First, let’s run down all the known changes at starting quarterback during the 2021 offseason so far. It’s probably fewer than you expect, but we might not even be halfway through the official number of changes at the position for all 32 teams this year.
- The Colts are going from Philip Rivers to Carson Wentz, trading a conditional first round pick.
- The Bears are going from Mitchell Trubisky to Andy Dalton, but can’t rule out another move.
- The Washington Football Team is going from Alex Smith/Dwayne Haskins to a competition between Ryan Fitzpatrick and Taylor Heinicke.
- The Eagles are going from Wentz to Jalen Hurts, though they could also make another change in the draft.
- The Saints are going from Drew Brees to a competition between Jameis Winston and Taysom Hill.
- The Lions are going from Matthew Stafford to Jared Goff.
- The Rams are going from Jared Goff to Matthew Stafford, giving up two firsts and a third.
So of every known change at quarterback this offseason, there’s the Rams upgrading Goff to Stafford, then a huge gap, then the Colts took a risky swing on Wentz, then another huge gap and some other stuff happened too.
Given that the biggest move of 2020 was the Tampa Bay Buccaneers upgrading their quarterback position from Winston to Tom Brady, I can’t reason how anyone would not be flipping out that the move this year that most clearly represents something similar is LA’s acquisition of Stafford to replace Goff. As I wrote last month, the two quarterbacks are separated by leagues within this league, and so far we don’t have any certainty that any other team in the NFL has even upgraded their QB position yet.
Yet some people within the league clearly don’t agree. If they did, then the Rams’ offer for Stafford could have easily been topped by some of these organizations that seem to be asking for filet mignon, receiving scraps, and telling their fanbase that “at least its hamburger.”
The Athletic’s Mike Sando reached out to some people within the NFL for their thoughts on the offseason for all 32 teams and one “evaluator” was not impressed by the move for Stafford:
“I think really the Rams overpaid for Stafford,” an evaluator said. “He’s an upgrade over Goff, but they gave up a ton. They are clearly in win-now mode. Are they better this year? Yeah, but the amount of capital they gave up to get Stafford was outrageous. I don’t think Goff is that much worse than Stafford. He is not as good, but not terrible. Maybe I’m mis-evaluating Goff.”
Honestly, “evaluator” sounds like Sando reached out to a Twitter user because these comments do seem to echo those I read online and not necessarily one that would escape from a war room. But at least evaluator acknowledges that it could be a mis-read on just how bad Goff was and that’s really the heart of the argument that I’ve made for Stafford being the biggest upgrade at any position this year.
Stafford was a fringe top-10 quarterback for the Lions, but Goff was a bottom-10 quarterback for the Rams. I do think that is a massive gap and that Stafford should move up the rankings, while Goff could move down given his new surroundings. To trade what could amount to two late first round picks and a third round compensatory selection for that upgrade seems like a bargain to me. Especially given the obsession that the NFL has with finding top-10 quarterbacks.
At least one “exec” in Sando’s article agrees with me.
“You look at what the Niners just gave up to get the third overall pick and the Rams’ trade for Stafford seems fairly reasonable,” an exec said.
“I’d rather have Stafford,” the same exec said. “I’m not surprised Detroit got what they did for him. I’m surprised the best competing offer we heard about was the dumpy one from Carolina with just the eighth pick and Teddy Bridgewater. All we hear about is how this is a quarterback-driven league, you’ve gotta have one, you’ve gotta make sure you get one. Yet, a good one becomes available and the second-best offer is the eighth pick and a bad quarterback? Come on.”
And that leads me into those teams that will make a change at quarterback that haven’t yet, some of whom look to be at least a year away from that transition since they decided to stay out of the Stafford bidding war against LA.
- The Jaguars will go from Gardner Minshew to Trevor Lawrence, and that may be the one clear upgrade to compete with Stafford, albeit on a much worse overall team.
- The Jets might draft a quarterback, like Zach Wilson, to push Sam Darnold either down the depth chart or to another organization that will sell him as a better “cut of meat” than Andy Dalton despite no real evidence to that effect.
- The 49ers will change from Jimmy Garoppolo to another quarterback, but are they now looking at Trey Lance or Mac Jones or Justin Fields as being that guy in 2021?
- The Patriots re-signed Cam Newton but continue to scour for other options.
- The Texans are not likely to ever start Deshaun Watson at quarterback again.
- The Broncos are shopping Drew Lock while also claiming that they’re okay with Drew Lock as their starter. They’re not okay with that.
- The Panthers continue to lose bidding wars and opted to not out-do San Francisco’s move with Miami for the third-best QB in this draft.
So we have six teams besides the Rams who have a known change at QB, seven more who will likely have a change or have attempted to make a change, but then also several more franchises see change in the near future: the Steelers and Bucs have quarterbacks who could be within a year of retirement, while the Falcons must question the same for Matt Ryan. The Raiders, Giants, Dolphins, and Vikings have faith in quarterbacks that not all fans would have faith in. The Bengals and Cardinals have recent number one picks, but not proven commodities.
That’s 22 of 32 teams. There’s a reason I cite Stafford as being right there with the top 10 quarterbacks and the Rams as one of the 10 teams most comfortable at quarterback.
And they wouldn’t be near there with Jared Goff. Or Andy Dalton. Or Carson Wentz. Or Mac Jones.
If the Rams are right about this move, then they did fleece the rest of the league.