Speculation is fun. It's what gets the imagination going. People usually entertain the notion of change, even if it doesn't happen nearly as much as it could.
When it comes to the quarterback position, there aren't many monumental moves that take place. Drew Brees going from the Los Angeles Chargers to the New Orleans Saints is one. Peyton Manning moving on from Indianapolis to finish his career in Denver is another. But in most cases, when you are a solidified franchise-changing QB, the team that has you likely doesn't let you go.
I'm not saying we're guaranteed to see a lot of turnover when it comes to quarterbacks in the 2020 offseason, but the names in this year's pool of players to bring into "what if" conversations feature some of the most notable names in the league.
Some are unrestricted free agents, others could be potential trade pieces due to one reason or another. Let's examine the big-name QBs who could be on the move.
POTENTIAL FREE AGENTS
Tom Brady, New England Patriots
Tom Brady? Wait, like the Tom Brady? You sure we're talking about the same guy?
Brady's contract is up, he can't be franchise tagged or transition tagged and he wants to keep playing. It is very unlikely that Brady will be playing in another uniform next season; you have to assume that owner Robert Kraft would do everything in his power to see that Brady never playing in another uniform. But he is technically a free agent.
Drew Brees, New Orleans Saints
The Saints restructured Brees' contract last summer to include two more voided years of cap hit — even if Brees retires after this season, he will still count against the Saints' cap. If he re-signs with New Orleans, that new contract cap will have to go on top of the previous amount. Because of all this, it's hard to imagine the Saints would pay for Brees to be on another team. If he's back at all, it will be with the Saints.
Jameis Winston, Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in such a unique situation. Winston led the league in passing yards and was second in passing touchdowns. Yet he was first by a mile in giveaways. Because of this, the Buccaneers are still on the fence about what to do with the 25-year-old gunslinger.
Everything is still on the table with Winston: long-term deal, franchise tag, transition tag and even completely moving on. Ultimately I do think Winston is back with the Buccaneers in 2020, but there is certainly a reality where he could be on another team.
Philip Rivers, Los Angeles Chargers
Could the Chargers long-time franchise quarterback be on the move? Maybe, or maybe he might be done altogether.
"I think that is my desire [to keep playing], but I do think that it only seems right to say, 'All right, let's take a deep breath and regroup,'" Rivers told ESPN’s Eric Williams. "I kept saying, ‘A couple years, a couple years or a handful,' and then I went to the 'one year at a time.' And I think that's where it is, and that only makes sense when your contract is up and you're going to be 38 here in a few weeks."
After winning 12 games in 2018 with 32 touchdowns to 12 interceptions, Rivers' team won just five games this year while the aging signal-caller threw just 23 scores to 20 picks.
Rivers' contract is up, but his time in the league might not be. If the Charger think it is time to move on, he will likely be one of the most coveted veteran quarterbacks on the market in 2020.
Eli Manning, New York Giants
There is a chance that we have already witnessed the final season of pro football for Eli Manning. After being replaced with rookie Daniel Jones, Manning was put in a backup role for most of 2019. He said himself that it wasn’t very fun. When asked about the possibility of returning to the Giants to be a backup, he said that probably won’t happen.
It the 39-year-old Manning with two options: find a starting job elsewhere or hang ‘em up. It’s hard to see Manning getting a starting job for 2020, so there’s a chance we’ve seen the last of a legendary career.
Teddy Bridgewater, New Orleans Saints
Teddy Bridgewater went 5-0 as a starter in relief for Brees during the first half of the 2019 season. His 1,300 passing yards, nine touchdowns and two interceptions give him a strong stat line to get the imagination going for a team looking for a potential starter. Bridgewater was in that position before with the Minnesota Vikings before a bad knee injury derailed his time there.
Marcus Mariota, Tennessee Titans
It’s hard to see a scenario where Marcus Mariota steps into a starter role right away in 2020. During his time in Tennessee, injuries, so many different offensive coordinators and a lack of offensive line support hurt his progression and even caused regression in the former second-overall pick. Mariota’s best bet is likely to a team that doesn’t have an untouchable starter in place and can compete for a job. But wherever it is, a change of scenery and a fresh start is necessary.
Cam Newton, Carolina Panthers
Now let’s get into some who might not be free agents, but could be available none the less.
We start with Carolina Panthers’ Cam Newton. Over the past few years, Newton and the Panthers have struggled to replicate the success that got them to a Super Bowl four seasons ago. Newton has had multiple injuries that haven’t helped that cause, including a hurt shoulder that could be the cause for the former MVP not looking like himself.
With Carolina moving on from head coach Ron Rivera, it could opt for a clean split at quarterback too. Newton has one year left on his contract, but the $21 million salary-cap hit for 2020 only shows $2 million of dead money. That’s not much at all when you consider the QB position.
There’s a chance Newton could be free to sign and start somewhere else for the first time in his NFL career.
Andy Dalton, Cincinnati Bengals
After being benched this season, Andy Dalton could be on his way out. With the Cincinnati Bengals having the first-overall pick, it is likely they will be using it on a quarterback and moving on from what they have now.
Dalton’s current deal, which has one year left, is currently priced at $17.7 million. That’s a pretty favorable contract for any team that might want to start Dalton. For that, there is a chance he could be acquired for a Day-3 pick, but there’s also a chance the Bengals will just outright cut him. None of his $17.7 million is guaranteed.
Dalton will likely be somewhere else next year. It’s just a matter of whether or not that comes via trade or a release and signing.
Derek Carr, Oakland Raiders
Derek Carr has three years left on his contract, but there isn’t much guaranteed money there. With how lukewarm the Oakland Raiders offense has been with Carr, head coach Jon Gruden wasn’t very committal to their quarterback when asked about it after the season.
“Yeah, he played good. I’m not going to get into all the next year scenarios,” Gruden said. “We got a lot of things to look at and evaluate before we start making any assumptions.”
It’s hard to imagine a team trading much for Carr, but he’s sort of in the same scenario as Dalton. It could be a late-round swap for him or potentially signed if the Raiders find a better option and want to move on.
Matthew Stafford, Detroit Lions
I have to mention this one since I’ve seen people talk about Matthew Stafford as a potential trade piece, but it just isn’t very likely.
Stafford still has four years left on his contract extension, and he recently restructured his deal to help the Detroit Lions out with their cap for next season. That tells me that both sides still want to work together. It’s much more likely that Stafford is in Detroit next year that picturing him somewhere else.