Drew Brees is returning to play quarterback for the Saints in 2020. That means he won’t retire nor enter NFL free agency. That also means New Orleans won’t re-sign high-priced backup QB Teddy Bridgewater for a third season.
Bridgewater, 27, joins Philip Rivers as a quarterback certain to hit NFL free agency when the league year starts with the official signing period on March 18. Brees and Dak Prescott (likely) are off the market, but the other unsigned QBs for now include Tom Brady, Jameis Winston and Ryan Tannehill.
With the supply and demand for quarterbacks both unusually high, especially when you consider outliers such as Cam Newton, Derek Carr, Andy Dalton and maybe even Matthew Stafford — plus a strong 2020 QB draft class that includes Joe Burrow, Tua Tagovailoa and Justin Herbert — there are many ways for a team to avoid overpaying for a quarterback.
NFL MOCK DRAFT 2020:
Patriots, Raiders, Cowboys, Giants go defense; Bucs, Chargers get in on QB
ESPN suggested Bridgewater could earn up to $30 million a year. Although he is in line for getting a big raise from the $7.25 million in base salary he got in 2019, his new deal likely has a floor of what Jacoby Brissett got from the Colts ($15 million a year) with.a ceiling of what Nick Foles got from the Jaguars ($22 million a year).
Bridgewater did go 5-0 as the Saints’ starter when Brees missed time with a right thumb injury in 2019. But at 27, he can’t be paid on the potential of him living to up to his Vikings first-round draft status from 2014. Bridgewater’s new adjusted elevated backup value puts him justly in range of $20 million per season, still almost three times what he just made.
Given his new contract will land somewhere in the middle of the free-agent QBs, Bridgewater is an affordable bridge option. He was successful during his recent stint in New Orleans because he was careful with the ball, completed a high percentage of his passes and leaned well on the defense and the running game.
Based on his value and what he can bring to a team, here are the four best fits for Bridgewater.
1. Tennessee Titans
The Titans got a great second half from Tannehill but need to wary of overpaying him, because much of his winning success came off play-action to take advantage of strong running from Derrick Henry. Bridgewater gets knocked too much for deep throws, something Tannehill has experienced, too. Bridgewater is capable of being efficient with calculated deep shots while also knowing when to check down to backs, tight ends and slot receivers.
Tennessee was on the verge of winning the AFC championship with its zagging approach centered around Henry and physical defense. The team has medium salary cap space (at around $50 million) and is picking too late at No. 29 overall in the draft to force the issue with a top rookie QB. Bridgewater can help the Titans win plenty more games in similar fashion without breaking the bank.
2. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
When you look at adjusted yards per attempt Bridgewater (7.5) was better than Winston (7.1) last season. He also protected the ball with only two interceptions in five starts, while Winston was intercepted a league-high 30 times in his 16 games.
Coach Bruce Arians has hinted that if he had more efficient QB play, the Bucs, with a much improved overall defense under Todd Bowles, could be a lot better than 7-9. Tampa has weapons galore to support Bridgewater and should put in a strong offseason effort to upgrade the 24th-ranked running game. If the Bucs don’t want to use No. 14 overall to draft a QB, they can use a reasonable amount of their near $90 million in cap space to go forward with Bridgewater as the starter vs. paying Winston in line with his 2015 top of draft status.
3. Indianapolis Colts
The Colts revolve more around the running game and defense less than a year removed from Andrew Luck’s retirement. Brissett played well to start last season, but faded after a knee injury into more mediocre production. The Colts were limited by some issues in their receiving corps to the point Brissett became a challenged caretaker.
Bridgewater doesn’t offer the ability to run that Brissett does, but he’s capable of pushing the ball all over the field better. The Colts need to weigh whether Bridgewater is enough of an upgrade to invest a good chunk of their $85 million-plus under the cap to take the shot. Releasing Brissett would cost them another $12.5 million in dead cap money, while trading him would cost them only $5.5 million.
4. Carolina Panthers
The Panthers have more than $30 million under the cap available, but that will go up to more than $50 million should they decide to cut or trade Cam Newton as expected for a savings of $19.1 million. The Panthers may be going after Tagovailoa or Herbert in the draft, but regardless they should be considering a veteran bridge for Matt Rhule and Joe Brady. They can spend a little more on an experienced QB given they will be calculated with their free agent spending, focusing more on quality than quantity in rebuild mode.
Bridgewater can lean on Christian McCaffrey, D.J. Moore, Curtis Samuel and Ian Thomas for big plays while also getting the ball out of his hands quickly. Signing him also will allow the Panthers to focus on getting key pieces for their post-Luke Kuechly defense.
Don’t be surprised if Bridgewater jumps the Saints for a rival in the NFC South, but half of the AFC South also makes sense for his services.
Source: Read Full Article