By Matteo Venieri
Boston University News Service
As teams across the NFL prepare for another season, some fans may end up having to replace their quarterback jerseys. In fact, only about a third of the league can confidently say who will be their man under center next year.
In this five-part series, we will be looking at the quarterbacks who are likely to change colors next season, predicting what we can expect as we divide them into five tiers. In the case of tier four, we will be looking at a class of quarterbacks who could feast or famine: “Hit or miss QBs.”
Tua Tagovailoa (Miami Dolphins), Sam Darnold (New York Jets) and Drew Lock (Denver Broncos)
Deshaun Watson’s sudden availability is making many teams look at their quarterback room and seriously meditate a total overhaul. This includes three teams who just drafted a QB. The Jets are in a great position to make their push for the Texans player, given the draft capital already accumulated and the chance to increment it even more by trading away Sam Darnold, whose fifth-year option hasn’t been picked up yet.
Similarly, the Dolphins selected Tua Tagovailoa in the first round just a year ago, but he could quickly become expendable. The Dolphins appears to be the team best positioned to make the Texans and Watson the best offer, even though Tagovailoa will be sacrificed in the process.
Chasing a true franchise quarterback as well, Drew Lock may not be the Broncos topic choice. The Broncos are exploring several potential trade scenarios at the QB spot. Lock’s rookie season showed glimpses of greatness, but his sophomore year didn’t live up to the expectations.
Once heralded as the future of the respective franchises, Darnold, Tagovailoa and Lock might soon have to reboot their young careers on a new team. Their ceiling might still be high, but there is already a noticeable — but maybe premature — drop-off between them and other young talented quarterbacks.
Carson Wentz (Philadelphia Eagles)
There are several reasons why Carson Wentz, traded from Philadelphia to Indianapolis on Feb. 18, didn’t quite make it to the list of quarterbacks who just need a fresh start. Since his MVP-caliber sophomore year, the former Eagles QB has quickly become one of the most scrutinized players in the league.
A series of injuries, a massive contract, reported locker room issues and a visible regression on the field quickly turned Wentz from a superstar into a borderline bust.
The Eagles shipped him to the Colts for a fraction of the draft capital they invested five years ago. After leading the league in interceptions this season, Wentz now desperately needs to resurrect his career in Indiana.
Protected by an elite offensive line and guided by coach Frank Reich, his offensive coordinator in Philadelphia, Wentz now has his best chance to succeed. At the same time, it might also be his last.
Cam Newton (New England Patriots)
Once seen as yet another steal by Bill Belichick, Cam Newton was a huge disappointment for New England in 2020. Cut by Carolina after nine years, the Patriots bet on the former Most Valuable Player to open a prolific post-Brady era. Instead, not only did the Patriots witness Brady win the Super Bowl on a new team, but they also suffered Newton leading them to the first losing season in 20 years.
While it’s reasonable to believe that COVID-19 slowed down both his chemistry with the team, 8 touchdowns in 15 games was not even close to being enough to win the division.
After early reports indicated that the two sides were expected to part ways and that New England was actively involved in trade talks for a QB with multiple teams, Newton and the Patriots surprisingly agreed to a new one-year deal for $14 million, almost ten times last year’s salary.
The team began the offseason with plenty of cap space and giving a substantial raise to Newton despite his struggles indicating that Belichick still believes in his QB. The small portion of guaranteed money, however, keeps the door open for the Patriots to sign or draft at least another quarterback in case Newton disappoints again.