One day you wake up and suddenly every NFL QB is a free agent and every team has unlimited cap space to reel them in. What would the starting quarterback landscape look like in 2016 if that happened? We’ve reworked the entire NFL to find the best possible QB/team pairings.
49ers — Marcus Mariota
Reunited with Chip Kelly and it feels so good! Mariota had a decent rookie season, but if he wants any shot at real success, he’d choose to jump back into Kelly’s system (and if it doesn’t work out Kelly likely heads back to the college game).
Bears — Brock Osweiler
Brock’s going to get a deal somewhere with long-term plans for him. Chicago is a project, but at least he’d have Alshon Jeffrey to bomb it downfield to until everything else is put in place … assuming he re-signs.
Bengals — A.J. McCarron
Ok the Tom Brady comparisons are too steep, but McCarron gives the Bengals a better chance to win than Dalton. He’s played on the big stage at Alabama and won a pair of championships. He keeps his cool under pressure, something Cincy desperately needs.
Bills — Jameis Winston
Buffalo certainly isn’t a sexy destination for the No. 1 overall pick, but there’s a fit here. Jameis and Rex feel like a fit personality wise. Winston would get to work with Sammy Watkins and have a great defense behind him.
Broncos — Phillip Rivers
Peyton is going downhill. Even if he doesn’t retire, imagine a QB like Rivers getting a chance to play with these receivers and this defense? He’d join Eli and Big Ben as another QB from the 2004 draft with some jewelry.
Browns — Andy Dalton
With McCarron taking over the ship in Cincy, Dalton is kicked to the curb … and it’s a long fall. Nobody is a great fit in Cleveland right now, but perhaps Dalton’s up to the task. Having a chance to beat the Bengals would be intriguing.
Buccaneers — Ryan Tannehill
With Winston on the move the Bucs have to act fast. Tannehill is one of the most overrated quarterbacks in the NFL, but on paper having Vincent Jackson and Mike Evans to throw the ball to has to look good. Maybe he can turn the corner in Tampa.
Cardinals — Matt Ryan
Carson Palmer is getting up there in age, but Arizona has a great thing going on both sides of the ball. Landing a QB in his prime that still has plenty of gas left in the tank gives them a chance at competing longer.
Chargers — Drew Brees
The Saints need to rebuild, so at his age Brees is on his way out of New Orleans. Why not go back to where it all started and make the best of it? The Chargers would be pleased to land somebody that gives them any chance at an elite offense.
Chiefs — Carson Palmer
KC hasn’t won with Alex Smith but they’ve been close. Palmer doesn’t give the Chiefs a big window, but he’s a good short-term option. Maybe Palmer has one elite season left and can take Kansas City further than Smith.
Colts — Jay Cutler
The Colts have an odd battle going on in the front office/ownership/coaching realm. If Andrew Luck is smart, he doesn’t want to be a part of it and bolts. Cutler’s value isn’t looking too good, so these two could be a match while they’re at their lows.
Cowboys — Johnny Manziel
Honestly, this guy shouldn’t even be in the league right now with everything surrounding him. He just doesn’t get it. I’d give him low odds of getting his life together next season, let alone saving the Cowboys.
Dolphins — Joe Flacco
Flacco gets pushed out of Baltimore for reasons we’ll get to soon. Miami pounces on the chance to get a Super Bowl winning QB with a big arm. He’s not Dan Marino, but the Dolphins have been looking for anything close for years.
Eagles — Alex Smith
Ok this isn’t a sexy move, but with the new coaching staff in Philly experiencing recent success with Smith, it’s worth a try. If the Eagles can have a season like the Chiefs did last season that’s fantastic progress.
Falcons — Tony Romo
With Johnny Football taking his job, Romo needs a new home. Julio becomes his new Dez, as Ryan already fled for a better situation in Arizona. Romo would likely fair much better in Atlanta than he would in Dallas, especially with Jones as his top option.
Giants — Matthew Stafford
Eli is on the move! But the Giants land another former No. 1 overall pick in Staffy. Without Tom Coughlin the Giants aren’t quite as attractive, but throwing balls up to OBJ still makes this a great place for a QB with a huge arm to wind up.
