Names and Teams to Watch in the Quarterback-Heavy NFL Free Agency

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Spring Training

Hunter Firement, Maroon-News Staff

Although it tends to slow down for a few days after the Super Bowl in early February, the NFL news cycle never comes to a full stop. Currently, most of the talks are related to the new Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) negotiations between the owners and the players association and the proposed expanded regular season and playoff schedule. 

However, this offseason offers football fans one of the most anticipated free agency classes we have seen. While NFL free agency is not as wild as the NBA’s typically is known to be, this summer has the potential to shake up the NFL for next season and beyond.

To be a good free agency class, there has to be anticipation around where the future home of high-level quarterbacks could be. This class has that, highlighted by the most accomplished signal caller in NFL history: Tom Brady. 

Speculation about Brady leaving the New England Patriots has been going on for years, although less seriously, but it picked up this season—especially after the Patriots’ disappointing year lead to a loss in the Wild Card round to the Tennessee Titans. Brady is 42 years old at this point, and can no longer elevate an offense surrounded by sub-par talent. 

His frustration with the organization, from the outside, seems to be at an all-time high and every move he has made these past few months has been studied and speculated relentlessly by the Boston diehards. Brady, along with his personal trainer Alex Guerrero, sold their houses in the Boston area during the season and it was rumored that Brady and his wife Gisele were looking at schools in Nashville. 

While Brady on the Titans, or any other team, is intriguing and would certainly provide some excitement for the league, I see him staying in New England. The Patriots have reportedly offered the three-time MVP a contract that will keep him playing until he is 44. The salary is worth up to 30 million dollars a year, a significant upgrade from any of Brady’s former contracts, as he has always been known to take pay cuts to improve the talent around him. 

While it could be mutually beneficial for both parties to move on, I think that the Patriots are aware that other options are slim. Brady also knows that, even though this year might have been an outlier and coach Belichick is able to surround him with an offense that can be successful. 

The Patriots are not the only team with a decision to make at quarterback. Although not technically a free agent, Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones has to decide what to do with QB Dak Prescott. The Cowboys could franchise tag him, which would mean giving him a one-year deal that is worth the average salary of the top-five highest paid quarterbacks (about $20 million) or they could sign him to a longer deal worth less money over a stretched amount of time. 

Unfortunately for the Cowboys, Prescott has been reportedly requesting 40 million dollars a year, an extremely high number that most people outside of the organization do not think he is worth. However, just like the Patriots, the Cowboys do not have many other out-of-house options. It is something that Prescott seems to have no problem exploiting.

All of that money to Prescott would prevent the Cowboys from spreading capital; their payroll is already one of the highest in the league, with the team giving big money to running back Ezekiel Elliot, defensive end DeMarcus Lawrence and basically their entire offensive line. 

This does not even include players like wide receiver Amari Cooper and linebacker Leighton Vander Esch, who are going to have to get paid soon. 

The best thing for Prescott, and the team, would be for him to take a bit of a pay cut; he has proven he is not talented enough to carry the offensive load by himself. If he takes less, Jerry Jones can continue surrounding him with an elite offensive line and outside weapons. However, it seems that one way or another Prescott is going to find a way to cash out this offseason, even if it diminishes his chances of bringing a championship to Dallas. 

There is a group of mid-tier quarterbacks with decisions to make this offseason: veteran quarterbacks Ryan Tannehill, Teddy Bridgewater and Philip Rivers will all hit the market. 

Tannehill recently revitalized his career with the Titans after it seemed to have come to its last legs in Miami. Although he did not put up video game numbers, he took over mid-season for the struggling Marcus Mariota and was able to lead a tough-minded Tennessee team all the way to the AFC Championship, knocking off the New England Patriots and the Baltimore Ravens to get there. It seems as if his home might continue to be in Nashville, but the team seems to have options. 

Brady is not the only veteran quarterback looking at the Titans, as Philip Rivers has made it clear that he is done with the Los Angeles Chargers, and Tennessee seems to be his top choice. However, it does not seem like it would make much sense for the Titans to pursue Rivers, a 38-year-old who has regressed in the past couple of years. 

Then, there is Bridgewater, the true wild card of the bunch. Bridgewater made a name for himself this season, going 5-0 with the New Orleans Saints while filling in for then-injured starter Drew Brees. There are teams who could certainly use a steady veteran like Bridgewater, who will most likely leave the Saints to go compete for a starting job somewhere else, perhaps with the Chargers, Colts or maybe even the Patriots. 

On top of all of this, Super Bowl champion Kansas City Chiefs quarterback Patrick Mahomes is due for a new contract soon, an unknown number that will likely surpass anything we have ever seen and will set a new precedent for elite-level quarterback salaries in the league.