The AFC South is primed for some upheaval across the division. The Texans reign over the division has been quiet, but steady. Thanks in large part by the ineptitude of the Titans and Jaguars to find a franchise quarterback, and Andrew Luck’s injuries and early retirement. Winning the division hasn’t taken more than a nine or ten win season and four wins against division opponents.
That may all change this offseason as the market is flooded with premier talent. Tom Brady, Philip Rivers, Teddy Bridgewater, Jameis Winston, Taysom Hill, among others could all become free agents in the coming weeks. Drew Brees has announced he will stay with New Orleans, but has not signed any contract extensions. To this end, we’ll not consider him a potential free agent quarterback.
The Old Guard has aged into its upper thirties and has already seen the likes of Eli Manning call it quits, but many are looking for a new home for the first time in their careers. They are accompanied by many familiar faces to free agency such as Kase Keenum, Colt McCoy, Chase Daniel, and Josh McCown. The combination of Hall of Fame veterans and merry-go-round traveling QBs make for one of the most highly anticipated offseason in recent memory.
In the AFC South, demand is high to find a suitable short-term solution at QB. The Colts ended the season more than displeased with Jacoby Brissett. The Jags entered an $80M contract with Nick Foles only for him to break his collarbone in his debut. Then the Titans made the AFC Championship game, but only relied on Ryan Tannehill to throw the ball 10-20 times per game.
For the Titans, both Ryan Tannehill and Marcus Mariota are free agents. Tannehill led the Titans to the AFC Championship game from the wildcard spot. This impressive feat has the organization looking at every possible opportunity to take a title shot in the upcoming season. They know they have a young core of talented WRs led by A.J. Brown, but the Titans also know they cannot continue to feed RB Derek Henry 300 carries per season. They even sat him Week 16 against the Saints because they needed him healthy against the Texans. After being one game away from the Super Bowl, their fanbase believes they are only solid QB play away from being a Super Bowl contender in 2020. With the taste of the franchise’s first Super Bowl on their lips, it would be surprising if they didn’t attempt to upgrade their QB position to guide them to a championship. Tom Brady won’t have any intention of going to Tennessee, but maybe the likes of Teddy Bridgewater would.
Who knows that they are thinking in Tennessee. They’re probably still staring astonished at their hands like they just shot lightning bolts from their fingertips after their post-season run. With a talented QB under the helm, they would be the division favorites entering the season without a doubt.
Imagine Teddy Bridgewater in a backfield with Derek Henry. The 7-10 plays Bridgewater would spell per game either through the air or ground make all the difference for Henry’s health. They may be too wary to sign another mobile quarterback after the failed Marcus Mariota experiment, but that decision was two Titans head coaches ago. The future has never looked brighter for Tennessee so do not expect them to sit quietly while everyone around them improves.
In Jacksonville, the expensive Nick Foles experiment combusted like a gas fire in a kitchen. Minshew Mania won’t be enough to solve the Jags woes at QB; they’ll need a legitimate veteran while Gardner Minshew hones his craft and his mustache.
I can easily see the Jags front office taking a shot on Taysom Hill. If they release Foles, they’ll inherit a serious amount of dead cap space. Upwards of $33M according to Spotrac. With that much money being thrown away, a low-risk, high reward opportunity such as Hill may be their best option. If they don’t opt to draft a rookie QB, Hill could find a nice suitor in Jacksonville and vice versa.
Option 1b for Jacksonville is they scrap both Foles and Minshew, draft a QB high in the first round (probably Jordan Love or Justin Herbert), then go add a veteran QB like Case Keenum or Jameis Winston. Winston and his new eyes in Jacksonville sounds like a match made in hell. Beauty and the yeesh.
Rivers did just move his family from San Diego to Florida, which means that Jacksonville could be a potential landing spot. If the Jags are wiling to let one or two players leave in free agency, which would certainly include Yannick Ngakoue, they could bring in Rivers to right the ship. Rivers in Jacksonville has a lower likelihood to happen than Indianapolis, but its an intriguing storyline to keep track of.
The current consensus is that if Tom Brady doesn’t return to New England, he will land in Los Angeles. Whether this true or not, it would certainly shift the balance of power in the AFC. Though it may be unlikely, I would not be surprised if Brady returned to his California roots.
The rumor mill is abuzz with the potential for Philip Rivers to land in Indianapolis. He already has said he is not going back to Los Angeles. Picture Rivers dropping bombs to T.Y. Hilton. Rivers is basically a statue at QB. If you watched the Texans play the LA Chargers, you noticed that Rivers cannot move out of the pocket to save his life. Fortunately for Indianapolis fans, their team has one of the best offensive lines in the league and can pass block with just about anyone. This would be tough for him to pass up considering his longevity in the league and continued talent when not pressured.
Rivers to Indianapolis is a lot better than Tom Brady. If Brady lands in the AFC South, all bets are off. Brady wants a team ready to “win now”. Tennessee believes they are ready to win, and Brady saw this first hand in the AFC Wild Card game. Uniting Tom with Mike Vrabel could be a decent combination, but I doubt Brady wants to take his talents to Tennessee. Indianapolis could be a strong landing spot. They have the offensive line, the weapons, and the complimentary defense to usher him back into the Super Bowl. But would Brady want to be in Manning’s town? It would be just like when Farve played for the Vikings. There is something pure about Brady starting and ending his career in New England, but if he doesn’t I would not be shocked if he finds his way to the AFC South.
Isn’t it nice to not have to worry about this nonsense anymore? Just you, me, and our franchise QB for the rest of eternity.
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