The 2021 NFL offseason has already kicked into gear with Matthew Stafford and Jared Goff switching teams but more is sure to come. The quarterback position is the driving force behind a deep playoff run and several teams have already identified the need to improve. There are three categories of teams that could have interest in upgrading the position below. Teams not listed will likely punt on pursuing a top-tier option this offseason.
Thirsty and do not care who knows it
The teams rumored to have made an aggressive offer in Matthew Stafford trade discussions were obvious inclusions on this list: Carolina, Washington, Indianapolis and New England. The Panthers reportedly offered No. 8 overall for Stafford and have also been aggressive in pursuit of Deshaun Watson. Teddy Bridgewater was serviceable, but the team obviously has higher aspirations.
Chicago may have considered giving Mitchell Trubisky another chance if he had been able to sustain his success through the playoffs but, alas, he could not. The Bears are likely to move on and are one of the teams rumored to be involved in Carson Wentz trade discussions. Nick Foles is obviously not the answer either.
The Colts committed to Philip Rivers for one year in the hopes that he would lead them to a Super Bowl but efforts fell short. Without a long-term fit in tow, Indianapolis once again finds itself searching. Head coach Frank Reich and general manager Chris Ballard have reached out to Reich's former team to gauge interest in a potential Wentz trade.
Jacksonville made the decision to move on from Gardner Minshew during the season. Jake Luton was not the answer. Mike Glennon is in the twilight of his career. They are taking a quarterback at No. 1 overall and Clemson's Trevor Lawrence is the frontrunner to be selected.
Everyone wanted to overlook the fact that Cam Newton had not been signed until the end of June because they wanted to believe he would tap into vintage form and elevate the Patriots in wake of Tom Brady's departure. COVID-19 may have impacted his performance but, at the end of the day, Bill Belichick did not get the level of play that he desired. After reports that Matthew Stafford declined a trade to Foxborough, it appears the shine of the New England way is starting to wear out. At No. 15 overall, the Patriots are out of reach of an option in the draft unless they feel confident in Alabama's Mac Jones.
Washington re-signed Taylor Heinicke after his performance in the playoffs but the quarterback position was a disappointment in 2020. The defense has improved each of the past two years and Ron Rivera has them all believing in the future. An investment in the quarterback position would drastically improve the team's ceiling but it will not be easy at No. 19 overall. They might be in the market for post-draft scraps like Sam Darnold.
Might be interested
Atlanta has been loyal to coaches in the past and have given them ample time to achieve success. Knowing that he is not on the chopping block, head coach Arthur Smith could and should push for a long-term commitment at the quarterback position. The team drafts No. 4 overall and are guaranteed a shot at one of the top prospects. Matt Ryan has had a great year, but the franchise needs to embrace the future.
Has the Drew Lock experiment run out? The John Elway promotion that feels more like a demotion comes at a unique time if they were not comfortable with him running another quarterback search. The fan base has witnessed several lean years with Paxton Lynch, Brock Osweiler and Lock in the post-Peyton Manning years.
The idea of Sean Payton going from Drew Brees to Jameis Winston is hard to comprehend. Payton has expectations for quarterbacks in his system and Winston has a strong record of turning the ball over. Cap constraints may prevent them from being aggressive but do not be surprised if New Orleans is more interested than they are projecting. Alabama's Mac Jones would be the most realistic fit because of his knowledge of defenses, accuracy and the high-end talent that would be surrounding him on that offense.
Pittsburgh might fall into this category if Ben Roethlisberger were not so insistent on the team using a pick to help them now during his final playing years.
BYU quarterback Zach Wilson is the only player that I would consider taking over retaining Darnold and the Jets will have the opportunity to nab him at No. 2 overall. Darnold was my highest-rated quarterback when he came out of the draft and that potential is still under the surface. The team just needs to surround him with talent.
The condition is that the team parts ways with Carson Wentz. Honestly, the options that are expected to be available to Philadelphia at No. 6 overall or sooner hardly seem like an upgrade over Wentz, despite the struggles he showed in 2020. The relationship between team and player has obviously soured and it may be beyond repair. Rumors have already begun to fly.
Only if right opportunity comes along
Derek Carr has his vocal supporters in Las Vegas but even the team has expressed some doubts. The Raiders have a glass ceiling with the Fresno State product at quarterback but he is a better option than what the team could do at No. 17 overall. The expectation is that they move forward with Carr unless an ideal opportunity comes around.
Miami is unlikely to move on from Tua Tagovailoa unless a Deshaun Watson deal presents itself. Tagovailoa struggled this year but that is normal for a rookie quarterback. Fans have been spoiled by the immediate success of Justin Herbert, Joe Burrow and Baker Mayfield in recent years. The doubt about his future stems more from his potential. Does the Alabama product have any transcendent traits that he can lean on during difficult moments?
The common theme between teams in this category is that there are questions about how far the quarterbacks can take them. The situation has to be perfect for them to advance far in the playoffs. Kirk Cousins is a solid player but, does his performance match the investment? The financial commitment prohibits them from investing heavily in other positions, which is essential for the team to meet its overall goal of winning a championship.
The questions surrounding Jimmy Garoppolo have been present for two years. Ironically, several analysts have reached the conclusion that Kyle Shanahan is enamored with Cousins, which seems like a marginal upgrade at best. Garoppolo has missed 23 games over the past three years and availability is the best ability.