Quarterback Carousel Highlights Start of NFL League Year

Nov+3%2C+2019%3B+Baltimore%2C+MD%2C+USA%3B+New+England+Patriots+quarterback+Tom+Brady+%2812%29+looks+on+prior+to+the+game+against+the+Baltimore+Ravens+at+M%26amp%3BT+Bank+Stadium.+Mandatory+Credit%3A+Douglas+DeFelice-USA+TODAY+Sports

Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Nov 3, 2019; Baltimore, MD, USA; New England Patriots quarterback Tom Brady (12) looks on prior to the game against the Baltimore Ravens at M&T Bank Stadium. Mandatory Credit: Douglas DeFelice-USA TODAY Sports

Zach Schiller, Assistant Sports Editor

The NFL is back. With the start of the league year on March 18, teams can officially sign free agents and complete trades. And while the NFL offseason normally does not generate the same level of excitement as the offseasons of other sports leagues, such as the NBA, this year has proven unusual for two main reasons. The first reason is tied to the effects of the COVID-19 virus. With live sports grinding to a sudden halt, NFL free agency, and the ramifications it has on the upcoming season, has provided an outlet for sports fans to briefly escape from the anxiety of our unprecedented predicament. On a less grim note, this offseason stands out in particular due to the unusual movement of starting quarterbacks around the league. While high-profile starting quarterbacks rarely change teams, this offseason has already seen four teams acquire new quarterbacks through free agency or trade.

 

Tom Brady- Tampa Bay Buccaneers

After 20 years and six Super Bowl wins, Tom Brady has decided to leave the New England Patriots and take his talents to sunny Tampa, Fla. Even with various reports detailing Brady’s strained relationship with Coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots’ struggles on offense this past year, Brady’s move to the Bucs still shocked some league observers who thought he would finish his illustrious career with the Patriots. Once one moves beyond the history and nostalgia, though, the move to Tampa arguably puts Brady in a better position to chase Super Bowl number seven. Despite the greatness of Belichick and the “Patriot Way,” the Patriots failure to replace all-pro tight end Rob Gronkowski this past season combined with spending high draft picks on offensive skill position players that have underperformed expectations led to Brady having one of the worst seasons of his career. While some of Brady’s decline can certainly be attributed to his age–he turns 43 in August–it is unfair to place the blame entirely on Brady. In Tampa, Brady finds himself surrounded by two pro bowl wide receivers, Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, a better offensive line, and a quality young running back in Ronald Jones II. Additionally, Brady gets the chance to work with well-respected head coach Bruce Arians who has a history of working with high caliber quarterbacks like Peyton Manning, Andrew Luck, Ben Roethlisberger and Carson Palmer. With Brady’s high football IQ and low turnover rate (he threw 22 less interceptions than former Bucs quarterback Jameis Winston last season), Arians and the Buccaneers hope to end the league’s second longest active playoff drought and perhaps compete for the Lombardi Trophy.

 

Philip Rivers- Indianapolis Colts

Similar to Brady, Rivers is leaving the only team he has ever known. After 16 seasons with the Chargers franchise, the 38-year-old Rivers briefly contemplated retirement before signing a one-year deal with the Indianapolis Colts. Following the 2018 season, where the Chargers went 12-4 and won a playoff game, many league observers expected the team to compete for a division crown and possibly make a run in the playoffs this past season. However, the Chargers were one of the most disappointing teams in the league finishing at 5-11, good for dead last in their division. And while no one person can take the blame for last season, Rivers performance played a large part in the team’s last place finish. He turned in the worst touchdown to interception ratio of his career, throwing for the third fewest touchdowns and second highest interception totals of his career. Although his defenders will point out that Rivers was forced to take chances with his team often trailing late in games, the level of play he displayed throughout much of last season was simply not good enough for a team trying to compete for a championship. However, Rivers has bounced back from down years before and the Colts hope he has one more quality season of football left in him. With a much higher quality offensive line in front of him, skill position players like wide receiver T.Y. Hilton and running back Marlon Mack, and upgrades on the defensive side of the ball including trading for premier defensive tackle DeForest Buckner, the Colts hope Rivers can fill a need at quarterback and help propel the team towards a division crown and a deep playoff run.

 

Teddy Bridgewater- Carolina Panthers

Almost four years after suffering a gruesome leg injury that could have derailed his NFL career, Teddy Bridgewater is once again a starting quarterback in the NFL. After the Minnesota Vikings declined his fifth-year option, Bridgewater became a free agent after the 2017 season and signed a one-year contract with the New York Jets. Following a strong 2018 preseason, the Jets opted to trade Bridgewater to the New Orleans Saints for a third-round pick, leaving Bridgewater the backup to legendary Saints quarterback Drew Brees. However, Bridgewater would get a chance to prove himself this past season when Brees tore a ligament in his right thumb, sidelining him for five weeks. Tasked with keeping his team in contention while Brees recovered from his injury, Bridgewater exceeded any reasonable expectations of him, winning all five of his games as a starter and keeping New Orleans in playoff contention. Instead of immediately rushing back into a starter’s role, Bridgewater displayed an incredible level of patience and maturity, waiting for the right opportunity to present itself. That opportunity finally presented itself this past offseason, as the Panthers signed Bridgewater to a three year 63-million-dollar deal with the hopes that he could become their next franchise quarterback under new head coach Matt Rhule. While it will be difficult to win the division due to stiff competition from the Atlanta Falcons, Saints and Buccaneers, Carolina hopes that Bridgewater can develop a report with young receivers D.J. Moore and Curtis Samuel and turnaround a franchise only five years removed from reaching the Super Bowl.

 

Nick Foles- Chicago Bears

After reviving his career in Philadelphia with a Super Bowl MVP, Nick Foles proved he deserved to be a starting quarterback in the NFL and signed a four year 88 million dollar deal to be the next franchise quarterback of the Jacksonville Jaguars. However, less than ten minutes into the first game of the season, Foles suffered a broken clavicle after being brought to the ground by Chiefs defensive tackle Chris Jones and proceeded to miss the next ten games. Although Foles would return, he lasted less than three full games before the team benched him in favor of rookie sixth round pick Gardner Minshew who had filled in during Foles absence. With Foles never truly fitting in with the team and the emergence of Minshew, the Jaguars decided to trade Foles to the Chicago Bears for a fourth-round pick in this year’s upcoming draft. From the Bears’ perspective, the decision to bring in Foles signifies that the organization’s patience in 2017 second overall pick Mitch Trubisky is waning. After showing improvement in his second season, leading the Bears to a 12-4 record and a division crown, Trubisky regressed in his third season, throwing seven less touchdowns and leading the Bears to an 8-8 record. Largely regarded as an unrefined talent coming out of college, Trubisky’s natural athleticism has not translated into much success through his first three seasons as an NFL quarterback. Foles will be given every opportunity to win the starting job over Trubisky. Given his past success and experience working with head coach Matt Nagy in Philadelphia, Foles should be the favorite to start week one.