2021 Free Agent Quarterbacks
Hello Heat Seekers, welcome to episode 126 of Sully’s 2 Cents Fantasy Football Podcast. I am you host; I am Rob Sullivan. The Sully’s 2 Cents Fantasy Football Podcast is a proud member of the RotoHeat family of podcasts.
In Episode 126, I am going to kick off a four-part series that takes an early look at the free agent class of 2021. Today we will focus on the QB position. As usual I will be looking at it from a fantasy perspective and give you my two cents on where I think the available QBs are best situated.
To start off let’s have a look at this year’s class of Free Agents. There are some interesting names here but make no mistake this is not the star-studded class of 2020 which in fairness was unlike any other QB Free Agent class in recent memory. There are seven Free agent QBs of significance this offseason.
In addition to those 7 Free Agent QB’s we have 6 NFL teams without a viable QB option under contract as of now in 2021.
Chicago, Dallas, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, New England, and Washington. There are another 11 teams that have some uncertainty at the position.
Carolina, Denver, Detroit, Houston, Miami, New Orleans, New York Giants and Jets, the Eagles, San Francisco, and all of a suddenly the Green Bay Packers.
Carolina – Teddy Bridgewater wasn’t great in 2020 but he’s almost certain to be the starting QB in Carolina in 2021. Teddy carries a pre-June 1st dead cap hit of $20MM, and the Panthers are not likely to contend in 2021. Carolina should roll with Teddy and draft a QB this spring. Bridgewater is a nice option in a SF league and the ideal 3rd QB for your roster.
Denver– Drew Lock has played in 18 career games in his first two seasons. I know that Bronco fans are not loving what they have seen so far, but its far too soon to give up now. Courtland Sutton retuning gives Lock a legit No.1 targets and combine that with Jerry Jeudy, KJ Hamler, Noah Fant and hopefully a full offseason program for Lock with Pat Shurmur. Lock has the capabilities to play at this level and I remain higher on him that I likely should. He will be in my top 24 likely closer to 20 than 24 when I do my initial dynasty rankings this spring.
Detroit – Stafford and the Lions have come to an agreement; they are parting ways. Stafford requested a trade, and the new Mgmt. team has apparently agreed to find him one. The Lions have three FAs of relevance and they are Kenny Golladay, Marvin Jones and Adrian Pederson. Jones and Pederson should be left to find work elsewhere and Golladay is a player you would think they would consider bringing back and tagging if necessary. If Stafford does indeed move on, the Lions will need to bring in a QB and the draft is the likely the place to find one.
As of today, the Lions have slightly over 11.6MM in cap space. Stafford is under contract until the end of the 2022 season. He carries a dead cap pre-June 1 of 19MM, his cap hit is 33MM, so moving on leaves some scares but also frees up 14MM. So, it is possible the Lions sign a QB, just don’t expect it to be one of significance.
Houston. Man, what a mess this is and has become very quickly. As I am sure everyone who is a fan of the NFL is aware, Texans franchise QB Deshawn Watson has basically informed the team that he no longer wishes to be member of the team.
His unhappiness started with the DeAndre Hopkins trade and was solidified when he was not involved in the selection of a new GM after being told that he would be consulted. The thought of Watson playing elsewhere in 2021 honestly is bind boggling. In the end I do believe that the Texans find a way to make their best player happy and he stays with the team. Watson could play in Houston in 2021 or on another team, or on the Moon, regardless of where he plays his floor in a top-5 fantasy QB.
Miami. Tua Tagovailoa almost immediately once the Deshawn Watson news broke was linked to Houston in a trade. Miami holds two first round picks, this year, there own and the No.3 overall pick which belonged initially to the Texans. I wasn’t impressed with what I saw when watching Tagovailoa in his rookie season. Looking at the Dolphins roster now, I’ll be ranking him outside my top-24.
New Orleans. Drew Brees appears to have played his last game, and the Saints will enter the offseason with Taysom Hill as the only QB under contract. Hill will be the starter in 2021, and I expect the Saints to draft a QB. Salary Cap hell awaits the Saints, and I don’t see them adding a QB of relevance because of it. Jameis Winston in my opinion will be elsewhere next season. Hill will be fantasy relevant due to his legs and could be a QB that gives you a positive return based on the low price you likely paid for him.
I expect both the Giants and the Jets to move forward in 2021 with Daniel Jones and Sam Darnold, respectively.
