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A recent history of high profile veteran QB off-season moves

Can we learn anything from recent history?

NFL: Denver Broncos Minicamp Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports

The Denver Broncos were 7-10 in 2021. Can recent history give us an idea of how many additional wins the presence of Russell Wilson at QB could mean for the 2022 Broncos?

Over the last ten NFL seasons I count 14 instances when a “top-tier” veteran QB moved to a new team in the off-season (using salary as a measure of top-tier). So this is a fairly rare occurrence. Let’s look at each situation and see what effect the move had on the team record year over year. Of course, the QB is not the only factor that contributes to W/L record, but it is arguably the biggest factor.

  • Peyton Manning to the Broncos in 2012
  • Alex Smith to the Chiefs in 2013
  • Carson Palmer to the Cardinals in 2013
  • Sam Bradford to the Vikings in 2016
  • Brock Osweiler to the Texans in 2016
  • Kirk Cousins to the Vikings in 2018
  • Ryan Tannehill to the Titans in 2019
  • Joe Flacco to the Broncos in 2019
  • Tom Brady to the Bucs in 2020
  • Philip Rivers to the Colts in 2020
  • Cam Newton to the Patriots in 2020
  • Matthew Stafford to the Rams in 2021
  • Jared Goff to the Lions in 2021
  • Carson Wentz to the Colts in 2021

We could also include Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Darnold in 2021, but it’s hard to call either top-tier by any measure, but I will admit that I tried hard to sell myself on TB5 after we acquired him.

Peyton Manning to the Broncos in 2012

Manning came to a 2011 Bronco team that backed its way into the playoffs at 8-8. He was THE main reason that the 2012 Broncos won 11 straight and finished the season 13-3. If not for some head coaching stupidity and some dubious officiating, the 2012 Broncos would have probably won the Super Bowl. This move netted the Broncos +5 wins.

Alex Smith to the Chiefs in 2013

The 2012 Chiefs were terrible finishing the regular season 2-14 with Romeo Crennel at head coach and a combination of Matt Cassel and Brady Quinn at QB. Alex Smith had been displaced by Colin Kaepernick in San Fran so KC was a fresh start for the former #1 overall pick. The 2013 Chiefs under Andy Reid with Alex Smith at QB would finish the regular season 11-5 and lose in that crazy wild-card game to Andrew Luck’s Colts (they twice blew a 21 point lead). This move netted +9 wins for the Chiefs in year one, but we can debate how much of that was Alex Smith and how much of that was Andy Reid.

Carson Palmer to the Cardinals in 2013

The 2012 Cardinals finished the season 5-11 under head coach Ken Whisenhunt with four different QBs starting at least one game for them while Carson Palmer was wasting his time leading the Raiders to a 4-12 record in {whenever they were that year}. In 2013 under new head coach Bruce Arians, Carson Palmer would lead the Cards to a 10-6 regular season record (but they would miss the playoffs because the Seahawks would go 13-3 and the 49ers would go 12-4). This move would net the Cards +5 wins, but again how much of it was Palmer and how much of it was Arians?

Sam Bradford to the Vikings in 2016

The 2015 Vikings finished 11-5 and in first place in the NFC North. They were led by Teddy B at QB and Mike Zimmer was only in his second year as their head coach. During training camp in 2016, Teddy B would break his leg horribly and the Vikings would be desperate to acquire an upgrade over Shaun Hill. They would do this by acquiring Sam Bradford from the Eagles for the relatively low price of one first round and one fourth round pick to acquire than former #1 overall pick.

Minnesota Vikings acquired QB Sam Bradford from the Philadelphia Eagles for a 2017 first-round draft pick and a 2018 conditional fourth-round draft pick.

The 2016 Vikings would only go 8-8 with Bradford starting fifteen games. So this move netted the Vikings -3 wins.

Brock Osweiler to the Texans in 2016

After leading the 2015 Super Bowl Champion Broncos to a 5-2 record during his starts, Brock got a nice free agent contract from the Texans that earned him 21 million for the 2016 season. The 2015 Texans had gone 9-7 with four different QBs starting at QB for them. While Osweiler looked like he would be an upgrade for them, they still managed to finish 2016 with a 9-7 record. They finished first in their division both seasons, but Brian Hoyer got exposed as the 2015 Chiefs embarrassed them 30-0 in the wildcard round. Oz was able to lead them to a playoff victory over the Raiders in the wildcard game in 2016, but they were summarily trounced by the Patriots in the divisional round. If you count the playoff win, this netted the Texans +1 win, but in the regular season it was net zero.

