Teddy Bridgewater's career is at a crossroads.
Still just 27, Bridgewater will become a free agent after two seasons backing up Drew Brees with the New Orleans Saints. Like Bridgewater, Brees can become a free agent, or the 41-year-old could retire. In theory, Bridgewater could be in line to succeed Brees if he retires or the Saints go in another direction. After all, the Saints went 5-0 in the games that Bridgewater started in Brees' absence in 2019.
That said, there's a school of thought that Saints' head coach Sean Payton could be intrigued by the possibility of giving Taysom Hill the keys as the team's starting quarterback. Hill is an unrestricted free agent this offseason, so any team could offer Hill a contract that the Saints would have to match, or risk losing him. The expectation is that the Saints will put a first-round tender on Hill, meaning the Saints could re-coup a first-round pick if Hill signed with another team and the Saints elected not to match the contract.
Then again, Payton compared Hill to Hall of Famer Steve Young last summer. You wouldn't let Young walk for just a first-round pick, especially if the selection were later on in the first round.
So there are three paths forward for the Saints at quarterback; Brees could be the starting quarterback in 2020, Bridgewater could be the starting quarterback in 2020 or Hill could be the starting quarterback in 2020.
With the perplexing dynamic Bridgewater is faced with, here are the four most likely spots for him to land this offseason:
Las Vegas Raiders
After a surprising 6-4 start to the 2019 season, the Raiders went just 1-5 down the stretch, finishing 7-9. They'll relocate, move into Allegiant Stadium and attempt to add the impact wide receiver they thought they would get in Antonio Brown last offseason.
You do wonder, though, whether Jon Gruden feels like the team has reached its ceiling with Derek Carr at quarterback, especially in a division that's home to Patrick Mahomes in Kansas City. Carr tossed 21 touchdowns and racked up 4,054 yards in 2019, so he had far from a bad season.
However, Carr will have a $21.5 million cap hit in 2020, which isn't bad if you're sold on him as your franchise quarterback. But if the Raiders are intrigued by the possibility of signing a veteran quarterback - and maybe preventing Tom Brady from joining the division-rival Los Angeles Chargers - they would take on just $5 million in dead cap for releasing Carr.
In terms of trying to add a veteran quarterback, this offseason presents a speak now or forever hold your peace type class. We'll see if the Raiders become active on the free-agent market and what level of interest they would have in Bridgewater if they do.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
If Bridgewater doesn't get a chance to start in New Orleans - or feels that things aren't trending in the direction of him eventually being the starter - another NFC South team could serve as an interesting landing spot.
The Tampa Bay Buccaneers may ultimately re-sign Jameis Winston, who led the NFL with 5,109 passing yards in 2019, but was also picked off 30 times. However, Bruce Arians acknowledged the possibility of the team moving forward with a different starting quarterback after the regular season concluded.
“With another quarterback? Oh yeah. If we can win with this one, we can definitely win with another one, too," Arians said to the collective media, including Rick Stroud of The Tampa Bay Times.
Arians is one of the most accomplished offensive minds of his era, and the Bucs employ two wide receivers - Mike Evans and Chris Godwin - that had over 1,000 receiving yards in 2019. Someone like Bridgewater may not have the same ceiling as Winston, but he also wouldn't turn the ball over at a clip even close to what Winston did in 2019, which makes you think the team could be successful with him as the starting quarterback.
Depending on the structure of a deal that would allow Winston to return to Tampa Bay, the Bucs could still be an interesting destination for Bridgewater. Winston, especially if he signs a deal without a ton of long-term security, will likely enter 2020 on a short leash. If he struggles early, Bridgewater could potentially slide into an offense ready to contend, much like Ryan Tannehill did in Tennessee this season.
New Orleans Saints
If Drew Brees returns to the Saints, it's fair to wonder if Bridgewater will be interested in backing up the future Hall of Famer for a third season, as opposed to joining another team where the starting quarterback may have a shorter leash.
However, if Brees doesn't return, all bets are off.
It's possible that the Saints would re-sign Bridgewater to serve as their starting quarterback in 2020, electing to keep Taysom Hill in his jack-of-all-trades role. In this scenario, they may also use a relatively high draft pick in a rookie quarterback.
Another possibility is that the Payton, who has raved about Hill, gives him a chance to be the team's starting quarterback. As much as Bridgewater would have a right to be annoyed about being passed over in this scenario, it still may be in his best interests to return. If Hill gets injured running the ball or simply isn't productive enough to be a starting quarterback, Bridgewater would be there to replace him, while playing in the offensive system of a future Hall of Fame head coach and having the chance to throw to Michael Thomas, arguably the most dominant player in the NFL.
New England Patriots
If Tom Brady doesn't return to the Patriots for a 21st season, Bridgewater would be an interesting, well, bridge option.
Exactly who he would be starting in front of is unclear. It may be Jarrett Stidham, who the team selected in the fourth round of the 2019 NFL Draft. It's also entirely possible that the Patriots use an early-round pick on a player that they view as the quarterback of the future in the 2020 NFL Draft.
In any event, you can bet that Bill Belichick and the Patriots, who haven't had a losing season since 2000 don't plan to bottom out in their first year without Brady. Bridgewater would give them an option that could potentially keep the Patriots in contention in the AFC East, but isn't so accomplished in his career that he would be above eventually handing the keys to the next franchise quarterback if he ultimately doesn't develop into that piece himself.
All of this is dependent on how the team proceeds with Brady, a decision they reportedly would like to make early in the offseason.