I believe the Giants are not ready to punt on Jones who they spent a recent 6th overall pick on, and I believe the Jets want to see what they have in Darnold. Having a cost controlled QB as a placeholder at worst on a non contending team isn’t the worst thing in the world. Both New York QBs are QBS I will avoid in 2021, and if I must have one on my roster, I prefer it is Darnold.
I believe that Darnold will be back with the Jets in 2021, but there is a possibility that the Jets use their 2nd overall selection on a QB and move him to a QB needy team and likely a better destination.
Philadelphia. The Eagles likely don’t belong on this list. 2020 created a quarterback controversy in Philly no doubt. Carson Wentz entered the season as the clear starter and by the end of the season he looked broken and was wanting out. Jalen Hurts when given the opportunity to start played rather well. His value to the Eagles and his fantasy managers clearly comes from his legs. He is not going to wow anyone with his passing game abilty.
The Eagles parted ways with Head Coach Doug Pederson is somewhat surprising fashion which would seem to indicate that ownership prefers Wentz to Pederson. My take is the Eagles saw a QB that they just signed to a $128 MM deal and a Head Coach that couldn’t get him going. Wentz will be back under center in 2021 for the Eagles and I would expect better results. The QB position is deep, and as a result Wentz in likely somewhere between 15-20 in my rankings.
San Francisco. Jimmy Garoppolo is an interesting QB. He has been in San Fran since a mid season trade from New England in 2017. He was 5-0 that season and has been 17-8 as the Niners starter since. Injury has limited him to 25 starts since the start of the 2018 season. QBs with a 22-8 record are not typically cast aside but the fact that the Niners have a cost effective out in 2021 he might be.
San Fran can cut Jimmy and save 24.1 million against the cap in the process. The Niners are one of many teams linked to Deshawn Watson. I would say it’s a distinct possibility that San Fran is indeed Watson’s landing spot.
Green Bay. This one is nuts and came to light after the Packers NFC Championship loss to Tom Brady and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Based off the comments from Aaron Rodgers in the post game presser, its possible that Rodgers forces a trade out of GB using retirement as leverage.
One can’t blame Rodgers really. The Packers have basically wasted Rodgers Hall of Fame career. The fact that Rodgers clearly wasn’t a fan of the Packers 2020 draft, and their inability to add a Will Fuller at the deadline, illustrate the Packers lack of urgency to win a title. The nail in the coffin had to be the gutless call by coach Matt LaFleur to kick a FG down 8. The play call was one of the worst I have ever seen, and I have seen a lot of terrible play calls. Rodgers is 37 years old and just delivered a MVP season.
The Packers might not have any urgency, but Rodgers certainly does. If Rodgers does indeed become available, every other QB I mention on this podcast will slide in behind him in terms of QBs team are targeting this season.
So, after looking at the teams with uncertain QB situations entering 2021, I believe that Detroit, San Francisco, Green Bay and Houston are the most likely of the 11 to have a new staring QB in 2021. I do not however see any of them backfilling their situation via free agency.
Back to our free agents and teams currently without a QB. Chicago, Dallas, Indianapolis, Jacksonville, New England, and Washington.
Starting with the easy ones here.
Jacksonville. This role is going to be handed to Trevor Lawrence the consensus first overall selection in this spring’s NFL draft. Could they add one of these free agent QBs as a backup, sure, but with a cost-effective Gardner Minshew on the roster its very unlikely.
Lawrence appears to be pro ready and could accomplish what Justin Herbert did in his rookie season. James Robinson, and DJ Chark, as well as Laviska Shenault should benefit from their new QB.
Dak Prescott and the Dallas Cowboys. Dak and the Cowboys were unable to come to terms on a long-term deal last season and Dak played on the Franchise Tag in 2021. Dak was injured during week 5. It turned out to be a season ending injury for a QB with no contract security. Typically, this is not a great situation for the player.
When it comes to Dak, the way the Cowboys season played out combined with how well Prescott was playing prior to injury in a weird way solidified his role as the Cowboys QB and highlighted his importance to the organization. If the Cowboys and Dak come to terms on a long-term deal obviously he will be the Boys starting QB. If they cannot, I fully expect the Cowboys to tag him a second time.
Tagging Dak again would pay the 28-year-old QB $40MM in 2021. I also fully expect backup Andy Dalton to return to Dallas in the role he was intended to hold in 2020. Amari Cooper, and Cee Dee Lamb will remain top dynasty targets, Zeke will bounce back and don’t sleep on Michael Gallup. Ranking Dak will be interesting. He was my QB3 entering last season and I can’t see myself having him any lower than 5 entering 2021. The uncertainty of his ankle does give me pause, however.
