It was always going to be difficult to top the 2020 NFL offseason when it came to player movement – it’s hard to make a case that anything in the news cycle could’ve topped Tom Brady, probably the greatest quarterback in NFL history, leaving the franchise he’d spent his entire career with after two decades for a team in Tampa Bay that had been one of the most hard-luck in the league in recent seasons.
That doesn’t mean things didn’t get interesting in terms of player movement, though. Two all-time great quarterbacks, Drew Brees and Phillip Rivers, retired, creating attractive openings on teams that could conceivably contend for the Super Bowl. Dak Prescott was a free agent. Russell Wilson, DeShaun Watson, Aaron Rodgers, and Derek Carr were all mentioned to some degree in trade rumors.
Ultimately, though, despite the massive number of rumors, nothing near the magnitude of Brady changing teams happened. That doesn’t mean some teams didn’t make significant upgrades at the quarterback position, though, as evidenced by the changes have happened in the NFL futures market (and those that are yet to come after the draft!).
Jacksonville, the New York Jets, and San Francisco all made moves to potentially get big name rookies in the draft next week. But for now, here are the three teams who improved their quarterback situations the most before the draft.
The Rams struck early, sending former No. 1 pick Jared Goff and first round picks in 2022 and 2023 and a third rounder this year.
Stafford is aging and only has a small window left in his prime, but he gives the Rams something they never had with Goff – a player who can do more than be a game manager. That’s vital, too. Los Angeles has weapons on offense and they have an all-time great defense, but Goff never matured into the playmaker they’d hoped he’d be when he was the No. 1 pick.
Stafford has often had the exact opposite problem in Detroit. Since Calvin Johnson retired, there have been many times when the only player on the field offensively for the Lions who could make a play was Stafford. He’ll play for a contending team and a creative offensive coach for the first time in his career.
The Rams still have a difficult path to contention. They are in a division with teams in Seattle, Arizona, and San Francisco that all fancy themselves as Super Bowl contenders. Stafford’s addition, combined with the star power on the Los Angeles defense, might push them to favorite status in the division.
The Cowboys under Jerry Jones are used to doing the splashy thing, but this offseason, they did the most logical and practical things – they re-signed Dak Prescott.
Prescott hasn’t necessarily been treated like the franchise quarterback he is during his entire Dallas tenure – as evidenced by the fact that he had to enter free agency and hadn’t ever been given a long-term extension beforehand.
He missed much of last season with an injury, though, and the reality of seeing an overmatched Andy Dalton on the field with a team with a lot of offensive weapons brought the Cowboys to their senses.
Dallas is in the worst division in football, and a healthy Prescott should vault them right to the top of predictions in that race.
Picking up Ryan Fitzpatrick isn’t going to wow anyone. But, as good as it was to see Alex Smith back on the field last season, Fitzpatrick represents an upgrade. In his last season as a full-time starter in 2019, he completed over 60 percent of his passes and threw 20 touchdown passes.
Washington wasn’t bad enough last season to get in a range in the draft to select one of the three potential franchise talents in the first round, so it makes sense to replace the retired Smith with another capable albeit pedestrian veteran. Fitzpatrick can make more plays with his arm than Smith can, and if Washington’s defense is once again good, the team should be in contention all season.
They can draft a young quarterback to learn behind Fitzpatrick or also potentially just enter next season’s free agent market to look for a longer-term replacement.