If the 2020 NFL postseason has proven anything, it’s that you don’t need a top 10 pick in the draft to find a quarterback.
Drew Brees has been the Saints’ quarterback for so long, it’s actually difficult to remember all of the details about how New Orleans first acquired him.
Brees was selected in the second round of the 2001 NFL Draft by the then-San Diego Chargers and went 30-28 as a starter from 2002 to 2005. The Chargers drafted Philip Rivers in 2004 but sat him as a rookie. San Diego franchised Brees for the 2005 season and ultimately let him walk in free agency the following offseason.
Complicating matters, Brees suffered a torn labrum in the final game of the Chargers’ 2005 season. He signed with the Saints that offseason despite interest from the Miami Dolphins.
There isn’t a perfect comp for Brees this offseason, but there are three that come relatively close.
The first is Cowboys free-agent-to-be Dak Prescott. Prescott was selected in the fourth round of the 2015 NFL Draft and is 42-27 in his career as Dallas’ starting quarterback. Prescott was franchised in 2020 but wound up suffering a broken and dislocated ankle five games into his 2020 season.
The Cowboys couldn’t reach a long-term extension with Prescott last offseason. They can try again before March, or they have the option of franchising him for the second straight season. Dallas also could franchise Prescott and then trade him.
If Prescott hits the open market, either through free agency or trade, the Patriots should absolutely pounce and offer him top starting quarterback money. The 27-year-old is more of a proven starter than Brees was in 2006, when Brees also commanded top QB money on the open market.
Las Vegas Raiders quarterback Marcus Mariota is in a slightly similar situation to Brees as a quarterback previously pushed out of a starting job by his former team. Mariota is due a $10 million salary in 2021. The Raiders could look to trade Mariota to a QB-needy team looking for a lower-cost option.
One last quarterback who could fit the Brees mold to a lesser degree is Jaguars occasional starter Gardner Minshew. Jacksonville almost certainly will take Clemson’s Trevor Lawrence first overall in the 2021 NFL Draft. Minshew has completed 62.9 percent of his passes for 5,530 yards with 37 touchdowns and 11 interceptions with a 93.1 passer rating in 23 games — 20 as Jacksonville’s starter — since being selected in the sixth round of the 2019 NFL Draft out of Washington State.
The Patriots couldn’t commit to Mariota or Minshew as their starters and would need to bring in other competition. Prescott would be a no-doubt starter.
New England also could look to draft a quarterback, trade for a veteran starter if a player like Matthew Stafford or Jimmy Garoppolo become available or sign a lower-tier free agent like Ryan Fitzpatrick or Jacoby Brissett. Of course, the Patriots also still could re-sign Cam Newton.