With just a quarter of the regular season remaining, it's time for several NFL franchises to start looking beyond the 2020 campaign. I know it feels like next season is eons away, especially in today's climate, but if teams aren't thinking ahead, they're already behind -- particularly when it comes to the game's most important position.
Today, I'd like to spotlight seven organizations with one thing in common: The 2021 starting quarterback, in my estimation, is not on the current roster. Let's get to it!
The Bears' actions over the last two seasons prove they want to move on from Trubisky. They didn't pick up the 2017 second overall draft pick's fifth-year option and they signed Foles this past offseason. The Bears have known Trubisky, who was benched for Foles back in Week 3, isn't the future -- and now the QB will hit free agency in hopes of a fresh start. Foles elevated the Bears' offense and led Chicago to an epic comeback victory against Atlanta when he initially replaced Trubisky. Foles went on to win two of his next three games as the starter. After that, though, the unit became stagnant with an immobile Foles under center until he suffered a hip injury in Week 10. Trubisky has provided a spark at times, but this offense still lacks consistency and an identity.
That said, I do believe the Bears will keep Foles, the Super Bowl LII MVP who's still under contract in 2021, on the roster as a backup. He's proven to be one of the best backup quarterbacks in history, so yeah, why not keep him in the room? As far as Chicago's next QB1, whether picked up in free agency or the draft, it depends entirely on who is coaching this team. Matt Nagy's job status could hang in the balance, as he's faced a ton of criticism with the Bears losing their last six games.
It feels like the Colts are in the same spot they were this past offseason: still a quarterback away from being a contender. Rivers has been fine in his first year with the Colts, but he's not elevating the offense any. We might be having a different conversation if he were 10 years younger, but the fact is Rivers -- who'll likely need surgery after the season to repair a plantar plate rupture -- is immobile in the pocket and ultimately puts a ceiling on what the Colts can be.
With Rivers and Brissett (whom the Colts have made clear they've already moved on from) set to hit the free agency market in March, I wouldn't be surprised to see Frank Reich reunite with Carson Wentz. There is A LOT to figure out contract-wise for the Eagles (and Colts) if Wentz is to relocate, but I believe Reich could revive Wentz's career and Wentz, in turn, could help take Indy back to its glory days. If it's not Wentz, I would think they'd go after another veteran in the offseason.
The fact that Doug Marrone chose to play journeyman Glennon over a healthy Minshew (who has "begged" to play since returning from his thumb injury) because the veteran purportedly gives the team the best chance to win tells me one thing: Minshew Mania is over. It's done, kaput. Sure, the second-year passer has played better than people expected -- completing 62.6 percent of his pass attempts with a 34:11 TD-to-INT ratio in 21 games (19 starts) -- but there's a limit to what he can do physically. Minshew's skill set requires a certain level of talent around him. The Jaguars need to upgrade the most important position on the field (and no, Glennon ain't it) in order to establish themselves as a regular playoff contender. They have an opportunity to do that with a top-two pick in the 2021 NFL Draft.
The Patriots had to make a quarterback decision for the first time in 20 years last offseason, and there was a lot of excitement when they signed Newton to a one-year steal of a deal. Offensive guru Josh McDaniels has catered his play-calling to the former league MVP's skill set, which is the complete opposite of Tom Brady's, and deserves praise for adapting and ultimately leading the league's No. 3-ranked rushing attack. The offense isn't without its flaws, though, as the Pats' passing game ranks 30th.
I see Newton's time in New England being exactly what many predicted it could be: a one-year marriage serving as a bridge to the future. I think it's safe to say Stidham isn't the future, as he hasn't looked the part in limited action.
What are the options then? Three seasons ago, Bill Belichick traded away Brady's heir apparent Jimmy Garoppolo to San Francisco despite wanting to keep him on the roster. The Patriots have a real opportunity to bring Garoppolo back to New England this offseason. Yes, Kyle Shanahan said he expects Jimmy G to be the team's starter next season with the QB still under contract, but there's no guarantee the 49ers bring him back when looking at it from a contractual standpoint. The 49ers could easily trade him or release him, leaving the door open for New England to scoop him back up.
The 0-12 Jets have played some pretty uninspiring football under Adam Gase, and at this point, there's no telling who will or won't be back for Gang Green next fall. Darnold has been dealt a tough hand over his first three seasons, battling injuries, illness and playing under two regimes. At this point, though, Darnold and Flacco feel interchangeable, which isn't all that promising for the young passer. Honestly, I believe he just needs to shed his Gotham green outfit for a fresh start. The good thing to look at here is the Jets are currently in line to have the first overall pick in next year's NFL draft, and I don't see any scenario in which they don't select a quarterback -- most likely Clemson's Trevor Lawrence if he declares.
Garoppolo has spent much of the 2020 season on injured reserve with an ankle injury, but he is still under contract next season, while Mullens and Beathard are set to hit free agency. And as mentioned in the Patriots section above, Kyle Shanahan said last month that he expects "Jimmy to be our starter next year." That in no way means the 49ers won't do one of two things this offseason: With a team-friendly contract, the 49ers could very easily cut the franchise quarterback, or they could trade him if he waives his no-trade clause in 2021 (which means he would have to agree to go to the team the trade is with).
John Lynch and Shanahan have proven to be very aggressive with personnel moves in the past, so I could see them making a big move for the right player. Sam Darnold or Carson Wentz would thrive under Shanahan, but the one player the offensive guru should have his eye on is Matthew Stafford. There's been talk of Stafford and the Lions parting ways this coming offseason, and I can't think of a better option than to put Stafford on a team that has a legitimate chance to get back to the Super Bowl (if healthy). The product Shanahan and Stafford would put on the field would rival that of Andy Reid and Patrick Mahomes, and it would be glorious.
Smith is having a memorable 2020 campaign, to say the least. After returning from what was thought to be a career-ending injury, he has the Washington Football Team in position to potentially win the division with a strong finish, and Monday's upset over the then-undefeated Pittsburgh Steelers has this team riding high heading into the final stretch. I would be shocked if Smith hasn't already locked up Comeback Player of the Year honors -- and he's played quite well, considering what he's gone through. But, he's limited in what he can do physically. One of the 36-year-old's biggest strengths prior to his leg injury was making plays with feet, and he's not able to do that to the same degree anymore. Having played with him in San Francisco, I can see that Smith can't put the same heat on his throws or move like he used to. So, no, I don't think he's Washington's long-term answer, despite the fact that Ron Rivera hasn't ruled out Smith for the job. Instead, Smith would be a great QB2 option and spectacular voice in the room.
Kyle Allen is set to be an exclusive rights free agent and Dwayne Haskins hasn't been able to make it work with two different coaching staffs. I'd expect Washington to find someone in free agency or look to this year's QB draft class to build around.
Top 15 Offensive Players
Each week in the 2020 campaign, former No. 1 overall pick and NFL Network analyst David Carr will take a look at all offensive players and rank his top 15. Rankings are based solely on this season's efforts. Now, let's get to it -- the Week 14 pecking order is below.
NOTE: Arrows reflect changes from last week's rankings.