A few days ago, we saw the Detroit Lions and Los Angeles Rams swap quarterbacks in a blockbuster trade. The 2021 NFL offseason is already reshaping the league’s quarterback landscape. We could see almost a dozen passers with starting experience change teams since so many are entering free agency or potentially hitting the trade market.
This article pairs available quarterbacks with their best hypothetical landing spots. While putting this list together, I looked at pending free agents, draft picks, and the state of various franchises. Each destination only appears once, meaning fewer openings remain as we go down the list. The quarterbacks appear in descending order based generally on talent and recent accomplishments. I’m picking destinations for quarterbacks based on what’s best for the player, not the chosen teams.
Deshaun Watson is the only non-free agent that appears in this article. He leads off the list because he formally requested a trade. This article doesn’t discuss quarterbacks that might change teams but haven’t asked for trades. So you won’t see sections for Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Darnold, Jimmy Garoppolo, or Carson Wentz.
Deshaun Watson, 25 years old
There’s almost no chance that Watson plays for the Houston Texans next season. That relationship is broken, and Watson hasn’t returned any of the organization’s communications in recent weeks. Only a few teams have the assets to pull off a trade for Watson. Of that limited group, Miami is the only franchise that fielded a winning team in 2020.
Brian Flores’ team went 10-6 and barely missed the playoffs. Watson immediately makes the Dolphins a Super Bowl contender. While Miami doesn’t have a fantastic offensive line, Watson has the chance to play with Mike Gesicki and DeVante Parker. Flores also offers a level of stability that’s missing in Houston, and Miami’s defense is one of the NFL’s best.
Best Destination- Miami
Dak Prescott, 27 years old
The Dallas Cowboys would be utter fools if they let Prescott walk in free agency. However, contract negotiations between the two sides haven’t advanced past where they stalled last year. The compound fracture and dislocation Prescott suffered in Week 5 shouldn’t alter his market value. While Dallas has plenty of offensive threats, Prescott won’t sign a deal unless it’s exactly what he’s looking for.
Whether through free agency or in a sign-and-trade, Prescott should try to end up in San Francisco. The 49ers are only a year removed from making the Super Bowl, and they have one of the best offensive-minded head coaches. Prescott could lead the 49ers to nearly another decade of competitive play.
Best Destination- San Francisco
Andy Dalton, 33 years old
Philip Rivers signing with Indianapolis drew little fanfare last season. Yet the then-38-year-old nearly led the Colts to a Wild Card upset over Buffalo. With Jonathan Taylor and a great offensive line, average quarterbacks raise their value and demonstrate borderline Pro Bowl play. At 33 years old, Dalton has plenty of gas left in the tank and could fill Rivers’ position in the short-term.
The Red Rifle led Cincinnati to five consecutive playoff berths in the early 2010s. Dalton is a mercenary for hire at this stage of his career. It’s unlikely he’s ever given a deal lasting three or more years again. However, the former second round pick could revive some of his value and get back to the playoffs with Frank Reich and the Colts.
Best Destination- Indianapolis
Jameis Winston, 27 years old
Winston led the NFL with 626 pass attempts, 5,109 yards, and 30 interceptions in 2019. He also threw 33 touchdowns and posted an 84.3 passer rating. With three seasons of at least 4,000 yards under his belt, Winston is clearly a gifted passer. Unfortunately, the former Heisman Trophy winner is a turnover machine. His best chance of fixing those issues is with Sean Payton and New Orleans’ dominant offensive line.
The Saints created a lot of high percentage throws for Drew Brees in recent seasons. Playing in a similar system could prevent Winston from throwing too many interceptions. The former first overall pick has tremendous arm strength, something Brees lacked toward the end of his career. It helps that Payton already told the Good Morning Football crew that he wants Winston back for 2021.
Best Destination- New Orleans
Ryan Fitzpatrick, 38 years old
Fitzpatrick faces an interesting decision this offseason. He’s 38 years old, putting him one year shy of the age that Rivers recently retired at. However, the Harvard product has far fewer miles on his body than recent retirees like Rivers and Eli Manning. With 9,089 passing yards and a 91.0 passer rating over the past four seasons, Fitzpatrick has more to give before he hangs up his cleats.
The veteran’s 2021 destination depends on what he wants to accomplish next season. If Fitzpatrick wants to remain mostly a backup with a few chances to start, he could stay in Miami or head to somewhere with up-and-down quarterback play like New York or San Francisco. However, going to Denver gives Fitzmagic the best chance to start the most games. If he’s taken starts from Winston in the past, he can take Drew Lock’s starting job.
Best Destination- Denver
Mitchell Trubisky, 26 years old
In this situation, we’re assuming that Prescott gets out of Dallas and finds greener pastures in San Francisco. That leaves Jerry Jones in panic mode, and he offers a short-term deal to Trubisky. The former second overall pick strung together a few decent games down the stretch for Chicago, which might create some opportunities for him this offseason.
Dallas has depth on offense the likes of which Trubisky never had in Chicago. Amari Cooper and CeeDee Lamb are Pro Bowl-caliber receivers, while Ezekiel Elliott still has a lot of potential. The only question on Dallas’ offense, besides the quarterback, is the aging offensive line’s health. If that unit stays out of the medical tent, Trubisky could have more than enough time to survey the field.
Best Destination- Dallas
Cam Newton, 31 years old
Alex Smith is a great man with an incredible story, but the 36-year-old wasn’t himself this season. No one can blame Smith for his inconsistent play considering everything the former first overall pick went through over the past two years, but Washington has a defense that’s ready to contend. Smith isn’t good enough to help Ron Rivera’s team make a deep playoff run.
While Washington gives Newton the chance to reunite with his former head coach, the football team probably wants a younger quarterback with a higher ceiling. Newton is trying to find a playing style more suited for his current age and athleticism. Washington might be the best fit for Newton, but the former MVP isn’t the best option for Rivera’s staff.
Best Destination- Washington
Tyrod Taylor, 31 years old
New England shouldn’t bring Newton back next year. The pairing looked good for the first three weeks last season before everything fell apart. Taylor is a decent bridge quarterback with similar mobility to Newton and far fewer injuries. Taylor’s arm is in better shape, and the 31-year-old is faster than Newton because he’s taken fewer hits over the years.
The Patriots don’t have many future stars on their offense. Signing Taylor gives Bill Belichick a serviceable quarterback to work with while he plots the team’s future.
Best Destination- New England
Jacoby Brissett, 28 years old
Somehow Ben Roethlisberger didn’t miss a game due to injuries this past season (Pittsburgh rested him in Week 17). The soon-to-be 39-year-old usually misses a few games each year. With his arm strength and athleticism almost completely sapped, Roethlisberger is a shell of his former self. Brissett could outplay and eventually replace the former Super Bowl champion.
Brissett isn’t a long-term answer, but he could buy the Steelers a year or two while Pittsburgh searches for its quarterback of the future. The 28-year-old former Patriot has two seasons of starting experience and enough arm strength to utilize Chase Claypool and Diontae Johnson as vertical threats.
Best Destination- Pittsburgh