From 2015-2019, the NFC South had four clear-cut starting quarterbacks, despite injuries sometimes ensuring the four didn’t always get to play at the same time. Compare that to a division over that same span like the AFC East, which was an absolute roller coaster outside of the Patriots, or the NFC West, which shuffled QBs outside of Seattle, to get an idea of how rare that is.
That all changed this offseason, though. Jameis Winston was unceremoniously dumped by the Buccaneers and is now a backup in New Orleans, where Drew Brees has said he’s playing his final NFL season. Matt Ryan’s still in Atlanta and still expected to be here for years to come, but he’s the only one, especially after the Panthers surprised a lot of people and dumped Cam Newton, as well.
Now Newton has a new home, having landed with a Patriots team that always manages to find a way to land quality players for reasonable prices. Newton’s injury troubles the last two season scared a lot of teams away, as well as nebulous questions about his attitude that seem to spring more from his outfits than locker room fit, and ultimately New England was the only team to make him an offer. He’ll start there and have a chance to land back in the open market in 2021 with an opportunity to make a ton of money. It’s a great landing spot for player and team.
The NFC South, meanwhile, will keep shifting without him. The Buccaneers have always had more churn as a chronically bad team, but from the moment Cam Newton arrived with the Panthers in 2011, Carolina, Atlanta, and New Orleans effectively each had one starting quarterback for almost a decade, a rare enough stretch in this league at this moment. Over that stretch, Brees cemented his Hall of Fame case while both Newton and Ryan each won an MVP and managed to make it to the Super Bowl, and those three QBs were a major part of the reason the NFC South has long been considered one of the toughest divisions in football.
Now it’s Teddy Bridgewater in Carolina, looking to make a case for a long-term job somewhere. It’s Brees in New Orleans, finishing out his career while Taysom Hill and Jameis Winston vie to replace him in 2021. It’s Tom Brady in Tampa Bay, playing out the string for a year or two in warmer weather with a star-studded supporting cast. And it’s Ryan, luckily, the one guy who might play for his current team for another 3-5 years (or more, if all goes extremely well) for a Falcons team that will have a prime opportunity to return to relevance with so many unsettled quarterback situations in the division.
We’ll wish Newton well because he’s not here anymore, and we’ll hope the next 5 years are dominated by Ryan and the Falcons.