Browns to their first playoff game in almost two decades, and they topped that feat by defeating their most hated rival in the opening round. The Dawg Pound fully backs Baker, and he even lives in Cleveland's stadium year-round (if the Progressive commercials are true). Regardless, he's not going anywhere next season.
Pittsburgh Steelers: Ben Roethlisberger
I expect the Steelers to run it back with the aging Roethlisberger, which will make the AFC North the only division to start the same four quarterbacks as a season ago. Big Ben has reportedly stated he's willing to take a pay cut to stay in Pittsburgh, so it's hard to believe he'll be playing anywhere else in 2021.
Houston Texans: Deshaun Watson
Deshaun Watson is currently the biggest name in free agency since he has officially requested a trade. He has voiced his frustration on social media for several weeks now, and it's clear that he wants out of Houston badly. However, I don't think the Texans are going to give him up. Deshaun Watson is so good and still so young that Houston would have to get a ton of value for him, and I don't think anyone is going to be able to give up enough for him. It might be different if Bill O'Brien was still the team's head coach/GM, as he was fond of dealing elite players for next to nothing in return. It's definitely possible that Watson does get traded, and probably at least half of the teams in the league would want him. But I feel like the Texans front office will hold strong in this one.
Indianapolis Colts: Dak Prescott
Dak Prescott is a name that has flown under the radar this offseason after he suffered a season-ending injury early into 2020. I think he's one of the most sought after guys upon his return, assuming the Cowboys decide not to pay him (again). Prescott seems to want to stay in Dallas, but the feeling doesn't appear so mutual with Jerry Jones. If he wouldn't commit to Dak long term before last season, there's no reason he would commit to him coming off a severe leg injury. With that said, I think Dallas lets Prescott walk, and the bidding war would start among teams with the need for a quarterback and lots of extra cap space. I think the Colts would be the leading contender to sign him. Indianapolis is a quarterback away from potentially making a Super Bowl run, and Prescott would have a lot of success with a good offensive line and a really good defense. Indy's run game is similar to Dallas's, and the aggressive Frank Reich showed last year that he's willing to let his QB throw 40-plus times a game. The Colts would be really good next season if they can land Dak Prescott.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence
The Jags have lots of options at quarterback, as they hold the #1 overall pick and could use it to either draft or trade for a QB. I like to think they take the opportunity that the Jets gave them and draft Lawrence, who is probably the most NFL-ready quarterback coming out of college since Andrew Luck. The only question to me is whether new head coach Urban Meyer will shock everyone and take a fellow Ohio State guy in Justin Fields. I just don't think you can pass up on Trevor Lawrence.
Tennessee Titans: Ryan Tannehill
The only team in the AFC South to not have a question mark at quarterback in the offseason, the Titans will focus their attention on rebuilding their defense in an effort to make a deeper playoff run next season. The offense was as good as any last year, and should be elite again next year.
Dallas Cowboys: Mac Jones
If the Cowboys let Dak Prescott leave, I think they go back to the draft to benefit from a QB on a rookie deal and improve elsewhere. Mac Jones seems like a great fit in Dallas's offense. He had tremendous success with the weapons around him at Alabama, and that would make a transition to the Cowboys very seamless. The Cowboys have a great offensive line, a star running back, and several impact players at receiver. It just feels like a perfect match.
New York Giants: Daniel Jones
Daniel Jones nearly led his team to the playoffs last year with practically no offensive line and without his star running back. Jones has been a rather quiet name after his controversial draft selection, but he has been a consistent bright spot for an otherwise dull organization.
Philadelphia Eagles: Carson Wentz
The Eagles don't seem to want Carson Wentz, and Wentz doesn't seem to want to be in Philadelphia, but I just don't see anyone taking on Wentz's massive contract. His four year, $128 million deal STARTS in 2021, which means the Eagles are basically screwed until 2025 unless Wentz starts playing well enough to either keep or trade away. With such a huge contract on your books, you have to at least give the guy a chance next year. The Eagles will probably have a quarterback competition when training camp starts back up, and Jalen Hurts could take over soon if he doesn't win the job outright by the start of the season.
Washington Football Team: Sam Darnold
Washington improved tremendously and made it to the playoffs last season in Ron Rivera's first season as head coach. They played somewhat of a game of musical chairs at the quarterback position, seemingly rotating between Dwayne Haskins, Alex Smith, and then Taylor Heinickie by the season's end. They decided to cut Haskins late in the year, and while Smith and Heinickie both played well when they got their opportunities, I think Washington will be looking for some stability at quarterback and planning for the future. A trade for Sam Darnold makes a lot of sense to me, as he is still on a rookie contract and has just one year remaining, meaning the Football Team can move on quickly if they don't think he's their guy after one or two seasons. A cheap QB can allow Washington to improve their offense and continue to bolster their elite defense. I would pick Washington as the early favorite to win the division next season regardless of who ends up playing quarterback.
Arizona Cardinals: Kyler Murray
Murray had his ups and downs last season but the Cardinals ultimately showed improvement year-over-year. Head coach Kliff Kingsbury likes Kyler, and if he were to leave Arizona, his most likely destination would be somewhere in the MLB.
