To argue that the National Football League has been having a bizarre offseason would be to understate the obvious, and not simply because of the continued threat of the new coronavirus pandemic. For the first time in a long, long while, quarterbacks aren’t in demand. Erstwhile Patriot Tom Brady was a target of suitors, certainly, and for more reasons than 20 years’ worth of achievements show. For others who have had significant burn under center, however, the free-agent market doesn’t seem to be inviting at all. Even as unease and accompanying movement have historically been tied to the most important position relative to success, 2020 appears to be setting itself up as an outlier.
Fit is crucial, to be sure. Even Brady found his options curtailed in this regard; he was keen on touching base with the Niners and Titans after he bid the Patriots farewell, but their interest, iffy at best to begin with, was further stunted by their comfort level with resident stars Jimmy Garoppolo and Ryan Tannehill. That said, others still on the lookout for landing spots didn’t figure their employment opportunities to be slim to none. Which isn’t to say they’re not wanted. They may, but on conditions they would be hard-pressed to accept: as backup, or with few guarantees, or both.
In the case of former league Most Valuable Player Cam Newton, the questions start with his capacity to keep taking a beating on the field. Parenthetically, even the Panthers had worries, going so far as to look for trade partners during the season, and then just releasing him after finding no takers. And while his former employers did give him a clean bill of health, the inability to check him out firsthand given community quarantine protocols coupled with the dearth of starting positions and his likely asking price scared potential suitors away.
Super Bowl XLVII MVP Joe Flacco has it worse, released by the Broncos with a “failed physical” designation and thereby forced to accept the plan to keep playing at age 35 as more of a pipe dream. And then there is Jameis Winston, fresh off a campaign in which he passed for a whopping 5,109 yards and 33 touchdowns. With Brady waiting in the wings, the Buccaneers had ample cause to lead him and his predilection for interceptions to the exit. Seeing no one so much as pass by his doorstep is, however, another matter altogether.
For the unexpected castoffs, there is no recourse but to keep plodding on and hope for the best. They have talent and experience. All they lack is opportunity, and they know they would do well to believe it will come, and be prepared when it does.
Anthony L. Cuaycong has been writing Courtside since BusinessWorld introduced a Sports section in 1994.