The 2020 NFL quarterbacks carousel was something else! Tom Brady left the New England Patriots for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Philip Rivers went from LaLa Land to Indianapolis. Cam Newton landed in Foxborough late in the offseason. And several other names, like Nick Foles, Jameis Winston, Andy Dalton, Marcus Mariota and Teddy Bridgewater, also found new homes!
Plenty of big-named NFL quarterbacks traded places in 2020, and we expect several more to find new teams in 2021—not to mention the upcoming draft, which features four intriguing QB prospects!
With all of these NFL quarterbacks set to become available, here are eight NFL teams that need a new starting QB, and who they should get.
8. Washington Football Team: Zach Wilson
Ron Rivera and the new Washington coaching staff clearly didn’t buy Dwayne Haskins as a capable starter. They gave up on the Ohio State product and 2019 first-round pick rather quickly, showing him the bench after four games in 2020.
Alex Smith has performed nicely as the starter since miraculously returning to the field following a gruesome career-threatening leg fracture. That said, Smith’s age means he isn’t the long-term answer, even if he can stay healthy from here.
He’s only under contract for two more seasons, and it’s hard to envision Washington giving him another extension as he approaches 40.
Washington needs to upgrade the quarterback position if they want to contend with the NFC’s top heavyweights. BYU quarterback Zach Wilson, a top-five quarterback prospect in the 2021 draft, would be the ideal target.
Washington, simply put, isn’t bad enough to secure a high draft position that would land either Trevor Lawrence, Trey Lance or Justin Fields. Not sure if Rivera wants to sacrifice all that draft capital to move up a few spots, either.
Wilson’s stock has quickly risen ahead of the 2021 draft. He has all the tools and mechanics to be an above-average starter right away. And of course, he’d have a nice set of playmakers in Terry McLaurin and Antonio Gibson.
Rivera did wonders with Cam Newton and now with Smith. Imagine giving him a new hot-shot quarterback prospect to build around. In such a laughingstock of a division, a guy like Wilson would make Washington the team to beat in the NFC East over the long run.
7. Denver Broncos: Sam Darnold
John Elway is changing starting quarterbacks every year or two. He clearly doesn’t have a whole lot of patience with the game’s most important position, which is why we can envision him giving up on Drew Lock quickly.
Lock fared nicely in a five-game rookie audition, leading Denver to victories in four of his five starts. But he’s been anywhere from mediocre to awful in 2020, even though Elway supplied him with a plethora of play-making weapons in the offseason.
And we don’t just think that Elway should give up on Lock so quickly because of a tough sophomore season. Rather, it’s because Elway can easily find an upgrade at a reasonable price via free agency or in the trade market.
Enter New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold.
It’s hard to blame Darnold for his lack of progression over the first three years of his career. The New York Jets have given him an inept coaching staff, a woeful offensive line and zero Pro Bowl-caliber playmakers.
He was the No. 3 pick in 2018 for a reason. The USC product displayed great accuracy, poise and calmness in the pocket during his college days. It’s not his fault the Jets don’t know how to build a half-decent roster around him.
The Jets will most certainly draft a can’t-miss QB prospect with their first selection in 2021. That will make Darnold expendable, and the Broncos can probably land him for a mid-round pick.
Put Darnold in an offense with Jerry Jeudy, Courtland Sutton, Noah Fant, Melvin Gordon and Phillip Lindsay — AND WITHOUT ADAM GASE — and watch how it all plays out. I’m willing to bet that he’d look more like the star we saw at USC in this Broncos offense.
Elway may as well take a chance on a young QB who has the tools to succeed, rather than overpay for a veteran or taking another shot in the draft…which he has done a few times already, and failed miserably in the process.
Add it all up, and Darnold to the Broncos makes all the sense in the world if you ask us.
6. Jacksonville Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence
The Gardner Minshew project was fun in 2019, but the moustache master predictably regressed in 2020 on a woeful Jacksonville team. And now it’s looking like the new Jaguars GM will have the luxury of taking whoever he wants with the first pick in the 2021 draft.
