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A wild NFL offseason of quarterback musical chairs has begun. A look at who’s in the hunt for one, who might make a move and the few teams that are all set.
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A wild NFL offseason of quarterback musical chairs has begun. A look at who’s in the hunt for one, who might make a move and the few teams that are all set.

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Houston Texans quarterback Deshaun Watson.

The NFL calendar is designed for the league to dominate headlines all 12 months.

While the COVID-19 pandemic has erased one of the biggest landmarks of the offseason — the scouting combine in Indianapolis — it will be replaced by the greatest game of quarterback musical chairs the NFL ever has seen.

A subjective overview shows 11 teams are set at quarterback in 2021 after the Los Angeles Rams struck first Saturday night, agreeing to terms on a trade with the Detroit Lions to acquire Matthew Stafford. At least seven teams, including the Chicago Bears, are in the hunt for a starting quarterback, and as many as 14 teams could be considering an upgrade, a draft pick or a change.

Super Bowl LV on Sunday in Tampa, Fla., pits the greatest quarterback of all time, the Tampa Bay Buccaneers’ Tom Brady, against the league’s top young passer, the Kansas City Chiefs’ Patrick Mahomes. After the confetti falls at Raymond James Stadium, there will be storylines galore as teams jockey for quarterbacks.

The Lions moved quickly to maximize value for Stafford. They will get first-round picks from the Rams in 2022 and 2023, a third-round pick and quarterback Jared Goff — and the $43 million in guarantees remaining in his contract. The trade cannot be official until the first day of the new league year March 17.

That’s not even the biggest quarterback news: Deshaun Watson has asked for a trade out of Houston, and the haul the Texans could get for him would dwarf what the Lions are getting for Stafford.

If the Texans reach the point of no return with Watson, they will receive outrageous offers for him, and two theories exist on which direction the bidding will go. The Texans publicly stated Friday that they have “zero interest” in trading Watson. If their reconciliation bid fails, some believe they would seek two first-round picks and at least one franchise-caliber player. Others believe bidding would begin with three first-round picks and go from there. NFL rules prohibit teams from trading picks more than three years out.

Other quarterbacks could be on the trading block. The Philadelphia Eagles are rumored to be looking to move Carson Wentz. There are salary-cap complications, but the same issues didn’t stop the Rams from offloading Goff. Teams can always find a way to move the numbers around and fit under the cap. It will be a giant smoke show as teams consider moves and vie for players at the game’s most important position.

With all of the uncertainty, we placed each of the 32 teams in one of three categories:

— In the hunt for a quarterback

— Potentially in the hunt for a QB or possibly moving on from their starter

— Set at QB, so just enjoying the show

What’s wild, and frankly unprecedented, is you can put 21 teams — nearly two-thirds of the league — in one of the first two categories. Also included is a list of quarterbacks who will be free agents.

In the hunt for a quarterback (Ordered by where they pick in the first round)

Potentially in the hunt for a QB or possibly moving on from their starter (Ordered by where they pick in the first round)

Set at QB, so just enjoying the show

Unrestricted free agents in order of most 2020 regular-season starts:

Jets Patriots Football

New England Patriots quarterback Cam Newton celebrates his touchdown pass.

Cam Newton (15)

Andy Dalton (9)

Mitch Trubisky (9)

Ryan Fitzpatrick (7)

Brandon Allen (5)

Mike Glennon (5)

Dak Prescott (5)

Joe Flacco (4)

C.J. Beathard (2)

Colt McCoy (2)

Robert Griffin III (1)

Brian Hoyer (1)

Tyrod Taylor (1)

Matt Barkley

Blake Bortles

Jacoby Brissett

Josh Dobbs

Blaine Gabbert

Ryan Griffin

Brett Hundley

Sean Mannion

A.J. McCarron

Nathan Peterman

Geno Smith

Nate Sudfeld

Jameis Winston

———

Restricted free agents in order of most 2020 regular-season starts:

Nick Mullens (8)

Tim Boyle

Taylor Heinicke

Jake Rudock

———

Exclusive rights free agents:

Kyle Allen

Josh Rosen

———

As is usually the case, quarterbacks in free agency are, at best, bridge options. The only thing that could change that is if the Cowboys don’t retain Dak Prescott, but there are questions about when he will be medically cleared to return.

It’s remarkable how many teams are in the market for a starting quarterback or potentially looking, and with the Deshaun Watson situation on full boil in Houston and Matthew Stafford already moved, there will be fireworks before late February, when the combine normally would be held. Add some intriguing draft prospects — some consider Trevor Lawrence the most polished college quarterback since the Colts selected Andrew Luck No. 1 in 2012 — and it gets even more interesting. It’s possible three quarterbacks will come off the board in the top four or five picks.

Buckle up because the list of teams sitting back and watching is limited. Several teams will be making franchise-altering moves.

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