The 2021 NFL season could look far different than this past year, starting with the potential shifts in the quarterback landscape. Here we’ll look at some of the biggest movers and how their teams could approach the QB position next season. The Deshaun Watson saga was worthy of its own article which can be read here. You’ll find a short breakdown of the fantasy news at the bottom of this piece.
Brees has to retire...right?
The soon-to-be Hall of Fame quarterback has not announced his retirement yet but all signs point to Drew Brees riding off into the sunset. NFL talking head Jay Glazer stated before the Saints’ Divisional Round that Brees would retire once his season ended. Then Brees went out and threw three interceptions and just 134 yards in a loss to the Buccaneers. Brees was spotted on the sidelines supposedly telling Jameis Winston “this is your team now.”
As much as both parties might like that scenario, it seems difficult to believe the Saints would start Taysom Hill over Winston this year, only to let Winston become the future of their franchise. Winston is not under contract for next year and even after Brees makes his retirement official, the Saints are still facing an uphill battle to get under the salary cap. That means if there is any market for Winston, they aren’t going to be winning the bidding war to keep him. With no recourse to replace Bres via free agency, the draft is their only other option if they don’t want to role with Hill. However, the Saints hold the No. 28 pick. Unless a quarterback falls to them, we’re getting Hill as the team’s starter next year. Hill completed 71.9 percent of his passes and averaged 7.3 yards per attempt across four starts. After factoring in his dynamic running ability, there are far worse options than Hill at quarterback.
Jared Goff and the Rams
A report earlier in the week indicated that the relationship between Jared Goff and coach Sean McVay is not in a good place. Goff’s wild swings from precise marksmen to completely lost at the first sign of pressure are reportedly becoming too much for McVay to handle. McVay wouldn’t even announce him as the starter for next year and instead gave a generic statement on all positions being evaluated this offseason. He’s likely to be putting up with Goff for at least one more year as the quarterback has a dead cap hit of $65 million if the team cuts hit before next year. That number drops to $30.8 million the following year and although that is still an enormous sum of money, the savings they get from cutting him then will at least equal the cap hit.
The Rams aren’t in as bad of a place with the salary cap as the Saints are but they still have work to do to get under the projected ceiling for next year. That likely means they are limited to a cheap veteran if they want to explore free agents. The problem with this is that it gets them no further than where they are right now. If Ryan Fitzpatrick wants to take a cheap deal with a contender, maybe he can back up Goff until another downswing occurs. Fitzpatrick is prone to the same cataclysmic falls though. He and Winston engaged in a competition of who could get benched more times within a season while in Tampa Bay. Other free agents may not have the Fitzpatrick floor but their ceiling offers nothing more than Goff and doesn't rival Fitzpatrick's. The best the Rams can do is take a shot on a quarterback in the middle rounds of the draft. Getting a player who could use the early part of the season to learn from McVay while preparing to usurp Goff and become the starter in 2022 seems like the best-case scenario if Goff is on the outs with his coach.
Camp Battle of the Year
The Eagles are limited to two choices at quarterback: Carson Wentz or Jalen Hurts. Wentz led the league in interceptions and sacks while playing just 12 games this season but the Eagles take on a cap hit of nearly $60 million if they release him now. A trade of Wentz alleviates some of the cap hit they take but Philadelphia will still be left holding the bag on a hefty portion of his deal. Because of the length and monetary value of his contract, the Eagles would be unlikely to get much compensation in this hypothetical deal either. That means he stays on the roster for at least one more year. With Wentz requesting a trade because of his feud with Doug Pederson and then the former head coach getting fired, it seems like owner Jeffrey Lurie is willing to gamble on their new head coach (likely Patriots OC Josh McDaniels) being able to fix him. That means we’re set for a training camp battle between Wentz and Hurts. If Wentz is deemed unfixable, Hurts likely wins out and becomes the future of the franchise for a few years.
The other option is to trade Hurts to a team in need of a QB. If Wentz looks like his old self or the Eagles decide that his contract makes him too big to fail, Hurts could fetch a pretty penny in the trade market. Hurts started and finished three games. He threw five scores to two interceptions in those games while adding an extra score on the ground. He also averaged 84.5 rushing yards per game. Hurts was selected with the 53rd overall pick. If the Eagles could flip him for a late first-round selection they’d be winning that deal in the eyes of any dynasty fantasy football player.
What to do if Big Ben Walks
The last major domino to fall will be Ben Roethlisberger’s decision to retire. He has been rumored to be mulling retirement for a few seasons and will be 39 years old at the start of a 2021 campaign. Big Ben has an extensive injury history and his offseason elbow surgery from last year seemingly led to career-low marks in a number of categories. As with all of the teams facing a quarterback dilemma, money will be an issue for the Steelers. Pittsburgh is set to lose free agents at a number of key positions this offseason and is still projected to be over the salary cap as it stands right now.
That leaves their first-round selection as the only recourse they have to fix their quarterback conundrum. The ideal scenario for Pittsburgh is that a ready-to-start prospect falls to them at the 24th pick. Alabama’s Mac Jones utilized his wealth of receiving weapons to dominate the college football landscape and Pittsburgh does appear to have a talented receiving duo in Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson. If he falls to them, the Steelers could opt to select Jones even if Roethlisberger hangs around for another season. Trading the pick to Philly for Hurts makes too much sense to ever happen in real life but we can always dream of Hurts choosing between 20-yard scrambles or dropping a dime to a downfield Claypool.
Antonio Brown underwent an MRI on his knee early this week. He suffered some type of knee injury versus the Saints and was spotted on the sidelines in the second half. Scotty Miller and Tyler Johnson were two underrated college prospects and both would be in line for larger roles if Brown cannot suit up.
There’s some conjecture on what actually happened to knock Patrick Mahomes out of his Divisional Round game. He supposedly suffered a tweaked nerve in his neck but still landed in concussion protocol. Regardless of the specifics of his injury, he’s expected to clear protocol and be ready for a shootout with Josh Allen on Sunday.