NFL Free Agency 2020: Predicting Where Tom Brady and Each Star QB Will Land

By , RADIO.COM

There's two weeks - Conference Championship Week and Super Bowl Week - remaining on the 2019-20 NFL schedule. This offseason will feature a potentially historic quarterback class in free agency, one that might include as many as four future Hall of Famers.

And yet, the only quarterback set to become a free agent at the end of the season that is still alive is Ryan Tannehill, who opened the season as Marcus Mariota's backup in Tennessee. The Titans acquired Tannehill from the Miami Dolphins in a trade that saw them part with a fourth-round pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. All he's done is lead the Titans to a 9-3 record in games that he's started since replacing Mariota. Tannehill, once seen as a bust, is now on track to cash in on his success this offseason. Before that, he'll have a chance to guide the Titans to their first Super Bowl title in franchise history.

As we inch closer to the NFL offseason, here are predictions on where each notable free-agent quarterback - including Tannehill - will land this offseason:

Dak Prescott
Dak Prescott can become a free agent this offseason. Photo credit (Tom Pennington/Getty Images)

Dak Prescott: Re-Sign With Dallas Cowboys

Prescott returning to Dallas in 2020 is a matter of how, not if.

After a season where the 26-year-old threw for 4,902 yards and 30 touchdowns, there's a zero percent chance the Jones family allows Prescott to leave Dallas. The franchise tag is a fall-back option, but the most likely scenario is the Cowboys reach a long-term deal with Prescott, probably one a bit larger than the four-year/$128 million pact that the division-rival Philadelphia Eagles signed Carson Wentz to last summer, a deal that guaranteed him over $107 million.

The real question is going to be how the Cowboys structure their roster around Prescott and Ezekiel Elliott. Wide receiver Amari Cooper and cornerback Byron Jones can both become free agents this offseason as well. It feels imperative that the Cowboys keep those two as well, but there's only so much money to go around. And remember, the Cowboys went 8-8 and missed the playoffs in 2019 with their current roster, one they will be hard-pressed to improve before the 2020 season.

There was a feeling that the Cowboys underachieved for much of the Jason Garrett era, a trend the team hopes changes under new head coach Mike McCarthy. That said, there's a strong case to be made that each of the three other teams in the NFC East - including the Eagles, who won the division - will be improved in 2020.

Tom Brady
Tom Brady can become a free agent for the first time in his career. Photo credit (Maddie Meyer/Getty Images)

Tom Brady: Sign in free agency with the Los Angeles Chargers

We're not here to sign that there's zero chance that Brady returns to New England for a 21st season, but it sure doesn't feel likely.

Following a Wild Card Weekend playoff exit, Brady's 2020 contract will automatically void on March 17, which will leave the Patriots with $13.5 million in dead cap money. It will also leave them unable to place the franchise tag on the three-time NFL MVP.

For his part, Brady sounded uninterested in retirement after the Patriots were eliminated from the playoffs. If he gets the sense that Bill Belichick would prefer to move on from him - or even if he thinks now is the time to move on from the organization that he's led to six Super Bowl titles - he has that option.

Los Angeles is an interesting option. From their perspective, they need to generate fan interest as they move into SoFi Stadium. We'll have more on Philip Rivers in a second, but the guess here is he won't return in 2020. The Chargers could draft a quarterback with the No. 6 overall pick, and they have Tyrod Taylor as an option to start until any rookie would be ready to play.

Of course, Brady, 42, could serve in that role as well.

In 2018, the Chargers went 12-4 and won a playoff game, which led to them entering 2019 with Super Bowl aspirations. Rather than making good on those hopes, the Chargers went just 5-11 in 2019, losing nine games by a touchdown or less. If they added Brady at quarterback - who is unlikely to turn the ball over at the clip Rivers did in 2019 - it stands to reason they could compete for the playoffs.

From Brady's perspective, he and his wife, supermodel Gisele Bündchen, certainly feel like they would fit in Los Angeles. And while the Chargers would need to upgrade their skill-position weapons, Brady would have killed to have Keenan Allen and Austin Ekeler in New England in 2019.

Drew Brees
Drew Brees is an icon in New Orleans. Photo credit (Chris Graythen/Getty Images)

Drew Brees: Re-Sign With New Orleans Saints

Like Tom Brady, Brees' contract for 2020 will automatically void in March and the New Orleans Saints won't be able to retain him using the franchise tag. How they proceed will be interesting.

