The year of the QB carousel: Projecting 2020 starters for these 15 NFL teams
Who will be your starting quarterback in 2020?
Almost half of the teams in the NFL can’t answer that question with certainty heading into free agency and the draft.
Tom Brady and Philip Rivers are among the big-name quarterbacks on the market, and Cam Newton and Andy Dalton are among starters who could be traded. Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa, Justin Herbert and Jordan Love are all projected to go in the first round of the 2020 NFL Draft.
With an open mind to almost any scenario, Sporting News sizes up the quarterback carousel for 15 NFL teams and predicts who will end up where.
1 Carolina Panthers
Last year: Cam Newton missed most of the season with a foot injury. Kyle Allen started in 12 games, and rookie Will Grier started two others. The Panthers have to decide if Newton is worth keeping with their new regime.
What could happen: New coach Matt Rhule has expressed excitement about working with Newton, and that would be the safe short-term route. With new offensive coordinator Joe Brady on board from LSU, however, Carolina needs to keep its options open.
2020 starter prediction: If Rhule and Brady think it's worth the gamble, then the Panthers can draft Oregon's Justin Herbert with the No. 7 pick and trade Newton (more on that later). Herbert gets time to learn behind Allen, who was 5-7 as a starter in 2019.
2 Chicago Bears
Last year: Mitchell Trubisky regressed during a season in which he made 15 starts but threw just 17 TDs and 10 interceptions. The Bears slipped to 8-8, and third-year coach Matt Nagy faces some pressure in the NFC North.
What could happen: The Bears could bench Trubisky after bringing in a veteran such as Cam Newton, Joe Flacco or Andy Dalton to compliment a defense that allowed 18.6 points per game in 2019. Flacco knows the drill from his time in Baltimore.
2020 starter prediction: Trubisky will be the Week 1 starter, but the Bears are sure to bring in a veteran to push him. Keep an eye on Teddy Bridgewater, who has experience in the division. That could make for an interesting preseason competition. That said, Dalton would be the best fit as a backup.
3 Cincinnati Bengals
Last year: The Bengals went 2-14 in Zac Taylor's first season as coach, and veteran quarterback Andy Dalton was 2-11 as a starter. He was benched for a few games in favor of Ryan Finley.
What could happen: All signs point to the Bengals drafting Heisman Trophy winner Joe Burrow, and no matter what the draft smokescreens are, that is what they should do. Cincinnati reportedly has been working with Dalton on a trade, which could happen around the draft.
2020 starter prediction: Burrow. The only question is whether Dalton stays and is the starter if Burrow is not ready early in the season. The Bengals did this with No. 1 pick Carson Palmer in 2003.
4 Denver Broncos
Last year: Joe Flacco, Brandon Allen and Drew Lock started at various points throughout a 7-9 season in which the Broncos quarterbacks passed for 16 TDs and 10 interceptions. Lock took over in the last five weeks and went 4-1.
What could happen: You never know given the way John Elway has sifted through quarterbacks since Peyton Manning retired, but Lock appears to be the best bet. Denver needs to find a reliable backup, however, and any of the veteran re-treads could turn up. The more experience, the better.
2020 starter prediction: Lock. He took just five sacks in those starts and showed room for growth in Denver's system.
5 Detroit Lions
Last year: The Lions went 3-12-1. Matthew Stafford missed eight games with a back injury, and the veteran quarterback had 19 TDs and 5 interceptions at that point. David Blough and Jeff Driskel combined to go 0-8 as starters in his place.
What could happen: Detroit can at least entertain looking to the future with Tua Tagovailoa, but Stafford would likely have to be traded for that to happen. The scenario also has been shot down by an ESPN report.
2020 starter prediction: Stafford will be back for his 11th season with Detroit. It's a pivotal year for the 32-year-old quarterback. Last season showed the Lions need to invest in a better backup plan.
6 Indianapolis Colts
Last year: Andrew Luck retired before the start of the season, and Jacoby Brissett started 15 games in his place. Brissett finished the year 7-8 as starter with 18 TDs and 6 interceptions.
What could happen: The Colts could stick with Brissett, but this is a team in the market for one of the big names in free agency. Tom Brady and Philip Rivers will be considered. Brady would be the more dramatic pickup considering the history of “Deflategate.” It is hard to see that unfolding, though.
2020 starter prediction: Rivers makes the most sense. He will turn 39 this season, but he still can put together a 4,000-yard season. Pair Rivers with Frank Reich, and the Colts become a viable threat to win the AFC South and make a deep playoff run.
7 Jacksonville Jaguars
Last year: Nick Foles joined the team on a huge contract and started just four games. Rookie Gardner Minshew became a cult hero in the NFL and had a 6-6 record as starter.
What could happen: The Jaguars have a new offensive coordinator in Jay Gruden, and they reportedly are shopping Foles on the trade market.
2020 starter prediction: Foles still makes sense for the Jags given what they’re paying him, but this is a volatile situation worth following. Minshew could win the job in the preseason. The Jaguars also are a wild card to go for Tua Tagovailoa if he is available. That’s not a stretch.
8 Las Vegas Raiders
Last year: Derek Carr started all 16 games and passed for 4,054 yards with 21 TDs and 8 interceptions. He is in the third year of a five-year deal, and the dead cap hit would be $7.9 million if he is released ($5 million if traded).
