This is a pseudo-sequel to last week's posturing about the future of the quarterback position in Minnesota. If you missed that one, click the fox before proceeding.
While Trey Lance is still in the pole position as the desired heir to the starting role in Minnesota, Justin Fields and Trevor Lawrence are also primed to be in the mix among the first five picks. I'm still skeptical that Spielman will surrender the assets required to go from the 20's into the top five but am going to spend today looking at which other franchises may be vying for one of the young stars so we can have rooting interests that extend beyond Fantasy Football.
As it has for the few years, the number of teams who need a quarterback continues to shrink without ever total evaporating. This year is no exception to that trend but has a few oddities to forecast around. I'm going to go division by division, starting with the Eastern pair and working around the country.
With a defense that's good enough to get him into the playoffs, Josh Allen just has to not be terrible in order to avoid becoming the next Blake Bortles. Down on South Beach the Fins will be taking a deliberate approach with Tua which makes them unlikely to invest in yet another young quarterback in 2021.
The New teams are more enigmatic.
Sam Darnold showed improvement from year one to year two but hasn't done enough to eliminate the chance that Mean Green will go back to the well. On the England side of things, no one knows how long of a leash Jarrett Stidham will have or whether he is just a ponzi in the hoodies scheming. As satisfying as it would be to watch Belichick lose, for the big picture of Minnesota both teams succeeding to an 8-8 record would be the best thing.
The other New York team and Philadelphia are both committed to their quarterbacks while Dallas continues to not get a deal done with Dak Prescott. They could always go the franchise tag route, as crippling as that would be to their salary flexibility, but if a deal isn't reached by the 15th I will label them a dark-horse for one of the top QBs next April.
Minnesota fans aren't quick to support the Star but getting a deal done with Prescott is the best way to ensure them not getting another one over on us. As for Washington, even if Dwayne Haskins makes significant progress in the upcoming season, they will be right in the mix for a top pick. So the rooting interest is easy, Haskins shows enough to the new coaching staff that they won't be compelled to make a quick hook on his time in the capital.
Down South Houston is the only team with a long-term elite answer to the quarterback question. Elite being the operative word since Tennessee handed out out a major contract to Ryan Tannehill. I suppose that he earned it with his play last season but this jury is still out on how he does when not acting as the reliever. In any case, it means that both of them will be out of running for a top QB unless something goes horribly wrong!
The other two in the AFC South are a different story.
Philip Rivers may be playing with the most talent since the Shawn Merriman defense & LT but his time in the Hoosier state may not extend much past 16 games. Conjuct that with the fact that Jacob Eason is the young, unknown on the roster and it's reasonable to think that they will be in the market for a young starter. Best case scenario for Minnesota is that they get to 10 wins and challenge for a playoff spot while seeing enough from Eason, Kelly or Brissett on the practice field and film room to go into 2021 with one of them.
As with Washington, Jacksonville is primed to lose far more than they win this year. They also have a QB set to run the show who has not yet proven that he can be their guy for the next decade. Despite the difference in draft position I think that Minshew has a better chance to cement himself into the role long term than Haskins does but it's still a long shot. The rooting interest is for him to show the abilities necessary to be competent and win games but to lose them so that the organization feels the pressure to add as many talented players as possible and thus would be amenable to trading down.
In the other half of the South it could be argued that all four teams have their quarterback of the present and future. Drew Brees may go the way of his San Diego successor (into retirement) after the season but with Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill on the roster behind him, the succession plan may already be in place. Up the coast aways, Teddy Bridgewater may be the caretaker to a tank job which would likely include a look at Will Grier for a few games before the season is over. Of the 16 teams that I've looked at so far, Carolina is the only one where losing for a young star QB seems to be the definite direction. Which kind of makes the rooting interest even easier - Bridgewater reignites his career, doing enough to earn a second year for the Blue Cats. In Tampa, Brady is on a two-year deal which could end with back-to-back trips to the last game so they may continue to draft to win now or they take Green Bay's approach & draft Brady's heir at the end of the first round, because he's on a very short timeline. I don't see them being a threat to trade up even with Brady's age.
Out West the NFC teams are all also set at the position, with the closest thing to a question-mark being Jared Goff. His deal has him secure through the 2022 season so to call him a question mark is a stretch, at least as far as being replaced goes.
The situation is more murky on the AFC side but only because Jon Gruden's opinion of Derek Carr continues to be unknown. Now that they're amongst the desert lights they could look to make a splash but coming off his second-best season for the Black & Silver, Carr would really have to stink up the place to get the boot. And even if they went in another direction he would fill a need elsewhere so the rooting interest is just for things to remain as they are.
And now for the Norths
On the AFC side, Cleveland and Pittsburgh could each be in line for a new starter depending on how their seasons go but Roethlisberger & Mayfield could each play well enough to hold onto the jobs. That's very obviously the desired outcome if Minnesota is to tab their next guy.
Now the crux.
The reaction to Green Bay's selection of Jordan Love was warranted but means that they are firmly out of the running for a young quarterback while Detroit & Chicago have better than 50% chances of addressing that position if history is any indication. As if fans of the Purple needed more reason to root for the Green & Yellow to fail, this would be it. What better time for them to have a four-win season than now since there is a 0% chance that they will draft another quarterback in the first round. I wouldn't be thrilled with them getting the first pick but for the purpose of this post & topic it would be a dream outcome.
As for the other two, Matthew Stafford can still get the job done when healthy but he's coming off an injury-shortened season with unknown ramifications. There was speculation that they could take Tua in the last draft but instead chose CB Jeff Okudah so it's possible that Stafford won't be limited this season and beyond but if they have another 4-win season then moving on from him seems like the obvious choice. As for Chicago, neither Trubisky or Foles is a jersey selling name.
If Foles can do enough to push Mitch aside, a low bar I know, while Stafford plays another full season & puts up the same kind of numbers he normal has but each team finishes with 5 or 6 wins then Minnesota may not have to pay the division tax that it would take to move into their spots atop the draft board.
There are plenty of questions that need to be answered and major hoops would have to be jumped through to get it done but the path to one of the top three possibilities is there if MN is willing to act. That obviously depends on a certain quarterback from NDSU foregoing his final two years of eligibility. Only Lance will be able to answer that question, in due time, but it will continue to hang over the upcoming College Football season. Even if it ends up being a group of two top QBs, MN could still make the succession plan happen with minimal intra-divisional rooting by the fanbase.
There is also a wrench that's not really a wrench but would void all the speculating that's been done. The shutdown put an even greater depressant on players from the FCS or who would otherwise be regarded as projects. With the diminished need at the position, teams may once again take a cautious approach to who they select if the 2020 draft process is repeated in 2021. So instead of being a top-five pick, Lance could slide into the back-half of the first round. Which could lead to him going for a three-peat of championships or Minnesota not having to surrender nearly as much capital to go get their guy. Either outcome would work for me but I don't want another shutdown thus it's a footnote.