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QB Index: Brady to Chargers? Landing spots for top free agents
Will Dak Prescott stay in Dallas? Might Tom Brady head west? Where could Philip Rivers end up? See logical landing spots for the top eight free-agent quarterbacks.
With the NFL's 100th regular season in the books, NFL.com editors Ali Bhanpuri, Tom Blair, Gennaro Filice and Dan Parr join forces to update the QB Index.
Super Bowl LIV is just around the corner -- and so is the new league year. So this week, we're focusing on answering the following two questions about the top eight free-agent QBs of 2020:
Which QB below would we most want for next season? And where's the most logical spot for him to land?
Individual Rank: Bhanpuri: 1 | Blair: 1 | Filice: 1 | Parr: 1
2019 stats: 16 games | 65.1 pct | 4,902 pass yds | 8.2 ypa | 30 pass TD | 11 INT | 277 rush yds | 3 rush TD | 2 fumbles lost
Bhanpuri: Let's stop with this Dak needs to still prove himself nonsense. Please. The 26-year-old was a top-10 quarterback for most of the season, shattering career marks in passing yards and touchdowns, while also producing his highest yards-per-attempt mark in four seasons. He's tied with Russell Wilson for the second-most regular-season wins since 2016 (40) and has established himself as one of the more durable and reliable starting quarterbacks in the NFL. Prescott is certainly not a finished product, but his combination of ability, leadership and youth make him the No. 1 QB option on this year's free agent market.
Logical landing spot: I've yet to hear a single plausible scenario in which Prescott plays for anyone other than the Dallas Cowboys next year. How many millions will it take for him to sign on the dotted line? Well, that's the question that continues to loom over The Star. But make no mistake, a deal will get done. When the COO proclaims that re-signing Prescott is the team's " No. 1 priority" this offseason, you had better believe money is changing hands.
Individual Rank: Bhanpuri: 2 | Blair: 2 | Filice: 2 | Parr: 2
2019 stats: 11 games | 74.3 pct | 2,979 pass yds | 7.9 ypa | 27 pass TD | 4 INT | -4 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 0 fumbles lost
Bhanpuri: He's old. He can't move. His arm is shot. He's washed. Those fun takes haven't aged nearly as well as the 41-year-old future Hall of Famer. Brees was absolutely superb in the Saints' final nine games, returning from a broken thumb to rival Lamar Jackson as the most prolific scorer in the NFL. There's no telling how much longer Brees can perform at this level, making his value beyond the 2020 campaign nearly impossible to predict. But I certainly saw enough from his highly efficient, record-breaking 2019 season to believe he'll remain a plus passer for at least one more fall.
Logical landing spot: The New Orleans Saints have publicly voiced their support for a Brees reunion, and I can't imagine the 13-time Pro Bowler choosing to close out his career anywhere other than within the safe, comfortable confines of Sean Payton's offense. Back-to-back-to-back heartbreaking playoff losses don't change the fact that both QB and club are at their best together. The more pressing concern for New Orleans is two-fold: How will the cap-strapped franchise make the financials work? And how will the terms of his deal affect Teddy Bridgewater's future?
Individual Rank: Bhanpuri: 3 | Blair: 3 | Filice: 4 | Parr: 4
2019 stats: 12 games | 70.3 pct | 2,742 pass yds | 9.6 ypa | 22 pass TD | 6 INT | 185 rush yds | 4 rush TD | 3 fumbles lost
Blair: If the Titans allow him to reach the market, Tannehill could be more sought-after than he's been at any point in his NFL tenure, maybe even including when he was a draft prospect. Yes, Tannehill's career ledger is still stained by that lackluster 42-46 record in Miami. But from Week 7 to Week 17 in 2019, he was one of the best quarterbacks in the NFL, saving Tennessee's season and coming within a game of the Super Bowl. Short of fast-forwarding through three additional years of top-end production, I'm not sure what else Tannehill could do to show he's capable of playing at an extremely high level when aligned with the right staff and supporting pieces.