What could happen: Coach Jon Gruden and the Raiders could shop around given Carr’s 11-21 record over the last two seasons. Tom Brady is being a tossed around as a possibility, and that would make the biggest splash for the move to Las Vegas.
2020 starter prediction: If Brady does not go here (we don't think he will), then Carr is the best bet to start Week 1. Marcus Mariota is a name that will pop up, however. The Titans’ No. 2 overall pick in 2015 could make it a competition in the preseason.
9 Los Angeles Chargers
Last year: The Chargers dropped to 5-11. Philip Rivers passed for 4,615 yards, 23 TDs and 20 interceptions. Rivers, 38, opted for free agency.
What could happen: Los Angeles will have a new quarterback, and SN's Vinnie Iyer has the Chargers as Tom Brady's best fit if he leaves the Patriots. It makes sense given the talent in LA, but Brady could have reservations knowing Patrick Mahomes and the Chiefs are in the same division. Brady also would be in an unfamiliar system with offensive coordinator Shane Steichen.
2020 starter prediction: If Brady leaves New England, then this is a solid bet. The Chargers also have a unique opportunity with the No. 6 overall pick in the draft. Los Angeles could sign Brady and still draft a QB to sit and learn from the best. (If that rookie is Tua Tagovailoa, then it would be the ultimate transition from Rivers, but we have the Alabama passer being selected ahead of LA.)
10 Miami Dolphins
Last year: The Dolphins went 5-11. Miami traded for Josh Rosen, who made just three starts. Veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick was 5-8 as starter with 20 TDs and 13 interceptions.
What could happen: Tua Tagovailoa is the name linked to Miami most, but what if another team jumps ahead of the Dolphins in the draft to land the Alabama QB? Fitzpatrick, who has one year left on his contract, could be a holdover.
2020 starter prediction: It's Tagovailoa with the understanding that, because the Dolphins have so many needs, it is not unfathomable for them to stick with Fitzpatrick for year and position themselves as the front-runners for Clemson's Trevor Lawrence in 2021. That would be the best quarterback pick for Miami since Dan Marino in 1983.
11 New England Patriots
Last year: The Patriots finished 12-4, and Tom Brady piled up 4,057 yards with 24 TDs and 8 interceptions. New England lost to Tennessee in the wild-card round of the playoffs, however.
What could happen: The most simple answer is Bill Belichick and Brady can agree on a one- or two-year deal that allows the QB to finish his career with the Patriots. If Brady leaves, however, then it's on Belichick to come up with an answer to keep the NFL's greatest dynasty of all time intact.
2020 starter prediction: We'll believe Brady’s departure when we see it, but if he does leave, Cam Newton and Matthew Stafford come to mind as potential replacements. Of those two, Newton, who can play at a Pro Bowl level when healthy and has played well against the Pats in the past, is the better option.
12 San Francisco 49ers
Last year: Jimmy Garoppolo led the 49ers to a 13-3 record and a Super Bowl appearance. He had 3,978 yards, 27 TDs and 13 interceptions.
What could happen: We’re only talking about this because the Tom Brady rumors have gained momentum through the offseason.
2020 starter prediction: Garoppolo. He is 28 and still the best option for San Francisco’s long-term future. A Brady signing would mark the most notable QB move for this organization since Joe Montana left for the Chiefs, but it’s a little too much.
13 Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Last year: Jameis Winston passed for 5,109 yards, but that came with 30 interceptions. Tampa Bay finished 7-9 in Bruce Arians' first season as coach.
What could happen: The Buccaneers appear ready to move on from Winston, a former No. 1 pick who has simply thrown too many interceptions. Derek Carr is one option if the Raiders want to move on from him, but there is a more logical scenario for the Bucs.
2020 starter prediction: Sign Teddy Bridgewater and draft Jordan Love in the first round. Bridgewater went 5-0 as a starter last year, and his presence would allow Tampa Bay to take a shot on Love, who impressed at the NFL Combine. Bridgewater, who threw just two interceptions in those five starts last season, would get the first look.
14 Tennessee Titans
Last year: Ryan Tannehill stepped in for Marcus Mariota and went 7-3 as starter, including an improbable run to the AFC championship game under second-year coach Mike Vrabel.
What could happen: Mariota and Tannehill are both free agents, so Tennessee has some decisions to make. Tom Brady's relationship with Vrabel, his former teammate in New England, is in play. One of those three quarterbacks will start for the Titans next year.
2020 starter prediction: Tannehill. He and Brady both would come with uncertainty about the long-term future, but the Titans proved their system with Tannehill works around Derrick Henry and a tough offensive line. This team is ready to win now, which is why Brady might be worth a shot. That said, we're going to guess Tannehill ends up taking the snaps in Week 1.
15 Washington Redskins
Last year: The Redskins went 3-13, and first-round pick Dwayne Haskins was 2-5 as starter. Case Keenum was 1-7. The Redskins have a new coach in Ron Rivera heading into 2020.
What could happen: Washington could be tempted to draft Tua Tagovailoa and at minimum create a competition with Haskins for the starting spot. It’s a gamble that would require passing on Ohio State defensive end Chase Young, who is widely considered the best player in the 2020 NFL Draft.
2020 starter prediction: Washington is tempted by Tagovailoa, but it ultimately drafts Young and pairs him with his former college teammate Haskins as anchors on both sides of the ball. Washington needs to see more out of Haskins before moving on from him. The Redskins could even bring in Jameis Winston as competition.
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