While most teams look for answers at the quarterback position via the draft, there are a handful of quarterbacks currently carrying clipboards that may find themselves (back) under center in Week 1 of the 2021 NFL season.
They could be desperate attempts to help revive a win-now franchise, or could be placeholders for young rookies drafted in April. Whatever the case may be, there are always a handful of teams looking for a steadying presence in the locker room and in the field, and sometimes that can be found by plucking someone away from a different roster.
Let’s take a closer look at current backup quarterbacks who have a good chance to be a starter to begin next season.
In hindsight, it turned out that Miami Dolphins rookie quarterbackTua Tagovailoa was probably not inserted into the starting lineup too soon, as the team has continued its playoff push behind the prized Alabama prospect. But there’s no denying that veteran Ryan Fitzpatrick showed he had a lot left in the tank earlier in the season, and filled in admirably in a spot start against the New York Jets in Week 12.
In addition to his ability to give the offense a spark, the 38 year old is also highly regarded as one of the best leaders and teammates in the NFL. As the Dolphins will likely officially hand the keys to Tagovailoa for the 2021 season, Fitzpatrick might be seeking other opportunities to start, even if it’s just as a placeholder for a young quarterback.
Possible Opportunities To Start: Jacksonville Jaguars, Indianapolis Colts, Washington Football Team, Minnesota Vikings, Chicago Bears
While it’s apparent that the Indianapolis Colts don’t view Brissett as a viable starting option that can get the team into the postseason, he has made a few cameo appearances this season in special scenarios. When the Colts have been in a goal to go or short yardage situations, they’ve brought solidly built Brissett (6’4” 238 pounds) to execute quarterback sneaks. Additionally, when Indianapolis have been in Hail Mary situations, they’ve opted to let him be the quarterback that fires the ball 50-60 yards in the air, instead of starter Philip Rivers.
There’s more to playing quarterback than just the physical demands of the position, but it’s better to have some physical talent as a starting point and improve in the other areas than the other way around. Still just 28 years old, Brissett has already started 32 games at quarterback in the NFL, and teams could do worse than someone who has the ability to challenge secondaries down the field and punch in one yard touchdowns.
Possible Opportunities To Start: New England Patriots, Pittsburgh Steelers(if Ben Roethlisberger retires), Detroit Lions
After having received multiple opportunities to turn his season around, the Philadelphia Eagles finally decided that they could no longer press on with Carson Wentz at quarterback. Each game looked worse than the next, and Jalen Hurts’ early returns have been everything fans would want to see from a modern day NFL quarterback. Unless Hurts hits a rookie wall soon, it would be difficult for Eagles management to defend a return to Wentz under center.
Wentz’s contract is massive and would not be desirable to take on unless a team really felt like they could turn his fortunes around. He’s only 27 years old, and could still very well bounce back to the form he had in 2017 when he was 11-2 as a starting quarterback, but that seems like decades ago in NFL timelines. Still, one would think he would get at least one or two other chances to start elsewhere if Philadelphia decided to go in a different direction.
Possible Opportunities To Start: Indianapolis Colts, Detroit Lions
There isn’t a team in the NFL whose locker room would not be improved by the presence of Alex Smith. He’s never had the rocket arm that so many NFL prospects come into the league with, and has dealt with the expectations of being a number 1 overall pick who in the eyes of many, did not pan out. Most recently and most notably, the 36 year old quarterback had to battle back* from a devastating leg injury suffered in the 2018 season.
Smith has stabilized a Washington Football Team that started 1-5 this season, and now stands a good chance of winning the NFC East. It seems like Washington might want to set their starting quarterback expectations a little bit higher for 2021, and may bring Smith back as a reserve. But other franchises might be willing to woo Smith away from the nation’s capital to bring leadership to their rosters.
Possible Opportunities To Start: Jacksonville Jaguars, New England Patriots, Minnesota Vikings
This scenario sticks out like a sore thumb, because this wouldn’t be an outside team looking for a calming veteran influence. If Jordan Love was named the starter heading into the 2021 season, then something seriously damaging would have had to happen between Aaron Rodgers and Green Bay Packers management.
It’s unlikely that things get that contentious between the future Hall of Fame quarterback and the team, as Rodgers currently has the Packers in the mix for a number one seed, and is a frontrunner for the MVP award. But we have seen things turn rather quickly before in this situation with Green Bay in the past, as the team traded Brett Favre to the New York Jets in 2008 after they lost in the NFC championship game. The possibility of Love being the leader of the team seems remote now, but there’s always a chance.
Possible Opportunities To Start: Green Bay Packers
Even though it has to be disappointing for Winston to have been bypassed for the opportunity to start in the absence of starting quarterback Drew Brees, there still figures to be teams who will value his sabbatical year learning under Saints head coach Sean Payton.
The former number 1 overall pick will undoubtedly need to assure his next offensive coordinator that he will take much better care of the ball moving forward, but his arm talent and ability to make things happen is still better than many quarterbacks playing right now. Ideally, Winston would land with a team that has a Kevin Stefanski-like approach—which is to say, run the football as many times as possible, and only expose the quarterback in low risk play action settings.
Possible Opportunities To Start: New York Jets, Indianapolis Colts, Las Vegas Raiders, Washington Football Team, Detroit Lions, Chicago Bears
Although slightly on the older side at 30 years old, Taysom Hill still feels like a young quarterback because fans have only seen him in short bursts. But Hill fits the same mold that has catapulted Kyler Murray, Lamar Jackson and Jalen Hurts(for now) to success—opposing defenses have to account for the possibility of the athletic jack-of-all-trades taking a draw play for 20 yards, just as much as a 20 yard throw up the seam.
Based on what has transpired this season in New Orleans, and with Brees likely to call it a career sooner rather than later, Hill seems to be the frontrunner to start at quarterback for the Saints next year. He received a two year contract extension in April, and has been a favorite of coach Payton for a few years now.
Possible Opportunities To Start: New Orleans Saints
Published 23 Dec 2020, 08:35 IST