The offseason of the quarterback churned along Wednesday as the new league year officially started.
In the wake of Tom Brady reaching a deal with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Teddy Bridgewater choosing the Carolina Panthers, the free-agent quarterback picture is getting clearer. Philip Rivers is joining the Indianapolis Colts, Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott is staying put in Dallas, and Marcus Mariota will join Derek Carr on the Las Vegas Raiders.
There are still starters to be had, though. Assuming Jameis Winston isn’t interested in hanging out with the 42-year-old Brady next season, the free agent is on the hunt for a new team.
Cam Newton, still under contract with the Panthers for next season, has reportedly been “given permission to seek a trade," meaning the Panthers would like to shop him. Rounding things out is Andy Dalton, whom the Cincinnati Bengals have reportedly been trying to shop before welcoming presumptive No. 1 pick Joe Burrow to town.
Given his free-agent status, and the high upside he’s shown when he’s not throwing the ball to the other team, Winston is the best available signal-caller left. The 26-year-old threw for 5,109 yards, 33 touchdowns, and 30 interceptions last season. His volatile playing style cost the Buccaneers some games — they finished 7-9 — but it’s only a matter of time before a team talks itself into the good of Winston and ignores the bad.
Newton is another somewhat uncertain quantity. He missed last season with a foot injury and has seen a regression in play as injuries mount. But when Newton is healthy, he can be dangerous: A 6-foot-5, 245-pound dual-threat quarterback with a powerful arm and a mixture of power and elusiveness when he runs the ball.
Dalton struggled last season as the Bengals bottomed out in a rebuilding year. In his career, he’s 0-4 in the playoffs.
But which teams are quarterback-needy enough to make a run at one of the three players currently in limbo?
Newton could end up in Washington for a reunion with coach Ron Rivera. The team has the No. 2 pick in the draft and met with Burrow and Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa during the scouting combine even though the previous regime drafted Dwayne Haskins in the first round last year. Rivera spent nine years as Newton’s coach in Carolina, and could entertain the idea of Newton joining him in Washington depending on what he thinks of Haskins. Newton is set to make $18.6 million next season.
The New England Patriots and Los Angeles Chargers both lost their franchise quarterbacks without obvious replacements in the wings. The Chargers made a push to land Brady but are reportedly not expected to sign a veteran quarterback now. With Tyrod Taylor under contract and the No. 6 pick in next month’s draft, they could go into next season with a first-round quarterback and Taylor as the stopgap until the newcomer is ready.
The Patriots don’t have the same luxury. They have the No. 23 pick in the draft and have these QBs on their roster: Jarrett Stidham, a 23-year-old who threw four passes as a fourth-round rookie last season, and the well-traveled backup Cody Kessler. Dalton, more conservative with the ball than Winston but less athletic than Newton, most similarly resembles Brady’s approach to the position if the Patriots want some familiarity.
If they aren’t looking to keep the status quo, they’re the best team searching the market, meaning Winston or Newton could land there.