Los Angeles Rams: Matthew Stafford
Sean McVay and the Rams decided to shop Jared Goff and they acquired Stafford in return. He will join a team with a solid offense and a very good defense who has been lacking in quarterback play for a couple years now. I love this move for the Rams, and I'm happy for Stafford for finally getting out of Detroit and getting a chance to actually compete for a championship.
San Francisco 49ers: Kirk Cousins
We don't know if Kirk Cousins is actually going to be on the move, but there has been reported interest from Cousins in going to San Francisco next season. He would reunite with Kyle Shanahan, who served as the offensive coordinator when Cousins was in Washington. The two seem to be fond of each other, and the 49ers could definitely be looking to move on from Jimmy Garoppolo and try someone new at quarterback. I think this has an outside shot of actually materializing, but if Cousins does get shipped, San Francisco would be a prime landing spot for both parties.
Seattle Seahawks: Russell Wilson
Wilson got off to a fantastic start last season before falling back to Earth later on after Pete Carroll decided to go conservative on offense. It was a disappointing ending to a promising year for the Seahawks, but Russell Wilson will be a top tier quarterback for years to come.
Chicago Bears: Jameis Winston
The Bears are moving on from Mitchell Trubisky, and several reports are suggesting they're eying Jameis Winston. Winston gained a year of experienced learning from Sean Payton and Drew Brees, but I don't think the Saints are going to offer him an extension. It's obvious that Winston is capable of putting up yards and touchdowns, but his problem is he also puts up interceptions. I can see Chicago taking a risk on Winston on a one- or two-year deal to see if he has improved on his ability to take care of the football. They have an elite defense but have struggled to score points for multiple seasons now. Winston's big arm could change that and lead the Bears to win a few more games next year.
Detroit Lions: Jared Goff
Detroit acquired Goff and some draft picks from the Rams, but Goff's quarterback ability has been questioned for some time now. Detroit isn't exactly a QB rehabilitation clinic, so it's hard to have much optimism in Goff's long-term potential while he's with the Lions.
Green Bay Packers: Aaron Rodgers
There was initially some doubt about Rodgers' future in Green Bay after the disappointing end to his MVP-caliber season. But I think there's almost a zero percent chance that the Packers move on from Rodgers after the season he just put up, especially after watching a 43-year old Tom Brady beat them in Lambeau to advance to the Super Bowl.
Minnesota Vikings: Ryan Fitzpatrick
Assuming the Vikings do decide to trade away Kirk Cousins, they will likely fill his spot with someone relatively cheap. Cousins has a $33 million per year contract, and Minnesota could use the money the save to improve on the defensive side of the ball. Now, they could either go for someone in the draft or look to sign an established veteran, and since I think the top tier quarterbacks all get drafted before Minnesota's 14th pick, I think they do the latter. Ryan Fitzpatrick seems like a really good fit with the Vikings. He played really well last year with Miami until their front office decided to hand the reins to Tua Tagovailoa midway through the season, a move that surprised even most of the Dolphins' players. Fitzmagic is a beloved guy, and he would have a tremendous running back and superstar receivers to utilize with the Vikings.
Atlanta Falcons: Matt Ryan
The Falcons cleared house last season, so no one's job is safe in Atlanta right now. But here's what I think new head coach Arthur Smith will do in the offseason: hold on to Matt Ryan, who played well last season overall, and draft BYU prospect Zach Wilson with the fourth pick in the draft. This way, the Falcons can obtain a guy for the future and let him learn behind a veteran in his first couple seasons in the league. It's certainly possible that they trade Ryan and bring in someone else who is more proven, but this is the scenario I think makes the most sense for the Falcons.
Carolina Panthers: Teddy Bridgewater
I spent a lot of time trying to figure out what the Panthers would do at quarterback in Matt Rhule's second year, but I can't think of where he would go if Carolina traded him. Some of the teams with additional cap space might make a run for Bridgewater, but I don't think he has a ton of trade appeal after a mediocre first season with the Panthers. Considering 2020 was the first year for both the head coach and the quarterback, and the team's star player was out for most of the season, I think Bridgewater gets one more year to try to prove himself as Carolina's quarterback of the future.
New Orleans Saints: Alex Smith
With the retirement of Drew Brees, the next logical option for Sean Payton to consider is Taysom Hill, the guy Payton has compared to Steve Young. But it doesn't feel like the Saints are very committed to Hill long-term. Therefore, I think they try to bring someone else in to serve as Brees' successor. Alex Smith had an excellent season in Washington in his return from a devastating injury that sidelined him for two seasons. Now, I think he'll have value for some teams as a somewhat cheap, reliable veteran. If the Saints don't go with Taysom Hill, I think there's a good chance they trade for Smith, keep him for the two remaining years on his contract, and draft a young guy later on in the draft to groom for the future.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers: Tom Brady
All the 43-year old Brady did in his first season in Tampa was lead his team to the Super Bowl. He may play until he's 50, and could probably go almost anywhere after his contract is up in a year. For next season, at least, he'll be back with the Bucs.
Written by Nick Swatson