So, are down to four teams, Chicago, Indianapolis, New England, and Washington and five QBs, Cam Newton, Mitch Trubisky, Jameis Winston, Ryan Fitzpatrick, and Jacoby Brissett.
Now it’s important to note that there is also an NFL Draft upcoming, and it’s a good year to draft a quarterback. In addition to Trevor Lawrence, there is Justin Fields, Zach Wilson, Mac Jones, Trey Lance and Kyle Trask, to name a few.
Chicago is an interesting club. Could they bring back Mitch Trubisky, I guess they could, but it would have to be in the role of backup. This offseason, the Bears decided to retain GM Ryan Pace and Head Coach Matt Nagy, so stranger things could happen but, in the end, I believe they have to move on, and I also believe they realize this as well. The most logical move for the Bears this offseason is to add a QBs thru free agency and the NFL Draft. There is the possibility that they could add via a trade, but with who is available and their current cap situation I don’t see this as a viable option.
Nick Foles by the way is still in Chicago. He is under contract for a fully guaranteed evil $6,666,666. Cutting Foles is logical except the fact he carries a dead cap number of $10,133,334, Cutting Foles hurts the Bears to the tune of $3,666,668 bucks. Foles won’t get cut but could easily be the QB in street clothes each week. Chicago is currently over the projected 2021 projected 197-Million-dollar cap by about $90,000. That is a number easily dealt with. Releasing TE Jimmy Graham saves the Bears 7MM, and there are other moves they can make as well.
The most logical signing to me is Ryan Fitzpatrick. Sign Fitz and draft a QB in rounds 2 or 3. If for some reason Zach Wilson, or Trey Lance falls to Chicago at pick 20 it’s a pick they should make with little hesitation.
When I was putting together my notes for this podcast, I had Indianapolis all figured out. Philp Rivers would return for one more season as the Colts starting QB. Well, Mr. Rivers has other plans and has decided to retire, leaving the starting QB position for the Colts wide open. I figured that If Rivers retired, that the Colts would then be extremely active in both trade talk and free agency, and that is exactly where we are at.
There is a possibility that they roll with Jacob Eason who they drafted in the 4th round a year ago. Eason was projected to be a day 2 pick in 2020 but fell until the Colts selected him. I would honestly be surprised if this is the route they take. The Colts look like a win now team and they rarely roll with a green QB like Eason.
The ultimate prize via trade is rumored to be Deshaun Watson. Simply put not even Houston is dumb enough to trade him to a divisional rival. Indy has the cap flexibility to add a QB via free agency but also to assume a contract like Matthew Stafford, another QB rumored to be available. The Colts as of now have 65.7MM in cap space third most of any team in the League. Jacoby Brissett also a free agent I full expect to go to market and sign on with another club in the roll of the backup. Don’t rule out a return to New England for Jacoby.
Speaking of New England this is another fascinating situation. Forever the last thing we would dream of asking is who is the Patriots starting QB. In 2021 The Pats took a very cheap flyer on Cam Newton and they got what they paid for. Cam was terrible and will not be back. Backup Jarett Stidham was worse than Cam so he’s not the answer in New England either.
Drafting a QB at 15 is possible but not likely. The Patriots should fill the void using their $58,999,418 in cap space. The free agent options are not there but trading for Deshaun Watson or Matthew Stafford certainly is. Don’t rule out a Mitch Trubisky or as noted Jacoby Brissett in the back up role for NE either. The Patriots have a significant number of holes to fill and QB tops the list.
Washington rounds out the teams seeking a starting QB in 2021. Taylor Heinicke was a great story this playoff season, but I do not see him as a viable starting QB option. He is however an extremely viable backup it would appear. Could Cam Newton be reunited with his coach Ron Rivera? He could but I would bet against it.
Enter Jameis Winston, the most famous member of the 30/30 club. Sign Winston to an incentive laden deal, keep Heinicke as a cheap backup and draft a QB of the future with the 19th overall selection in the draft.
That’s going to do it for today’s episode. Thank you for listening to the 2021 Free Agent Quarterbacks episode.
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I’ll be back next week as we have a look at some of the key Running Back Free Agents heading into 2021. Until then, stay safe and stay healthy Heat Seekers.