Lovers of quarterback drama -- which is everybody, right? -- were treated to an extra juicy offseason this year. One of the best quarterbacks of all time ended his two-decade-long relationship with one of the best coaches of all time. An unlikely comeback story added another chapter. And, most recently, a former MVP was given a chance to revive his career -- in the former home of the aforementioned legendary QB.
But Tom Brady, Teddy Bridgewater and Cam Newton weren't the only quarterbacks to change teams this offseason. Below, I've ranked the top 10 quarterbacks to change teams for 2020. Note that this ranking was compiled based on how I'd expect each player to perform if given starter's snaps with their current teams -- which means someone slotted for backup duty right now could theoretically rank ahead of a penciled-in starter.
Setting aside for the moment the fact that the NFL Players Association's medical director recommended against players gathering together before training camp, there is one key takeaway from the June workouts Tom Brady held with his new Bucs teammates: The soon-to-be 43-year-old is determined to prove he can win outside of Bill Belichick's shadow. The stage is set for that to happen in Tampa, where the former Patriot will be surrounded by a stellar group of pass catchers led by receiver Mike Evans and tight end Rob Gronkowski. The offense should also get plenty of support from a defensive unit that boasts 11 returning starters and showed marked improvement in the second half of last season. It was obvious the Bucs -- who have not made the playoffs in 12 straight seasons -- were stuck in neutral with Jameis Winston at quarterback. Brady makes this team relevant and dangerous once again.
After a 5-11 season in which Rivers threw almost as many interceptions (20) as he did touchdowns (23), it was clear both the quarterback and the Chargers organization could use a fresh start. The veteran found an ideal home with the Colts, whose head coach (Frank Reich) and offensive coordinator (Nick Sirianni) both know Rivers well from their time together with the Chargers. There are two reasons I love this signing so much: 1) Rivers will get to play behind a veteran offensive line featuring the NFL's best left guard (Quenton Nelson), and 2) Reich doesn't want or expect the 38-year-old to carry the offense on his own, with the team planning to emphasize a running game spearheaded by Marlon Mack and rookie Jonathan Taylor. If the defense shows improvement after a second-half dropoff in 2019, this Indianapolis team could become a real threat in the AFC with Rivers at the helm.
Newton's signing in New England is so compelling, because of the number of unknowns involved. Can the now-healthy (knock on wood) ex-MVP beat out second-year pro Jarrett Stidham in the battle to replace Tom Brady? Newton's no sure thing to win the job, given Stidham's advantage in playbook knowledge and the fact that the 31-year-old Newton is playing catch-up after missing the team's offseason program. But even if you give Newton the benefit of the doubt and say he'll be on the field in Week 1, there's still the question of what the offensive attack will look like with a QB who is much more mobile than Brady. Beyond that, can Newton stay healthy? Will he mesh, personality-wise, with Bill Belichick and stand up to the pressure that comes with replacing a living legend?
I'm a Cam Newton fan. My history with his family goes back to when I signed his father, Cecil, as a college free agent for the Cowboys in 1983. Which is why I'm hoping and expecting a Comeback Player of the Year-caliber season from the young (in my eyes) quarterback who still calls me Uncle Gil.
In a perfect world, the only snaps Dalton would take in 2020 would be in victory formation, with Dak Prescott watching from the sideline after leading a Cowboys rout. But, again, in this exercise, we're imagining how each of these quarterbacks would perform given a full season's worth of starts with the current lineup. And if Dalton were pressed into action with these Cowboys, he would surely thrive, buoyed by the presence of Ezekiel Elliott, Amari Cooper and an offensive line that is far better than the one he played with over the past few years in Cincinnati. Any meaningful playing time in 2020 would be huge for the 32-year-old Dalton, who is trying to get back into the starting mix in 2021, whether in Dallas (on the off chance things go completely haywire with Prescott's contract negotiations) or elsewhere.
One of the NFL's greatest comeback stories continues in Carolina, where Bridgewater will finally become a bona fide starter once again four years after a horrific leg injury prematurely ended his time as the QB1 in Minnesota. It should be noted that he's stepping into a situation that is far less stable than the one he enjoyed in New Orleans, with the Panthers undergoing a major rebuild involving a new coaching staff leading a roster with the fewest returning snaps of any team in 2020, according to ESPN. But it hopefully won't take too long for the quarterback to start enjoying some of the offensive magic new Panthers coordinator Joe Brady managed to conjure up with Joe Burrow at LSU last season. Workhorse running back Christian McCaffrey and young receiver D.J. Moore -- who improbably caught 87 passes for 1,175 yards last year despite working with three different starting quarterbacks -- are also huge assets for Bridgewater. He'll have to hope the revamped offensive line proves to be the same.
