In the 2015 NFL Draft the Tampa Bay Buccaneers selected Florida State quarterback Jameis Winston, the 2013 Heisman Trophy winner, with the first overall pick. With the second pick of the same draft, the Tennessee Titans opted to go with Marcus Mariota, the 2014 Heisman Trophy winner from Oregon.
Both franchises elected to pick up the fifth-year options on these players, but now both the Bucs and Titans seem content to let their “franchise” quarterbacks leave via free agency.
Each QB has started most of their careers, with Winston being benched for a spell in 2018 and Mariota being sent to the pine last year, but they both will be looking for an opportunity to start again in 2020.
Could that opportunity arise in the Windy City?
I have my doubts.
Jameis Winston is one of the hardest players to find a home for on this list. His big-play ability is proven, almost as much as his propensity for maddening turnovers. Unless his Lasik surgery from last month has truly altered the course of his career, how can any franchise possibly convince themselves this is their organization’s hope for the future? He feels like every team’s third or fourth choice.
Logical fit: Chicago Bears
It’s hard to sell Jameis as a clear upgrade for any of the teams searching for a quarterback this offseason. Perhaps if the quarterback market wasn’t set to be so flush in both the draft and free agency, he would be more of a desirable piece. Alas, he’s found himself in the wrong year. No matter where he goes, he’s going to have to compete for a job. The Bears cannot possibly sell their fanbase on Mitchell Trubisky as the lone option behind center. Winston won’t be their savior either but if Trubisky flops again, he’d at least bring a totally different vibe to the offense.
If vision problems is really all that has been holding him back during his career then the Lasik surgery could unlock a monster onto the NFL. Winston has averaged nearly 4,000 yards passing per year, and that’s factoring in his 2018 where he only started 9 games. He has a big arm and a fearlessness to keep slinging it after a mistake. But about those mistakes, his 88 interceptions and 50 fumbles has to give teams pause that he’s more reckless than fearless.
If Winston is a legit option for the Bears, my guess is he’s down on their list around Plan E or F, but only after they exhaust several other avenues to upgrade at QB.
I do think it would be a fun story to follow if the Lasik really opened his eyes to achieve his full potential, I just don’t see it happening in Chicago.
Pro Football Focus is tabbing Mariota as the best fit for the Bears, and while I think he could be higher on Ryan Pace’s priority list over Winston (partly because of cost), him sharing an agent with Mitchell Trubisky could preclude his representatives from wanting two clients fighting over the same job.
Here’s what PFF had to say about Mariota to Chicago.
The Bears are in a tough spot. Despite their effort to make Mitchell Trubisky “the guy,” he has been a below-average quarterback in all three of his seasons as a starter in the NFL. They need to find a replacement, but they have one of the worst cap situations in the league and no draft picks in Rounds 1, 3 or 4 of the upcoming NFL draft. Mariota is one free-agent option at quarterback who could be in their price range after being benched through six weeks of the 2019 season. Before this season, however, he was coming off two strong showings, ranking 12th among quarterbacks in grade in 2017 and 17th during the 2018 season. As with Ryan Tannehill, Mariota belongs to the middle tier of quarterbacks who can move up or down in a season based on their environment. The hope for Chicago would be to draw out a ceiling performance in Matt Nagy’s system.
In typical PFF fashion they get some stuff wrong right from the jump...
That cap situation is a fluid thing and with a few restructures and/or extensions the Bears can get the money they need to get done what they need to get done. Over The Cap has the Bears with about $16.6 million in cap space right now, while Spotrac has them at $24.6, plus the salary cap is expected to grow, like it does every year, so I’m not overly concerned with Pace having the funds to address quarterback.
Also, it has been highly expected that the Bears are going to be awarded a 4th-round compensatory pick in the 2020 NFL Draft, and they fail to mention the two second rounders they have to work with.
Mariota hasn’t been as turnover prone as Winston with his 2.5 interception percentage lower than Jameis’ 3.5%, but there have still been questions about his ability to scan through a defense, which is the same question that has surfaced with Trubisky.
Would the Bears really want another quarterback that has to work on quickly processing what a defense is showing him?
