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NFL Draft

How Many NFL Teams Have New QB In 2021?

  • The Draft Network
  • January 29, 2021
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Quarterback changes across the NFL have been, largely, fruitful; one can look to years past and see that six of the last eight Super-Bowl passers became their respective team’s starter within two years. But one doesn’t have to look much further than the upcoming Super Bowl 55 matchup, pinning a storied, veteran QB against a new, electrifying passer who is changing what it means to be an elite quarterback.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers secured Tom Brady after two decades with the New England Patriots and a nauseating amount of Super Bowl victories; the joke is truly on us as we prepare to watch Brady in another championship game in an entirely different conference. Kansas City sports Patrick Mahomes. We know his resume and his abilities; also remember Kansas City traded up in the 2017 draft to select Mahomes despite having Alex Smith as the starting quarterback on their roster. 

Sometimes, it pays off to ride the dizzying quarterback carousel. This offseason promises a faster, larger carousel. The list of quarterbacks on the market is continuously growing. Deshaun Watson’s name was officially added after he requested a trade from the Houston Texans. He joins the likes of Matthew Stafford, Dak Prescott, Sam Darnold, Jimmy Garoppolo, Cam Newton, Teddy Bridgewater, Mitchell Trubisky, Jameis Winston, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Ben Roethlisberger, Smith, and even Aaron Rodgers, Carson Wentz, and Jared Goff. Daniel Jones, Gardner Minshew, and Tua Tagovailoa, who is coming off his rookie season, could potentially all be moved. I know; it’s a lot. 

There are approximately 10 quarterbacks who are a virtual lock for their starting job next season. ESPN’s Adam Schefter noted this and the expanding quarterback market earlier this week. Schefter put the over/under for QB changes at 18, and he took the over. That’s bold. We’ve seen NFL circles overshoot and overdramatize changes looming before free agency begins each year; this year, after the most unique season in NFL history due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, is no different. But 18?

It takes a heck of a lot of mind-mapping and includes factors entirely out of our (and often the players’) control, but let’s go with 18 and see exactly how this can play out when the market opens in March. There are a number of teams that have an immediate need at quarterback.

1. Jacksonville Jaguars: The Jaguars have the No. 1 pick in the 2021 NFL Draft; they’ll be selecting former Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence. No further explanation is needed when a team has to decide between Lawrence, who is one of the most exceptional talents entering the league, and the combination of Minshew, Mike Glennon, and Jake Luton.

2. New York Jets: The Jets have the second overall pick in the upcoming draft, but they don’t need to go quarterback here. New York, and its new head coach Robert Saleh, can look to a proven talent, one that was wasted away in Houston. The Jets have the draft capital to create an unprecedented package to secure Watson.

3. Miami Dolphins: Multiple things can be true at once. Yes, the Dolphins used a top-five pick on a quarterback in last year’s draft; and yes, the Dolphins are also serious contenders to trade for Watson. It would send Tagovailoa packing.

4. Houston Texans: This is a no-brainer. Watson is effectively out of Houston. The questions that remain are: Where will he land? And who will replace him?

5. Indianapolis Colts: Philip Rivers was always a bridge for the Colts and he’s now retired. Indianapolis has a talented roster and plenty of money to spend for a proven passer that can build on an 11-5 season that ended in the wild-card round.

6. Carolina Panthers: The Panthers have Bridgewater for the next two seasons, but their record left a lot to be desired. After consecutive 5-11 seasons and its third year absent in the playoffs, Carolina could consider a change under center and use its top-10 draft pick on the likes of Justin Fields, Trey Lance, or Zach Wilson. They’re also reportedly in on Watson.

7. Pittsburgh Steelers: The arc of Roethlisberger’s 2020 season would have been entertaining if it wasn’t maddening that the Steelers have stuck by his side for more years than they’ve had to. Now, Pittsburgh is reportedly in the works of ushering in a new era with Dwayne Haskins potentially at the center of it if they can’t re-work Roethlisberger’s contract.

8. Washington Football Team: Washington had one of the most interesting quarterback conundrums, mostly because it seemed the team never had a true plan for who its passer would be. Washington held on to Haskins for too long; putting the young quarterback in an unhealthy environment that never truly supported him or his development. It then looked to Smith, whose comeback story would be more inspiring if football wasn’t the reason he nearly died after suffering a gruesome leg injury in 2018. Washington needs a franchise quarterback it currently doesn’t have on its roster.

9. Chicago Bears: Trubisky will be on the free-agent market, and Nick Foles isn’t a promising option. He went 2-5 in seven starts last season, which should lead the Bears to look for a worthy QB.

10. New Orleans Saints: Drew Brees will have a very sad exit from the NFL if he hangs up his cleats after two decades. With Brees on his way out, New Orleans can begin a new chapter—once they clean up their cap situation.

11) Detroit Lions: The Lions are definitely going to need a new passer after agreeing to mutually part ways with Stafford. They now have to map out their future without him, which begins with a hefty offer for the veteran passer. There’s already been “immediate and significant” interest from a number of teams; and with Detroit holding the seventh overall pick in the draft, it can look to who’s left between Fields, Lance, and Wilson.

There are a couple of teams who would need to do some major salary-cap gymnastics. 

12. Atlanta Falcons: Nothing really went right for Atlanta, and various levels of disappointment have hurt the Falcons for years. Quarterback Matt Ryan is not getting the job done and holds some of the blame for an inefficient offense

13. Philadelphia Eagles: The Eagles have a mess on their hands. Wentz is over-paid and has underperformed, so much so that he was replaced with rookie Jalen Hurts, who started the final four games of the regular season. Philadelphia’s new head coach, Nick Sirianni, can attempt to reignite Wentz’s career, or he can walk away from the dumpster fire. There’s quite a bit of math involved and multiple ways the Eagles could move on from Wentz

There are also the teams who likely won’t make a drastic change but should strongly consider it. Here are the 14) Los Angeles Rams, 15) Denver Broncos, 16) San Francisco 49ers, and 17) New England Patriots. Each, for a variety of reasons, should look to the draft or budding market to shore up a better option at quarterback. However, not all of these teams will if they aren’t swayed by the passers remaining in free agency or in the 2021 draft class. As we’ve seen with a number of these teams, sometimes opting for a QB change is, well, fruitless.

There are also stubborn, greedy owners who think they alone hold the key to a successful franchise. All eyes will be on the 18) Dallas Cowboys and what they do with Prescott. He deserves a new, long-term contract or Jerry Jones could botch this deal and see Prescott with another franchise. 

Now, after we’re exhausted from this thought exercise, I would strongly advise not taking the over on 18 quarterback changes. The draft class is talented, but outside of the top names, there isn’t a compelling reason to put a franchise in the hands of a green quarterback; not when there are this many QBs with experience on the market. 

We’ll still see plenty of quarterback changes in the next couple of months, but the unknowns that still loom after the coronavirus upended the draft process as we know it and severely affected the salary cap should give some NFL brass pause when looking at a significant change. Teams like the New York Giants, Las Vegas Raiders, Minnesota Vikings, and Green Bay Packers are very unlikely to make a change, despite each facing its share of QB rumors or overall lack of success. 

If my bank account allowed me to be a betting woman, I would set the O/U at 12 and take the over; the NFL is always full of surprises. Knowing there are around 10 teams that absolutely need to make a quarterback change gives room for a few more to try something new going forward.

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