2020 NFL free agency: Ranking Teddy Bridgewater landing spots after Drew Brees announces his 2020 return
Bridgewater should have plenty of suitors, assuming he doesn't return to New Orleans
New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees is coming back for (at least) one more run. The future Hall of Famer that he will return to New Orleans for the 2020 season, which takes one team off the board when it comes to the starting quarterback market this winter. It also all but ensures that Brees' backup, Teddy Bridgewater, will be one of the most highly-coveted players available on said market.
There is of course the chance that Bridgewater elects to return to New Orleans and back up Brees as he did a year ago, but after a successful five-plus-game stint filling in for Brees last season -- and with a number of teams looking for new starters -- it feels more likely that Bridgewater will try to cash in and find himself a starting job at the same time. After all, it's unlikely Bridgewater will go 5-0 as a starter again next season if he's playing backup to a quarterback who had missed just three games due to injury in the previous 13 seasons.
With all that in mind, we're going to rank eight potential suitors for Bridgewater, as well as some of the reasons those teams do and do not make sense as his eventual landing spot.
Teddy doesn't throw deep enough for Bruce Arians.
Our team at SportsLine seems to think this result is more likely than I do, but if the Panthers are going with a veteran quarterback for next season, it seems far more likely they just go for one more run with Cam Newton than that they swap him out for Teddy B. That said, if the Panthers do decide the Newton era is over but they also don't like Justin Herbert or Jordan Love enough to take them early in the first round, they could do a whole lot worse than Bridgewater for the next few years while Matt Rhule enacts his rebuilding plan.
This would be a fantastic fit and they would be higher on the list if I believed for even a second that Tom Brady was actually leaving.
The Dolphins already have their bridge quarterback in Ryan Fitzpatrick. If they decide they're drafting a quarterback, whether than be Tua Tagovailoa or Herbert or whoever else, then it makes sense to just let Fitz play one more year while whomever they draft sits, learns, and waits for the team to make much-needed upgrades along the offensive line before being thrown to the wolves.
But if Miami doesn't like what it sees in Tua's medicals, or decides Herbert's not worth a top-five draft pick, or doesn't want to take Love in the back half of the first round ... then Teddy makes a lot of sense as a longer-term option who could also wind up just being a bridge if he falters next year and they do wind up near the top of the draft again. The Dolphins could then enact the same plan they seemingly had for Tagovailoa, but for Trevor Lawrence or whomever else they decide is worth a high first-round pick. Or they could try to trade Bridgewater for even more value.
The Chargers supposedly want to go with a more mobile quarterback if they're not going to have Philip Rivers anymore, and Tyrod Taylor certainly fits that bill better than Bridgewater does. Again, Teddy's not a statue, but he's not exactly Lamar Jackson-lite, either. He has mobility, but he's not a threat to run all that often -- and you probably don't want him taking off anyway, given the issues with his knee. But he's probably a better pure passer than Taylor, and if all the Chargers are looking for is an upgrade in mobility from Rivers, well, Teddy is certainly that.
The only thing holding me back from placing the Bears even higher on the list is that the braintrust that decided on Mitch Trubisky as the team's quarterback of the future is still in place. Chicago has a more obvious need at quarterback than either of the two teams ahead of them, but Ryan Pace may not be willing to admit that just yet. He might prefer to give Trubisky one more shot at this thing and bring in someone like Andy Dalton to be a definitive backup than he would to take a chance on Bridgewater.
If the Bears were to go in this direction, though, Bridgewater would make for an excellent fit in Matt Nagy's Andy Reid-style offense, which is very similar to what Reich and the Colts run in Indianapolis. Giving Bridgewater Allen Robinson to work with on the outside would help replicate what he had with Michael Thomas last year in New Orleans, while Tarik Cohen could possibly get back to being an actual useful offensive contributor if he had Bridgewater under center as opposed to Trubisky.
This is actually my pick for the most likely destination, assuming the Raiders decide to move on from Derek Carr. Teddy could even move into Carr's house and live near Jon Gruden, who seem to absolutely love Bridgewater when he appeared on Gruden's QB camp back in the day. And because the Raiders will be playing in Vegas, Teddy might not have to wear gloves quite as often.
Part of the issue with Carr in Gruden's offense is that he doesn't throw downfield all that often. Bridgewater would not totally rectify that issue. But Bridgewater's shorter passes tend to be the result of affirmative decision-making to throw to a target near the line of scrimmage more often than is true of Carr, who often is checking down after looking down the field and deciding not to let it fly.
Everyone knows Gruden tends to like players who are not on his roster more than the ones he has in house, so a shift from Carr to Bridgewater would not exactly be a surprise.
The Colts seem more likely to go after Tom Brady and/or Philip Rivers if A. they're actually available; and B. they decide to move on from Jacoby Brissett as their starter. But Bridgewater makes a decent amount of sense for them, too. Think of it like the kind of move the division rival Titans pulled last year with Marcus Mariota and Ryan Tannehill. They can hold a competition in training camp and whoever wins the job, gets the start. If that guy falters, the other is waiting in the wings.
Bridgewater makes for a nice fit with the offense Frank Reich and Nick Sirianni run, which tends to focus on timing and short, decisive passes. Bridgewater holds the ball too long at times but when given defined reads he can get the ball out quickly and accurately, putting it in the hands of playmakers and letting them go to work. The Colts might struggle to add a vertical element to their passing game if they replace Brissett with Bridgewater, but that might be worth the uptick in overall accuracy and command of the offense.
Brissett is probably a better athlete than Bridgewater and thus is more able to make plays outside the structure of the offense, but it's not like Teddy is a total stiff in the pocket. He can move around a little bit. Not that he'd need to move quite as often playing behind one of the better offensive lines in the NFL -- another thing that makes the Colts a good fit for him.
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