The QB carousel has been a popular topic all offseason and Dan Hanzus, Around the NFL Writer for NFL.com, has his own takes on where the quarterbacks will land.
On Andy Dalton;
Most likely scenario: Dalton does indeed go the Tannehill route, landing with a team that’s not feeling so hot about its incumbent. C’mon, Bears.
Dalton to the Bears is likely another one of those options that Pace will address if he can’t find a better QB. It is interesting to note that Bill Belichick and the Patriots is another team linked to Dalton if they do lose Tom Brady in free agency.
On Joe Flacco;
Most likely scenario: Flacco’s championship pedigree and positive medical reports lead to a backup gig with a path to the starting lineup. Think Chicago, Indy, Los Angeles.
Flacco in Chicago? Please no...
Hanzus also has some thoughts on what the Bears will do with incumbent starter, Mitchell Trubisky.
Young Mitch received extremely poor grades in his junior year. As a result, his scholarship at the University of Chicago (Bears campus) has been revoked. Not a single person in the universe believed Ryan Pace when the general manager said at the end of the season that the Bears were standing by their former first-round pick in 2020. Sure enough, combine week brought the expected whispers that Chicago will bring in an “established veteran” to push (and very possibly overtake) Trubisky for the starting job. The big question: Who will that be?
About that sentence I bolded in the block-quote above... Hanzus must not have read the stuff from a few Bears’ beat writers that bought the B.S. Pace was slinging, or scoured Bears’ Twitter to see the vocal minority that took Pace at his word.
Best-case scenario: The Bears acquire an underwhelming recycled QB and Trubisky calms the natives (for the time being) with a strong camp and preseason.
Pace and Nagy want more than competition for Mitch, they want a guy to come in and take hold of the offense and run with it and lead this team back to the playoffs. Now if Trubisky rises to the challenge, keeps his job and wins games, and becomes the player he was drafted to be, then that’s the best case scenario.
Worst-case scenario: Trubisky gets beaten out in August and becomes someone else’s cost-effective backup/redemption project in 2021. Full Mariota.
While I have my doubts Trubisky will thrive in 2020, I am pulling for him, and I think he could be a guy that just takes a few years to figure it out. This is something Bill Zimmerman and Benjamin Allbright discussed on Bill’s latest Bears Banter podcast.
Most likely scenario: Trubisky survives the summer and enters September as the Bears’ starter. But will he exit the month that way?
I think this depends on the QB they manage to acquire. If it’s a Case Keenum type, then the Bears could give Mitch the benefit of the doubt in camp, but if it’s a Derek Carr or a Cam Newton trade, then Trubisky moves to QB2.
But when it comes to a bold move, nothing says that more than dropping $20 million on a new QB, and that’s what CBS Sports’ John Breech laid out in his recent article.
Teddy Bridgewater signs with the Bears
The Bears haven’t come out and said they’re going to give up on Mitchell Trubisky just yet, but this definitely feels like the offseason where they’re going to bring in some competition for their starting quarterback. Although trading for someone like Andy Dalton might sound enticing to the Bears, that would involve giving up some compensation. Instead of losing a draft pick or two in a trade, that prediction here is that the Bears go out and sign Teddy Bridgewater.
If you look at spots where Bridgewater has thrived, it usually involves a team with a strong defense that also has talented running backs, and guess what, the Bears check off both those boxes.
In 2019, Bridgewater proved that he still has the talent to be a starting quarterback in the NFL. With Drew Brees on the sideline due to injury, Bridgewater started five games for the Saints and went 5-0 in those starts. During that stretch, Bridgewater completed 69.7 percent of his passes, averaged 7.3 yards per attempt, threw nine touchdowns (to just two interceptions), and posted a 103.7 passer rating. The Bears probably would have won the past three Super Bowls if they had gotten production like that from their quarterback.
If the Bears can get Bridgewater to sign for $20 million per year, they could afford to keep him and Trubisky. In an era where quarterbacks make more than $30 million per year, Trubisky and Bridgewater would only have a cap hit of $29.2 million combined in 2020, but only if the Bears could land Bridgewater at that $20 million mark.
I gotta tell you, I don’t see this one happening.
Do any of these quarterbacking scenarios do it for you?