Logical landing spot: Which is why I don't think he should go anywhere in 2020. Could Tannehill really find a better fit than the Tennessee Titans, for whom he compiled a 119.6 passer rating in 10 starts? There might be splashier names out there, but could the Titans really find a QB who will click with the offense, Mike Vrabel and Arthur Smith as well as Tannehill did? Whether he stays on the tag or a long-term deal, it seems like it would be in the best interests of all involved for the 31-year-old Tannehill to try to keep a good thing going in Nashville.
Individual Rank: Bhanpuri: 4 | Blair: 6 | Filice: 3 | Parr: 3
2019 stats: 16 games | 60.8 pct | 4,057 pass yds | 6.6 ypa | 24 pass TD | 8 INT | 34 rush yds | 3 rush TD | 1 fumble lost
Blair: Is Brady out of gas, or did the Pats' suspect supporting cast let him down? Brady's resume is cartoonishly gaudy, one of the best ever committed to the football record, and his name will be spoken for as long as humans roam the earth. The lure for suitors is giving the GOAT a chance to draw on his legendary knack for making doubters look stupid one last time while wearing your uniform. Of course, when you link your fate to a probably-in-decline quarterback who will be 43 for the 2020 season, you have to be ready for the whole thing to go sideways in a hurry.
Logical landing spot: OK, so, the most logical move is to stay right where he's been since 2000. Who better than the best coach of all time to help him become the first QB 43 or older to start more than six games, let alone win? And yet ... rewatching Brady struggle to connect with N'Keal Harry and Mohamed Sanu in gray, chilly Foxborough, I found myself yearning to target Keenan Allen and Mike Williams in the sun. Brady might have to overcome the discomfort of being a bridge QB, given that the Los Angeles Chargers would be smart to protect against Brady's eventual retirement/ascension to Force Ghost status by also drafting a young prospect. And there is every chance things could get bumpy on a roster that, Allen and Williams aside, couldn't elevate Philip Rivers to more than five wins in 2019. But if Brady decides to stretch his wings (or the Pats prove unwilling to pay him what he wants), why not go out in style -- and, you know, warmth -- in L.A.?
Individual Rank: Bhanpuri: 6 | Blair: 5 | Filice: 7 | Parr: 6
2019 stats: 9 games | 67.9 pct | 1,384 pass yds | 7.1 ypa | 9 pass TD | 2 INT | 31 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 0 fumbles lost
Filice: In the fifth quarter of New Orleans' 2019 campaign, the Saints lost Drew Brees to a thumb injury that would require surgery. With a projected recovery timeline of 6-8 weeks, it sure seemed like the Saints' playoff chances had taken a significant hit. And yet, New Orleans went on to win the NFC South going away with a sparkling 13-3 record. How? Well, the backup quarterback came in and went a perfect 5-0, enjoying the best stretch of football in his professional career. Bridgewater's numbers from that five-start relief stint are dazzling: 69.7 comp%, 9:2 TD-to-INT, 103.7 passer rating. The former first-round pick and second-year Pro Bowler looked like a legit QB1, which he was in Minnesota before a catastrophic knee injury nearly ended his career altogether. Is this the time for Teddy Two Gloves to get his hands back on the reins of a starting job?
Logical landing spot: At age 27, with his major knee injury more than three years in the rearview, Bridgewater could be an attractive option for any team looking to add a competitive option to the quarterback room without absolutely breaking the bank. Chicago immediately springs to mind, especially considering that Bridgewater laid waste to the Bears in their own home during his final start of 2019. If you can't beat him, sign him! But Bridgewater himself seems to have really taken to the New Orleans Saints organization and New Orleans as a place to live. And even if Drew Brees re-ups with the Saints -- which is the widespread expectation -- he just turned 41 years old, and his arm strength appears to be losing the battle with Father Time. Bridgewater displayed discerning taste in free agency last offseason, when he passed up an opportunity to start for his hometown Dolphins and instead re-signed as the Saints' backup. With Brees a year older -- and a year closer to passing an attractive, Sean Payton-coached torch -- might Bridgewater continue to bide his time in NOLA? That's the guess in this speculative assessment.