The best season this NFL journeyman has enjoyed by far came in 2017 in Minnesota, when new Browns coach Kevin Stefanski was serving as Vikings quarterback coach and Keenum threw for 3,547 yards while compiling an 11-3 record, 22:7 TD-to-INT ratio and a passer rating of 98.3. Keenum is a perfect fit in Cleveland, where he can help Baker Mayfield learn yet another new offense (Mayfield's third in his three NFL seasons). And he'd also be capable of executing Stefanski's attack if called to duty, which is the imaginary scenario driving his ranking here. The fact that anyone starting under center in Cleveland will be surrounded by a bevy of standout skill position players is one reason I believe the Browns are a dark-horse playoff contender in 2020.
While no ultimatums have been publicly given by team management, it is clear that the Bears must rebound from a disappointing 2019 if coach Matt Nagy and general manager Ryan Pace are to escape the proverbial hot seat. This is particularly true at the quarterback position, where 2017 second overall pick Mitchell Trubisky failed to build off a promising 2018 and now faces a huge threat from Foles. The MVP of Super Bowl LII should have the trust of the Bears coaching staff, having worked with Nagy (in Kansas City and Philadelphia), offensive coordinator Bill Lazor (in Philadelphia) and quarterbacks coach John DeFilippo (in Philadelphia and Jacksonville). I'll give Foles a mulligan for his disappointing stint as the would-be savior of the Jags last season, which was derailed by a broken collarbone suffered in the first quarter of the opener. That being said, I'm not sure how good Chicago's offense is going to be regardless of who's at quarterback, with the skill-position group short on established standout talent outside of receiver Allen Robinson.
Here's a startling stat: Over the past five seasons, Winston has committed a jaw-dropping 107 turnovers, including 88 interceptions and 19 lost fumbles (out of 50 fumbles committed). The top overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft knew something needed to change, so he took a low-end one-year deal in New Orleans with the hopes of reinventing himself via the tutelage of Sean Payton and an up-close look at how Drew Brees goes about his business. Winston likely realizes he might never see the field with the Saints, but there is also the chance he could parlay playing time into a starting job -- a la Bridgewater -- either elsewhere or even, potentially, in New Orleans, depending on what the 41-year-old Brees decides to do after this season. At just 26 years old, Winston is young enough to grow into a solid NFL quarterback. Let's hope it happens with the Saints -- otherwise, he'll spend the rest of his career on a sideline somewhere.
Like Winston, the second overall pick in the 2015 NFL Draft failed to live up to his draft pedigree before his five-year rookie deal expired, and now he's starting over as a backup for a new team. Mariota's struggles last season -- the Titans put up 11 points and 288.8 yards per game while going 1-4 in his final five starts -- were amplified by the way the Tennessee offense took off when Mariota was benched for Ryan Tannehill. Las Vegas GM Mike Mayock said the Raiders will need to rebuild Mariota, but the team seems to be optimistic this can be done under head coach Jon Gruden. The fact that they're paying Mariota $17.6 million over two years to be their backup is proof that incumbent starter Derek Carr should be looking over his shoulder for the first time since the Raiders drafted him in 2014. Carr must do a better job taking shots downfield and running when the opportunity presents itself; otherwise, he'll risk Mariota getting a chance to operate an offense that moved the ball well in 2019.
Head coach Ron Rivera must know what he's doing, because he worked with Allen for two years in Carolina. Read what you will into Washington's decision to trade for Allen rather than waiting to see what the Panthers decided to do with Cam Newton. Rivera clearly has confidence in Allen, who the coach indicated will receive legitimate consideration to be the Week 1 starter. One thing working in Allen's favor is his experience working with new offensive coordinator Scott Turner. If 2019 first-round pick Dwayne Haskins doesn't learn the new system quickly enough, Allen could step in. The veteran did have his moments in 2019, including an interception-free 4-0 stretch to kick off his stint as Newton's fill-in. Then he went to San Francisco in Week 8, and things flew off the rails (158 yards, zero TDs, three picks, 28.9 passer rating). He'll have to now show he can correct the issues that led to a 1-7 record (with 15 interceptions) for Allen in his final eight starts in Carolina.