We'll get to Teddy Bridgewater in a minute, but he can become a free agent this offseason as well. The Saints went 5-0 in games that Bridgewater started in Brees' absence in 2019.

Additionally, you are left to wonder with exactly how the Saints plan to proceed with Taysom Hill, who has covered on punts, played as a wide receiver, ran the ball and threw the ball successfully over the past two seasons. Is that "swiss army knife" role what he's best suited to do? Perhaps, but Sean Payton compared Hill to Hall of Famer Steve Young last summer, leading you to wonder if he's intrigued by the possibility of Hill as a full-time starter.

Frankly, there's a lot less certainty on Brees' status than Brady. He hasn't indicated that he intends to play in 2020, though when you consider the intensity he attacked his rehab from a thumb injury with, you don't get the sense he's eager to retire. Would he go to another team if the Saints elected to move forward with Hill and/or Bridgewater at quarterback? It's hard to know.

We do know this much, though: Brees was still a very effective quarterback in his 11 regular season starts in 2019. He's helped by Michael Thomas, arguably the most dominant player in the sport, along with Alvin Kamara and Jared Cook. He has reason to want to stay in New Orleans, assuming he chooses to play in 2020. The guess here is he comes back for 2020 in New Orleans, with the understanding that it's likely to be his last season.

Teddy Bridgewater
Teddy Bridgewater faces an uncertain future. Photo credit (Todd Kirkland/Getty Images)

Teddy Bridgewater: Sign in free agency with the New England Patriots

It may be a stretch to say that Bridgewater could end up being the most interesting free-agent quarterback in a class that could include at least two future Hall of Famers. His future could be directly tied to those two future Hall of Famers, though.

In five starts in the absence of Drew Brees, Bridgewater led the Saints to a 5-0 record, tossing nine touchdowns to just two interceptions and racking up 1,384 passing yards. Should the Saints move on from Brees, it's entirely possible they'll re-sign Bridgewater.

There are quite a few moving parts in New Orleans, though.

Assuming Brees doesn't retire, the Saints may very well bring him back for 2020. Even if they don't, there's no guarantee that they would proceed with Bridgewater at quarterback, as opposed to Taysom Hill.

So what about replacing another icon?

At the time of publication, it appears very possible that Josh McDaniels will not be back as the Patriots' head coach in 2020. The team's offensive skill-position talent needs to be overhauled. And, of course, signing in New England would mean being Tom Brady's replacement, which may be a no-win situation.

If Bridgewater doesn't feel that he's going to have a chance to start in New Orleans, his options may be limited, though. In New England, he would be paired with Bill Belichick and an elite defensive unit. You could talk yourself into that, especially if the Patriots invest in some skill-position talent this offseason.

The Tampa Bay Buccaneers would be another interesting option, whether Jameis Winston returns there or not. Bridgewater doesn't have the ceiling that Winston does, but he'll take better care of the football. If Bruce Arians wants to go in another direction - or have an internal option to push Winston - Bridgewater, still only 27, could be a fit.

Philip Rivers
Philip Rivers has spent his entire career with the Chargers. Photo credit (Sean M. Haffey/Getty Images)

Philip Rivers: Sign in free agency with the Indianapolis Colts

It's possible that Rivers, 38, will re-sign with the Los Angeles Chargers, the only team he's ever played for. That doesn't seem overly likely, though.

Rivers, a Chargers' icon, is coming off of arguably the worst season of his career, as he was picked off 20 times in a season where the team went 5-11. With his contract set to expire, the Chargers in possession of the No. 6 pick in the NFL Draft and Tyrod Taylor as a potential bridge option, it seems like time for a clean break for Rivers and the Chargers.

That doesn't mean Rivers' career, which will likely end with him being inducted into the Hall of Fame, is over.

After the 2019 regular season wrapped up, Rivers told the collective media, including Daniel Popper of The Athletic, that "retirement is not really an option." He also added that he wouldn't be opposed to playing for another team, if the Chargers weren't interested in bringing him back for a 17th season.