Individual Rank: Bhanpuri: 5 | Blair: 4 | Filice: 5 | Parr: 5
2019 stats: 16 games | 66.0 pct | 4,615 pass yds | 7.8 ypa | 23 pass TD | 20 INT | 29 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 3 fumbles lost
Filice: Fresh off a contract year to forget, the longtime San Diego resident packed up his family -- no small task with the Rivers brood! -- and moved across the country to Florida. This, of course, only furthers speculation that Rivers has indeed played his last game with the Chargers and will hit the open market in March. Despite throwing 13 interceptions in his last seven games -- six of which were Chargers losses -- the 38-year-old adamantly believes that he "still can play at a high level." Here's guessing this belief is shared by at least one general manager -- specifically, a general manager with a well-rounded roster lacking certainty at the game's most important position.
Logical landing spot: Wait, a general manager with a well-rounded roster lacking certainty at the game's most important position ... By God, that's Chris Ballard's music! The Indianapolis GM openly stated earlier this month that "the jury's still out" on incumbent starter Jacoby Brissett, so Rivers would make sense for the Indianapolis Colts. Would the Colts make sense for Rivers? Why, yes -- plenty! Indianapolis head coach Frank Reich spent three years with Rivers in San Diego, first as quarterbacks coach, then as offensive coordinator. Colts OC Nick Sirianni also served as Rivers' QB coach on the Chargers. And then there's the protection this Indy offensive line could offer the 16-year veteran. The Chargers' porous O-line certainly didn't do Rivers any favors in 2019, finishing as Pro Football Focus' 29th-ranked unit. Meanwhile, the Colts' front five ranked third.
Individual Rank: Bhanpuri: 7 | Blair: 7 | Filice: 6 | Parr: 7
2019 stats: 16 games | 60.7 pct | 5,109 pass yds | 8.2 ypa | 33 pass TD | 30 INT | 250 rush yds | 1 rush TD | 5 fumbles lost
Parr: Famous Jameis threw for a career-high 33 TD passes last season (second-most in the league). The problem is, he also hit the 30 mark in INTs, becoming the first 30-30 player ever. That's not the kind of history you want to make. He continues to tease with some rapturous quarterbacking at times, but net-neutral QB play is not going to be enough for a team to be a consistent winner in this era of professional football. That's right. It's not going to lead to enough tasty Ws. Therein lies the problem with his candidacy on this list. The man is too often a victim of his own poor decision making to sniff the top tier.
Logical landing spot: Now that we've gotten that out of the way, it makes perfect sense for the Bucs to begrudgingly welcome Winston back on a one-year deal. Tampa Bay holds the 14th pick in Round 1, which most likely will put them out of range to land one of the top quarterbacks available in this year's draft (SEE: Daniel Jeremiah's mock draft 1.0). Unless they plan to go all in on trading up to land one of those rookie passers, Winston will probably be their best option for 2020. Sorry, Bucs fans.
Individual Rank: Bhanpuri: 8 | Blair: 8 | Filice: 8 | Parr: 8
2019 stats: 7 games | 59.4 pct | 1,203 pass yds | 7.5 ypa | 7 pass TD | 2 INT | 129 rush yds | 0 rush TD | 0 fumbles lost
Parr:Hey, remember when Marcus Mariota led the Titans to a playoff win over the Chiefs at Arrowhead Stadium? That seems like a lifetime ago (it was two years ago). His taste of success was so fleeting. Since that game, the former No. 2 overall pick has had the two worst seasons of his career. Ryan Tannehill -- you know, the guy who was traded away by his drafting team for almost nothing last offseason -- took Mariota's job and ran away with it in 2019. Mariota says he has no doubts he can be a starting quarterback in the NFL again, but we don't blame anyone who doesn't share that sense of optimism about a guy with a career losing record as a starter (29-32) and a TD:INT ratio of 31:25 over the past three seasons, good for a pedestrian QB rating of 86.0.
Logical landing spot: Look, if Mariota is really set on getting right back in the saddle as a starter, the best team for him would be the Chicago Bears, whose incumbent QB Mitchell Trubisky -- another former No. 2 overall pick -- is heading down a Mariota-like path in a hurry. If the Bears really are committed to Mitch as the starter -- and that is their story for now -- they could take a flier on Mariota (backup Chase Daniel is a free agent) and hope he can pull a Tanny on Trubisky if the young passer gives them no choice but to give someone else a shot before it's too late in 2020.