NFL

Who can have Stafford-like impact in QB market?

Quarterbacks winning Super Bowls with new teams is all the rage.

A season after Tom Brady piled on to his incomparable football legacy with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers, Matthew Stafford completely rewrote his with the Los Angeles Rams. Could we see three in a row next season?

While the GOAT doing it was one thing, Stafford being able to give the Rams an incremental upgrade they needed to win the title sets us up for a fascinating potential QB market this offseason.

There’s no shortage of teams with strong rosters in need of a quarterback upgrade to vault into contention. Likewise, there are a handful quarterbacks ranging from a four-time MVP to steady veterans who could conceivably switch allegiances this offseason.

There’s a reasonable chance more than one starting quarterback lands with a new team. If so, can they elevate their new teams into convention? While landing Aaron Rodgers is a top priority for multiple teams, the right roster could succeed without landing the biggest fish. Let’s take a look at four quarterbacks potentially on the move and four teams in the market for an upgrade under center.

Who are the best QBs realistically available?

Aaron Rodgers

Rodgers is the Brady comp. He’s the most obvious name on this list and the quarterback most likely to elevate a new team into contention. Will he leave the Packers after 17 seasons and back-to-back MVPs in Green Bay?

Rodgers and the Packers appeared on the mend from last offseason’s chaos as they secured the No. 1 seed in the NFC. But a stunning collapse in the divisional round marked another bitter playoff end, and the immediate future is bleak in Green Bay.

The Packers went all in to win last season and enter the offseason more than $50 million over the salary cap, per overthecap.com. Retaining Rodgers and the talent needed to contend next season appears difficult. Meanwhile, Rodgers is under contract and doesn’t have a no-trade clause. If he forces his way out, he’s going to need cooperation from the Packers to land where he wants.

Will Russell Wilson or Aaron Rodgers have the same type of impact on a new team next season as Matthew Stafford had on the Rams? (Stacy Revere/Getty Images)

Russell Wilson

Like Rodgers, Wilson is at a crossroads with a franchise where he won a ring, one season removed from a tumultuous offseason. Unlike Rodgers, he does have a no-trade clause and can directly steer where he lands if he does press the issue with the Seattle Seahawks.

Wilson planted this seed last offseason with his public airing of grievances alongside his agent naming the teams he’d be willing to play for (Bears, Saints, Cowboys, Raiders). A last-place finish in the NFC West only fueled speculation that Wilson and Pete Carroll’s run together is done. Wilson showed signs of decline last season, but the 33-year-old nine-time Pro Bowler would be a welcome addition to most NFL rosters. His list of approved teams most likely reads different this offseason.

Deshaun Watson

Watson’s name is the most dire on this list. The Houston Texans quarterback still faces significant legal hurdles after being accused by 22 women of varying degrees of sexual misconduct, including alleged forced touching of genitals and forcing a woman to perform oral sex.

The sad reality in the NFL is that if Watson clears those legal hurdles, he’ll be in high demand as a 26-year-old three-time Pro Bowler. The Texans appear to have made their peace in parting with Watson by paying him to sit the entire 2021 season. Like Wilson, Watson has a no-trade clause.

Matt Ryan

Ryan might be the closest Stafford comp on this list. Granted, he boasted the superior résumé before Sunday as a four-time Pro Bowler and former league MVP. But he’s a guy on the back end of his career playing for a franchise with no immediate plans to contend.

He’s obviously not a top-tier quarterback at 36 years old. But he was more than competent on a bad Falcons team last season while completing 67 percent of his passes with 20 touchdowns and 12 interceptions. The Falcons reportedly intend to keep him, but the right offer could surely sway a team facing long-shot hopes next season.

Potential landing spots

Indianapolis Colts ($37M in cap space)

After a 9-6 start morphed into a disastrous collapse outside of the playoffs, the Colts appear to be done with Carson Wentz. If so, Indy would be an ideal landing spot for a quarterback looking to contend.

The Colts feature elite talent on both sides of the ball on a roster with seven Pro Bowlers. Running back Jonathan Taylor was the NFL’s most dangerous weapon not named Cooper Kupp last season. Quenton Nelson and Ryan Kelly are two of the best interior linemen in football. Darius Leonard anchors a talented defense as a perennial defensive player of the year candidate. This is a team built to win now, hence management’s presumed desire to usher Wentz out the door.

Darius Leonard and a dome help add up to an enticing landing spot in Indianapolis. (Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Darius Leonard and a dome help add up to an enticing landing spot in Indianapolis. (Michael Allio/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images)

Denver Broncos ($38M in cap space)

A team managed by one of the game’s greatest-ever quarterbacks has had a remarkably hard time identifying quarterback talent. John Elway gave up personnel duties last offseason, but the Broncos didn’t fare much better at the position in 2021 under George Paton’s watch.

The Broncos didn’t hire Aaron Rodgers’ former coordinator Nathaniel Hackett hoping he’d coach Teddy Bridgewater or Drew Lock next season. It’s no secret they’ve got their eyes on Rodgers and will look for an upgrade elsewhere if they don’t land him. With a top-10 defense and emerging weapons Javonte Williams and Jerry Jeudy on board, the Broncos look ready for a breakout if they can land the right quarterback.

Pittsburgh Steelers ($31M in cap space)

The Steelers made the playoffs last season in spite of a washed Ben Roethlisberger. Mason Rudolph isn’t the answer moving forward with Big Ben calling it quits, even if reports say the Steelers are leaning that way. Don’t be surprised if they’re buyers in the quarterback market.

The roster is flawed, but they’ve got defensive player of the year T.J. Watt in his prime, one of the game’s most productive young running backs in Najee Harris and a future Hall of Fame coach in Mike Tomlin fresh off what might the best coaching job of his career. They’ll need to address the likely departure of JuJu Smith-Schuster, among other things. But there’s enough talent and cap space here for the Steelers to contend if they can land the right quarterback.

Tampa Bay Buccaneers ($3M in cap space)

This one’s obvious. They’ve done this before. Blaine Gabbert is set to be a free agent, and 2021 second-round pick Kyle Trask would top the depth chart now that Brady’s retired, so they’ll make a quarterback move one way or another.

Their cap space is limited and their list of pending free agents includes several starters, including Chris Godwin, Rob Gronkowski and Ndamukong Suh. It will take some creativity, but there’s still plenty of talent on the roster. Don’t look for the Bucs to tear things down just because Brady called it quits. Expect them to prioritize a move at quarterback.




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