While we await the official start of the 2020 NFL season to begin, we are all left to speculate as to what will happen with the current group of pending free-agent quarterbacks. In the NFL, no position is more critical for sustained success than the quarterback position. While we can get by in dynasty leagues with a middle of the road player, hardly do teams see long-term success with mediocre play under center. As we know, where a player can land in free agency can have a profound change in their value and outlook. Whether they take the hometown discount or take their talents across the country, a quarterback’s decision will have a ripple effect across all teams. Here we take a deeper dive into the 2020 free-agent quarterback class through a Superflex filter to see how they should be valued now and in the future.
Tom Brady – Age 42
Arguably the greatest quarterback of all time, Tom Brady could be playing in 2020 outside of the confines of Gillette Stadium. Brady turns 43 in August, and several teams would line up to sign the future Hall of Famer should he choose to leave New England. One option we can rule out immediately is the option to franchise tag him. The Patriots cannot assign the franchise tag to him, per a provision in his last contract.
Brady is clearly on the decline of his career. He recorded his lowest career touchdown total in 2019 (24) and had seven games where he scored less than 15 points in fantasy leagues. While rumors have been rampant as to where Brady could end up, I feel like he is best served to stay in New England. Is this a boring answer? Yes, it is. But it makes sense at the same time.
Brady has the highest value to the Patriots, given his knowledge in the offense and playstyle, and New England gives him the comfort of a familiar scheme and roster. Given his age and declining stats, Brady is my QB29 in Superflex dynasty leagues for 2020. If you already have two quarterbacks, he could serve as a usable bye week or matchup dependent starter. Just know that you are investing a pick for what could only be a year of service.
Ryan Tannehill – Age 32
After bringing him in as only a backup behind the disappointing Marcus Mariota, Ryan Tannehill got his shot and never looked back. Posting the highest passer rating in the NFL (117.5), Tannehill was also our highest-graded quarterback utilizing our proprietary PFN Offensive Share Metric (OSM) at 34.36. While he might not have the long pedigree of high-level play such as Aaron Rodgers, what Tannehill did in the second half of the season was more than enough to give him a substantial bump in value. The question is, do the Titans — with $61.5 million in cap room — bring back Tannehill?
How much is he responsible for in their playoff run? How much did he benefit from a run game with league-leading Derrick Henry? Both players are free agents and will undoubtedly at least test free agency and listen to offers. If Tennessee can manage to keep his contract under the $20 million per range, that would allow them to pursue Henry still while giving Tannehill a deal that is in the upper half of NFL quarterbacks. Seeing his instant connection with A.J. Brown, the best hope for Superflex fantasy owners is they find a way to work out a deal and keep him in Music City.
Drew Brees – Age 41
Even though Drew Brees missed five games in 2019, it was not due to age of a physical decline. If anything, Brees hasn’t missed a beat in what seems like a decade. He remains in tremendous physical shape otherwise and shows little-to-no decline while rewriting NFL records every week it seems. While Brees cannot be franchise tagged, I don’t foresee anyway the two sides don’t work out a deal. Few players in American sports mean more to their respective cities than Brees does to the city of New Orleans. I think something around a two-year agreement will happen while the New Orleans Saints make a decision on their other quarterbacks in Teddy Bridgewater and Taysom Hill.
Dak Prescott – Age 27
Of all free-agent quarterbacks, Dak Prescott is the one who will bring in the highest price tag. Lucky for him, the person writing that check is Jerry Jones. Also working in his favor is new head coach Mike McCarthy, who all but said that Prescott was the reason he came back to coaching in the NFL. McCarthy was quoted in his press conference saying,
“Our offensive system will be built around making the quarterback successful – that’s the way I’ve learned it, and that’s the way I believe you play offense,” McCarthy said. “We have a great one here to work with.”
You don’t make a statement like that and let said quarterback walk in free agency. The team wants to avoid using the $26.9 million franchise tag on Prescott because although they can afford it, he doesn’t have to sign it; and likely won’t. While that is a number most of us can’t fathom, the issue for Dallas is the market has been set and then reset in recent years.
Jared Goff of the Los Angeles Rams is expected to be the most expensive quarterback in 2020 at about $36 million. Seattle’s Russell Wilson reset the market last year with a four-year, $140 million contract. He also signed it entering his 30s. Prescott has the ability where he deserves whatever money he can get, especially after his previous season’s performance.
Prescott is coming off his best year statistically. In his fourth year with the Cowboys, he completed 388 of 596 pass attempts, both career-highs. He threw 30 touchdown passes (previous high was 23) and totaled 4,902 yards through the air (previous best was 3,885). He finished 2019 as QB2 in fantasy, with 337.78 points, only behind Lamar Jackson. For us in fantasy, we want to see him stay with the Dallas Cowboys. He is protected by one of the best offensive lines in football, has one of the best running backs in Ezekiel Elliott, and has both Amari Cooper and Michael Gallup out wide. Well, so long as they re-sign Cooper. I hope Jones’s check-writing hand is ready for this offseason.
Philip Rivers – Age 38
After spending his whole career with the Chargers both in San Diego and Los Angeles, it seems as though the door is closed and both sides are ready to move on. Reports are that Philip Rivers has moved his family out of the area, and they are now residing in Florida.
While he’s been a fixture for the Chargers over the past 16 seasons, the 38-year-old had a tough season in 2019, throwing for 4,615 yards, 23 touchdowns, and 20 interceptions as the Chargers finished in last place in the AFC West with a 5-11 record. That being said, it is hard to find a player who has a longer track record of staying relatively healthy and stays on the field.
I think both sides move on, though. The Chargers will look to select their new franchise quarterback in the draft from one of the big names like Justin Herbert. What becomes more curious is where Rivers lands. If Brees, Brady, and Tannehill all stay with their respective teams, landing spots become fewer and harder to find. One organization that could be interesting is the Tampa Bay Buccaneers. Jameis Winston is a free agent, and after joining the 30/30 club, has slightly fallen out of favor with his head coach. They could save a lot of cap space by letting Winston walk or franchise tagging him and then trading him while also signing the veteran signal-caller in Rivers.
Jameis Winston – 26
The reigning NFL top passer rarely becomes a free agent, and even rarer when his own team is unsure whether they want to bring him back. However, as I said earlier, that is precisely what it seems like for Jameis Winston. Need proof? At the end of the season, when asked whether or not the Buccaneers can move on without Winston, Arian’s answer was somewhat cryptic.
“(Win) with another quarterback? Oh yeah,” Arians said, via Rick Stroud of the Tampa Bay Times. “If we can win with this one, we can definitely win with another one, too.”
While Winston is maddening to watch and also own, he is productive for fantasy. Not all good fantasy quarterbacks need to be great real-life ones. Thanks to having two of the best wide receivers in the NFL to throw to in Chris Godwin and Mike Evans, Winston could throw it up and trust his players to come down with it and win 50/50 balls. For fantasy and especially Superflex leagues, I’d like to see Winston stay with the Buccaneers even if it is just for this year. Even if they choose just to tag him and use 2020 and a “show me” year, that is good for us. He stays in a familiar system and has the talent surrounding him to produce another QB1 season. Even if he just cut his interceptions by a third (which is still 10), that would be fantastic.
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Tommy Garrett is a writer for PFN covering Fantasy Football. You can follow him at @TommygarrettPFN on Twitter.