Barring any surprises down the stretch, it’s looking like the Jaguars will claim the first overall selection ahead of the Jets. And with it, there’s no doubting they’ll use it to take Trevor Lawrence.Lawrence, like 2020 first overall pick Joe Burrow, is widely regarded as a generational, can’t-miss prospect. The Clemson product has zero glaring flaws in his game. He is an elite athlete and an incredible pocket passer. His calmness, poise and confidence mirror that of Mahomes, Tom Brady, Drew Brees, Aaron Rodgers, and other greats who have come before him. And on top of that, he can also do a lot of damage in the run game.
The Jaguars already have several franchise building blocks in place: like James Robinson, D.J. Chark, Josh Allen, CJ Henderson and K’Lavon Chaisson. If they can add Lawrence to that list, the rebuild could be complete before you know it.
5. New York Jets: Justin Fields
After three disappointing seasons, the Jets will most definitely move on from Sam Darnold in 2021. Some might argue that he deserves one more chance –with a decent coach and supporting cast — but it’ll be too hard for the Jets to pass on a franchise-changing signal-caller like Justin Fields.
Think of 2019, when the Arizona Cardinals moved on from Josh Rosen simply because they weren’t able to resist the Kyler Murray temptation.
Anywho, the 2020 embarrassment that is the New York Jets will pay off with a very early draft pick. And while it’s looking like they may have lost the battle for Trevor Lawrence–thanks to their late-season win against the Rams–drafting Fields at number two isn’t a bad consolation prize at all.
NFL draft guru Daniel Jeremiah has compared Fields to Dallas Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott.
The Ohio State quarterback, like Prescott, displays remarkable pocket mobility. His speed and running abilities have to be accounted for by opposing defenses. But it’s his arm and overall athleticism that make Fields a big time prospect.
Fields would change everything about the Jets franchise. He, along with a competent coaching staff, would give these long-suffering Jets fans the gift they all deserve.
4. San Francisco 49ers: Carson Wentz
Jimmy Garoppolo’s hefty contract, inconsistent play and injury woes lead us to believe that the 49ers will look to start fresh at quarterback in 2021.
The 49ers can cut Garoppolo after the 2020 season and take on just $2.8 million in dead money. Or, you know, they can hold onto the injury-prone, up-and-down quarterback for two more years.
Let’s be real here. A LOT of quarterbacks can flourish in Kyle Shanahan’s offense. Third-stringer Nick Mullens has had some nice moments, and Shanahan made Matt Ryan an MVP winner. What more can you say?
So add it all up, and it makes sense for San Fran to cut Garoppolo and find somebody else… Which brings us to Carson Wentz.
The latter has endured a horrible 2020 season with the Philadelphia Eagles…three years after piecing together an MVP-caliber season that ended abruptly with an ACL tear.
Wentz can only take so much of the blame. The Eagles’ once-stout offensive line has been horrible. They’ve given Wentz a limited supporting cast! They drafted Jalean Reagor over Justin Jefferson, for crying out loud. And Pro Bowl tight end Zach Ertz has regressed considerably for whatever reason.
The point is, Wentz could flourish again if he gets a fresh start. Put him in Shanahan’s crafty offense, and watch the magic be restored. Wentz would play behind a top-notch o-line with a powerful rushing game and the league’s best tight end in George Kittle.
He would excel in the play-action and bootleg-heavy scheme of Shanny. We saw what Wentz could do when he HAD an o-line and a decent supporting cast in 2017 and 2018. Some guys just need a new coach and a system that can work around their talents.
3. Detroit Lions: Trey Lance
Matthew Stafford has not been the problem for the Detroit Lions. If anything, he’s the main reason why they haven’t been a laughingstock on the level of the Jets, Jaguars, Washington, and other teams over the past decade.