Jaguars — Blake Bortles
The Jags are actually onto something here. Bortles threw 35 TDs in 2015 — tying him with the likes of Palmer, Eli and Cam, and only one touchdown behind the league-leading Brady. Once the defense gets worked out, Jacksonville already has its guy.
Jets — Eli Manning
Get ready for some drama! Eli’s moving across town. His coach is gone and other than OBJ what do the Giants offer? Why not switch locker rooms and throw to Brandon Marshall and Eric Decker while having a fantastic D to back you up? Talk about a spark to the Pats/Jets rivalry …
Lions — Paxton Lynch
Calvin looks like he’s retiring and Stafford has left because of it. You need a fresh start, Lions. Lynch is a very NFL ready QB that had a hell of a career at Memphis. It’s going to be a long rebuild, but this is at least a good start.
Packers — Aaron Rodgers
Nothing too crazy here. Rodgers has won a Super Bowl in Green Bay and keeps them generally in contention. Jordy Nelson will be back to help the offense next season and it should be more of the same.
Panthers — Colin Kaepernick
As you know now, Newton found a better fit. The Panthers panic and take the player that’s been the closet thing to a Cam-esque dual threat. We know Kaep can run, but he needs to work on his arm for this huge gamble by Carolina to pay off.
Patriots — Tom Brady
Yawn. Touchdown Tommy is staying in New England and keeping the Pats contending until the end of time.
Raiders — Derek Carr
Like Jacksonville, the Raiders seem to have found their future at QB. Carr and the team both like each other, and what’s not to like after being handed Amari Cooper as your top weapon? Assuming the coaches can develop the duo, it’s up to the front office to fill out the rest.
Rams — Jared Goff
Peyton Manning? Please. The last thing the Rams need to start their second chapter in Los Angeles with is an old face. In fact, they need a brand new face. Goff is the top QB in the 2016 draft class and played his college ball at Cal. He’s your poster child now, L.A.
Ravens — Andrew Luck
Remember when the Colts picked up and left Baltimore overnight? Well, now that’s not looking so bad. Score one back for Baltimore. Seriously, though. When healthy, it seems like the Ravens have the formula to be a top team in the AFC and rival the Patriots. If Luck notices that, this could be the real place for him to build his legacy.
Redskins — Kirk Cousins
You like that!? Well D.C. does, and they want to build this team around the guy drafted to be RGIII’s backup. Cousins has shown the ability to ball and developed amazing chemistry with Jordan Reed this past season. Keep building on your playoff birth.
Saints — Russell Wilson
Now things get interesting. Seattle chooses another player over Wilson despite the success he’s had with the organization. After really developing as a passer in 2015, the Saints give him a monster contract to come be the new Brees — a comparison Wilson has always been fond of. New Orleans has a lot of building to do around Wilson, but getting the QB is most of the work.
Seahawks — Cam Newton
And now you see why Wilson’s been kicked to the curb. The Seahawks pitch Cam on the idea of how dominant a team this could be with Newton in the saddle. He’s a bigger, better Wilson and as long as the Legion of Boom stays in tact, this is going to be a monster in the NFC for the next 10 seasons.
Steelers — Ben Roethlisberger
As has been the case with Brady and Rodgers, there’s just no need to change this. Big Ben has two rings in Pittsburgh and is the right guy to lead them to a third. Who knows, at full health they may be the best team in the conference?
Texans — Robert Griffin III
I’ve touched on this is the past, but this just feels like a great fit. RGIII goes back to Texas where he experienced all his glory to lead a Texans team that desperately needs a QB. If he’s healthy, he can.
Titans — Peyton Manning
Let’s say Peyton doesn’t retire. Mariota burns the Titans for San Fran and nobody has the patience to rebuild in Tennessee. Manning returns to his roots for one last hoorah.
Vikings — Teddy Bridgewater
Sorry we can’t end on a more exciting note, but the Vikings pretty much just beat the Seahawks in the playoffs (that kick goes in 95 out of 100 times). They’re a balanced team and Bridgewater is the right guy to carry them. If he keeps making little developments that only helps.Odd men out: Tyrod Taylor, Ryan Fitzpatrick, Nick Foles, Blaine Gabbert, Sam Bradford, Brian Hoyer.
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