If sports fans ever wanted to see what an NBA offseason would look like from a football perspective, they will likely find out as the NFL offseason rolls along in 2021.
In a rarity, this year’s offseason is guaranteed to feature all sorts of turnover as it relates to the quarterback position, with plenty of high-profile free agents and a highly-touted draft class accompanying established stars that find themselves on the trading block.
Mix in a variety of veteran quarterbacks that either retired, are close to retiring, or could be replaced for a newer model due to their age, and it seems like each of the NFL’s 32 franchises could be in the market for a fresh face under center.
As of this writing on February 21, a few pieces of this offseason’s puzzle have already found their place, specifically Jared Goff, Matthew Stafford and Carson Wentz.
In a blockbuster move in January, Goff and Stafford swapped spaces, with Goff, two first-round picks and a third-round pick departing Hollywood to join the Detroit Lions, and Stafford landing with the Los Angeles Rams as a result.
A few weeks later, another big name from the 2016 NFL Draft would find a new home, as former Philadelphia Eagles star Carson Wentz was sent to the Indianapolis Colts as a replacement for the newly-retired Philip Rivers. The Eagles received a third-round pick and a conditional second-round pick in the deal.
And, in cases trades involving three top-tier quarterbacks weren’t enough, it seems as if the NFL is only at the beginning of what will turn into a hectic transaction wire in 2021.
While Goff, Stafford and Wentz represent some of the bigger dominoes that could fall before the 2021 season, they don’t necessarily top the list.
Likely representing the best option for teams looking to make a splash, Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson is still left wondering about what his future holds after a reported trade request.
Then, there’s San Francisco 49ers quarterback Jimmy Garoppolo, who has seemingly remained a part of trade talks in recent years despite the fact that he was under center for the franchise’s run to Super Bowl LIV against the Kansas City Chiefs.
Speaking of Super Bowl appearances, the Atlanta Falcons could still be willing to deal quarterback Matt Ryan, just a few years after his MVP season that culminated with a loss in Super Bowl LI.
And, potentially representing a dark horse in this offseason’s quarterback market, rumors continue to swirl around Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson’s future after an interview with Dan Patrick in February.
Add in other appealing options like New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold, Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa, and Denver Broncos quarterback Drew Lock, and teams have lots to work with and pursue before the 2021 season gets started.
But, with so many moves already made less than a month into the official “start” of the offseason, how did the value of each of those quarterbacks change, and how did it impact each player’s potential suitors?
In the Lions-Rams trade, Detroit received the equivalent of three first-round picks by getting rid of Stafford, gaining two future first-rounders and the No. 1 overall pick from the 2016 NFL Draft.
With that in mind, how much would a team have to give up to land a perennial MVP candidate like Watson or Wilson, both of whom are playing in the prime of their respective careers? On the other hand, what could a franchise like the 49ers get for a player like Garoppolo, just a year removed from a Super Bowl appearance?
Watson would likely require multiple first-round picks, in addition to defensive stars to bolster the Texans’ defense. But, would Wilson go for the same bounty, even when factoring in the seven-year age gap between the two?
Lower-level names like Darnold or Lock would certainly be cheaper options than Wilson or Watson, and could potentially go for multiple second-round picks in the case of the former, or a single first-rounder for the latter.
But, as fun as it is to simply discuss a specific player’s perceived value, you also have to consider the teams with the assets to turn those moves into a reality.
Teams like the Chicago Bears, Jacksonville Jaguars, New York Jets, New England Patriots, and the Washington Football Team are in clear need of a quarterback, but each hold varying amounts of resources to make it happen.
The Jaguars and Jets find themselves at the top of the 2021 NFL Draft, while the Bears, Patriots and Washington sit in the middle of the order.
Then, franchises like the Texans, Seahawks or 49ers would join those teams if they decide to move on from their current quarterbacks.
Next, there are teams like the New Orleans Saints and Pittsburgh Steelers, who each have decisions to make as they squeeze out the last drops of the careers of Drew Brees and Ben Roethlisberger, respectively.
Lastly, organizations like the Eagles and Dolphins sit as tweeners depending on how they feel about Jalen Hurts and Tua Tagovailoa heading into their respective sophomore seasons.
Each option enters the 2021 offseason with a wide variety of assets, with some, like the Jaguars and Jets, holding better draft position than others, and others, like the Patriots, having plenty of salary cap space to work with if they wanted to pursue free agency.
And, with incoming rookies like Clemson quarterback Trevor Lawrence, Ohio State quarterback Justin Fields, Alabama quarterback Mac Jones and more entering the fray, there’s a case to be made for any approach a team would opt for.
Last, but certainly not least, is the Dallas Cowboys, who are in arguably the most unique situation entering the 2021 season.
It looked like America’s Team had their quarterback of the future heading into 2020, with Dak Prescott simply negotiating for a long-term, big-money contract before his fifth year in the league.
Then, Prescott decided to play out the year and try to increase his value on the field before settling on a new deal, and subsequently fell victim to a gruesome leg injury that ended his 2020 campaign before it could even truly get started.
Now, Prescott is looking to get back onto the field for the start of the 2021 season, all while still operating under his initial contract that created issues in 2020.
If the Cowboys wanted to pursue a new quarterback in any way, now is the time to make it happen. At the same time, if the Cowboys were to move on from Prescott after his injury, it would create a potentially low-risk, high-reward situation for a team willing to unload some money for Prescott.
All in all, there’s the potential for almost two-thirds of the league to be reporting for training camp in 2021 with a new starting quarterback under center, and only around one-sixth of the moves had been made as of February 21.
After years of solidified names leading the way for dozens of teams, including players that seemed like mainstays in Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Matthew Stafford and more, the NFL has officially turned into the chaotic setting that has turned the NBA into must-watch television in recent years.
Big names are consistently on the move, newcomers are doing their best to take the throne from established veterans, and superstars are willing to take risks in new locations to cement their legacies and pursue championships.
With so much up in the air in 2021, it’s tough to guarantee anything.
But, one thing can be considered a certainty at this point: this year’s offseason will be remembered as the Year of the Quarterback, and fans can expect an absolute frenzy until the NFL’s 2021 season officially starts.