With that in mind, ESPN's Jeremy Fowler says that some league executives believe that Rivers could wind up in Indianapolis. The Colts were killed by injuries in the second half of a 7-9 season that came after Andrew Luck suddenly retired in late August. There's no indication that Luck is going to re-consider his decision, which leaves the Colts to assess how to move forward at quarterback.

Jacoby Brissett won seven of the 15 games that he started in 2019, throwing 18 touchdowns to just six interceptions. The 27-year-old will make $6 million in 2020, but does come with a $21.6 million cap hit. He's going to be on the team next season, it's just a matter of whether it's as the starter or backup.

For as much as Rivers struggled in 2019, he's two years removed from throwing 32 touchdown passes and leading the Chargers to a 12-4 record. Given that he previously worked with Colts' head coach Frank Reich when he was on the Chargers' staff, it stands to reason that the organization could take a shot on him, knowing that if he struggles early in 2020, Brissett is still there as a fall-back option.

Eli Manning
Eli Manning's career may be over. Photo credit (Sarah Stier/Getty Images)

Eli Manning: Retirement

"Everything is an option," Manning told the collective media, including ESPN's Jordan Raanan, after the conclusion of the 2019 regular season. "That is the first decision, whether I want to continue to play or not."

Manning didn't mince words late in the 2019 season - he didn't enjoy being Daniel Jones' backup and doesn't seem to want to continue his career if he can't start. With that in mind, it's hard to imagine there being a fit for the 39-year-old to continue his career.

On top of the seven other options on this list, Andy Dalton and Derek Carr could be released or traded. Ryan Fitzpatrick can become a free agent, assuming he chooses to continue his career. Former NFL MVP Cam Newton almost certainly won't be released, but he could potentially be available in a trade. The Jacksonville Jaguars would probably like a mulligan on the four-year/$88 million deal they signed former Super Bowl MVP Nick Foles to last offseason, meaning he's a potential trade option as well. There's the NFL Draft - which may feature three quarterbacks taken in the top 10 picks - as well.

Things can change, but right now it's hard to find a team that makes sense as a candidate to even consider Manning. It just feels like he's reached the point in his career where it's time to hang it up.

Jameis Winston
Jameis Winston has spent five seasons with the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Photo credit (Will Vragovic/Getty Images)

Jameis Winston: Re-Sign With Tampa Bay Buccaneers

In his first year under Bruce Arians, Winston led the NFL with 5,109 yards and tossed 33 touchdown passes. He also was picked off on his final pass of the season, becoming the first quarterback in NFL history to throw 30 touchdowns and 30 interceptions in a single season.

Winston, the No. 1 pick in the 2015 NFL Draft, has seen his rookie contract expire. To say that Buccaneers are at a crossroads with him would be an understatement. At his best, Winston is an elite quarterback. At his worst, he's a liability.

In his season-ending press conference, Arians left the door open for the possibility that another quarterback could start - and thrive - in an offense that also features star wideouts Mike Evans and Chris Godwin.

“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.

That makes you wonder about the possibility of someone like Bridgewater, who wouldn't turn the ball over at the same clip as Winston, but doesn't have the same ceiling either.

The most likely outcome is that Winston returns, but does so with a veteran backup behind him in case he doesn't cut down on his interceptions. Exactly what the structure of Winston's deal would be is unclear. The Buccaneers could franchise tag Winston, but that would mean paying him over $25 million in 2020. If they don't franchise tag him, the possibility exists that another team will show interest, forcing the Buccaneers to commit to Winston for multiple years or risk losing him.

Ryan Tannehill
Ryan Tannehill has clicked in his second stop. Photo credit (Kathryn Riley/Getty Images)

Ryan Tannehill: Re-Sign with Tennessee Titans

If the Titans had exited in Wild Card Weekend, it perhaps would have made sense for them to consider all available options in free agency.

That, of course, didn't happen.

The Titans will play in the AFC Championship Game after upsetting the New England Patriots and Baltimore Ravens in consecutive weeks. When you consider that the Titans were already reportedly weighing signing the 31-year-old to a long-term deal in early December, it stands to reason that they'll try to reach a multi-year extension with Tannehill when their magical playoff run concludes.

When you factor in that that Derrick Henry, the NFL's rushing champion, can also become a free agent this offseason, the Titans are motivated to sign Tannehill, leaving the franchise tag as an option for their dominant running back.

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