But at some point, you just have to accept the fact that it’s not working out and it’s time to move on. The Lions are going nowhere with Stafford, who will be 33 in the 2021 season, and has only three playoff berths and no postseason wins to show for it. It’s going to take a while to rebuild this roster.
Maybe it’s time for them to move on from No. 9 and start afresh with their next GM and head coach.
The good news for the Lions is that they’re on schedule to land a top-10 selection. That means they should be able to select — or even trade up for — somebody like Lance or the aforementioned Zach Wilson.
But assuming Fields isn’t available to Detroit when they pick, the best bet is to take Trey Lance.
The North Dakota State star isn’t as polished as Lawrence or Fields, but he has all the tools to be a franchise-changer. His overall arm, release and pinpoint accuracy make Lance such an intriguing prospect.
And like most young phenom quarterbacks, Lance displays remarkable scrambling abilities. The Lions don’t exactly have that with Stafford. Heck, the franchise has NEVER had a quarterback with Lance’s playmaking, dual-threat skillset.
Again, this isn’t anything against Stafford. But at some point, the Lions just need to hit the reset button. Let Stafford finish out his prime elsewhere. Start the next regime with a brand new and exciting young QB to complement the new GM and head coach.
2. New England Patriots: Jimmy Garoppolo
You’ve all heard the tale about how Robert Kraft forced Bill Belichick to keep Tom Brady over Jimmy Garoppolo, who was traded to the 49ers for a second-round pick ahead of the 2017 trade deadline.
Who knows if it’s true, but at any rate, it’s quite evident that Belichick wanted Jimmy G to succeed TB-12, who left for the Tampa Bay Buccaneers in 2020 free agency.
Well, as we mentioned above, the 49ers are better off releasing Garoppolo now and upgrading at the position. The latter will draw plenty of interest, but we can envision the win-win scenario where Belichick brings back his INITIALLY PLANNED successor to Brady’s throne.
Garoppolo has been solid, but not great, in San Fran. He looked like a star in his two starts for the Patriots in 2016. Belichick has done fairly well with Cam Newton in 2020, but there’s no doubt that Garoppolo is a better fit in his and Josh McDaniels’ offense.
Belichick is no stranger to bringing back old friends. It worked tremendously with LeGarrette Blount and Patrick Chung. And he’s brought back Brian Hoyer on two separate occasions.
It would be soooooo like Bill to quickly jump in and snag Garoppolo, less than four years after dealing him for a second-rounder. Belichick could then get back to the drawing board with Jimmy G, who would help restart the next era of Patriots football.
1. Chicago Bears: Cam Newton
Soooooo… IF Belichick were to sign Garoppolo, that would mean bidding farewell to the 2015 league MVP.
Newton, all things considered, has performed pretty well under Belichick and McDaniels. He’s excelled in the running game, but Newton has been extremely inconsistent as a passer. Not sure if Belichick will want to invest long-term in an injury-prone QB, either.
The early guess is that Newton finds a better contract outside of Foxborough, and Belichick finds somebody else to start for the Pats — be it Garoppolo or somebody else in free agency or the draft.
What we do know is that the Bears will most certainly move on from both Mitch Trubisky and Nick Foles in 2021. Neither guy has been able to get this sluggish offense going. No reason to continue with either guy.
But the Bears also have a championship-caliber defense and several offensive playmakers, so they’re kinda-sorta ready to win now. So why wait until the draft to address your quarterback issues when you can find a solution in free agency?
Enter Cam Newton.
The former league MVP has worked nicely in New England’s rush-heavy offense. The Patriots have relied on the ground game and their elite defense to win games. The Bears should use that formula in 2021.
Imagine having Newton and David Montgomery to power your ground game. That would allow the Bears to rely on their elite defense to help close out games. Newton is deserving of a giant contract, and the Bears should be able to outbid just about anyone else for him.
Add Newton to the offense, and the Bears have the makings of a playoff and hopeful Super Bowl contender. He’s the perfect fit for this team, and he would go a long way in helping them return to relevance following another wasted season.