COLUMN: NFL offseason turnovers: QBs who need a new set of downs

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By Matteo Venieri
Boston University News Service

As teams across the National Football League 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. After covering  “Superstar QBs” in our previous tier, this edition will be looking at the second group: “QBs in need of a new start.”

Jared Goff (Detroit Lions)

The first name on the list belongs to Jared Goff, who has already found a new home in Detroit. On Jan. 31, the Los Angeles Rams sent Goff, two first-rounders and a third-round pick to the Lions in exchange for Matthew Stafford. 

The 2016 first-overall pick remains a walking question mark, though: is he a bust or a Super Bowl-caliber QB? If anything, he is probably a good player with a bad contract.

After five seasons in L.A., the Rams ran out of patience and decided to move on, giving Goff the chance to restart his career with the Lions. The leash, however, might be very short. Despite having four years and $106.6 million left on his contract, Detroit could cut Goff at the end of the 2021 season and incur in “just” $15.5 million in dead cap.

Dak Prescott (Dallas Cowboys)

Very few quarterbacks had a 2020 as tumultuous as Dak Prescott, as he experienced a contract impasse and a COVID-19 diagnosis, all before a gruesome injury that sidelined him for the rest of the season.

Now, he is back to square one and lengthy contract talks. The Cowboys would gladly keep him in Dallas, but without paying a premium.

Last year, Prescott reportedly turned down $175 million for five years. Instead, he bet on himself by signing a franchise tag. Once medically cleared, the injury could turn out to be a blessing in disguise for Prescott, whose value increased as Dallas’ offense took a nosedive without him. Still, taking his talents elsewhere might be the best solution for a quarterback still looking to secure his financial future.

Jimmy Garoppolo (San Francisco 49ers) & Kirk Cousins (Minnesota Vikings)

After taking the 49ers to the Super Bowl just a year ago, Jimmy Garoppolo is running out of time. His injury-riddled season could easily be the primary reason for his steep decline in 2020, but San Francisco has made no secret that an upgrade at the helm would be welcomed. Last year, the team briefly considered swapping him for Tom Brady. Now, regret could fast-track a divorce from Garoppolo.

One option for the 49ers could be Kirk Cousins, rumored to be part of a swap that would reunite him with coach Kyle Shanahan and send Garoppolo to Minnesota. Cousins, who has two years left on his contract, played well for the Vikings, but often struggled in prime time. 

While it is questionable whether he is an upgrade over Garoppolo, Shanahan could spice up his offense with a more daring quarterback under center, while still asking his defense to do the heavy lifting.

Derek Carr (Las Vegas Raiders)

Lastly, the Raiders could soon say goodbye to Derek Carr. When coach Jon Gruden signed his 10-year contract, he immediately began a complete rebuild of the team, even if that meant trading away his best player in Khalil Mack. So far, Carr’s contract kept Gruden from seriously considering a trade or a cut, but now cutting the quarterback would mean only $2.5 million in dead cap.

After a few down years, Carr bounced back with a very solid 2020 campaign, topped with a career-best 71 Quarterback Rating. Carr’s value has never been higher since his devastating injury in 2016. It might be the best time for Las Vegas to extract the maximum value from him and trade him, finally giving Gruden the chance to pick his QB of the future in the draft.

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