Kirk Cousins to the Vikings in 2018

The 2017 Vikings made it all the way the NFCC with Case Keenum as the starting QB. That team finished the season 13-3, but Keenum was exposed by the Eagles defense in the NFCC and the Vikings wanted an upgrade at QB. They signed Cousins to a contract that earned him 26 million for the 2018 season. The 2018 Vikings would not have the same level of defense that that had the year prior and despite an upgrade at QB, they would finish the season 8-7-1. So this move netted the Vikings -5 wins year over year.

Ryan Tannehill to the Titans in 2019

This is a stretch since Tannehill was not considered by anyone (AFAIK) to be a top-tier QB after his contract was up in Miami.

The 2018 Titans finished 9-7, but in third place in the AFC South and out of the playoffs. Former #2 overall pick Marcus Mariota was not living up to the promise that he had shown in his season and the team had doubts about him despite picking up his fifth year option. The Titans hedged their bet on Mariota by acquiring former #8 overall pick Ryan Tannehill for a pittance

Traded by Dolphins with 2019 6th round pick (188th overall, David Long) to Titans for 2019 7th round pick (233rd overall, Chandler Cox) and 2020 4th round pick (135th overall subsequently traded, Kevin Dotson)

The 2019 Titans would start the season 2-4 hitting “rock bottom” when they were shut out by the Broncos in a game where Mariota would lose his job as a starter (which he has never regained). Tannehill would lead the Titans to seven wins down the stretch allowing them to sneak into the playoffs at 9-7 where they would knock off the Patriots and the Ravens on the road only to lose in the AFCC to the eventual Super Bowl Champions.

Similar to Osweiler, this move was a net zero move in terms of regular season wins, but if you count the playoff victories this was +3 wins.

Joe Flacco to the Broncos in 2019

Most Bronco fans remember this one well enough that I am not going into much detail here. The 2018 Broncos were 6-10 and the 2019 Broncos were 7-9, but it’s hard to credit Flacco with +1 win because the team was 2-6 in his eight starts. Make with this one what you wish. The Broncos did not give up much to get Flacco (a 2019 4th round pick), so it’s debatable whether this should even be included in our discussion.

Tom Brady to the Bucs in 2020

The 2019 Bucs with Jameis Winston at QB finished the regular season at 7-9 and like almost all teams who finish the season 7-9, they missed the playoffs. Similar to Mariotta on the Titans, the Bucs had picked up the fifth year option for Winston prior to the 2019 season and Jamies had disappointed - again. Winston was allowed to move on as a free agent and Tom Brady was lured to Florida after his career in Poxboro ended with a whimper in the playoffs at the hands of the Titans. Brady and the Bucs were both ready for a new start. Brady led the Bucs to an 11-5 and record (helped greatly by a stout defense) and they would go on to spank the Chiefs in the Super Bowl.

While the only netted +4 wins in the regular season, the +4 wins in the post-season are what people are going to remember. Brady became only the second QB to lead two teams to a Super Bowl victory (tying Peyton Manning).

Philip Rivers to the Colts in 2020

The 2019 Colts went 7-9 in the regular season. The 2020 went 11-5 and lost in the wildcard round to Buffalo. This move netted +4 wins.

Cam Newton to the Patriots in 2020

The 2019 Patriots finished 12-4 and lost in the wildcard round to the Titans. The 2020 Patriots finished 7-9 and missed the playoffs for the first time in a long time. This move netted the Pats -5 wins.

Matthew Stafford to the Rams in 2021: +2 RS wins (not counting the +3 in the playoffs)

Jared Goff to the Lions in 2021: -2 wins

Carson Wentz to the Colts in 2021: -2 wins

It would appear that recently the majority of these moves has resulted in a gain of wins for the team that “upgraded” at QB, but there are a few instances when these moves have backfired at the reg. season record got worse in the year following the acquisition of the veteran starting QB.


How many regular season wins do you think Russell Wilson will add to the Broncos who finished 2021 at 7-10?

This poll is closed

  • 1%
    zero wins
    (7 votes)
  • 1%
    one win
    (7 votes)
  • 3%
    two wins
    (20 votes)
  • 19%
    three wins
    (127 votes)
  • 35%
    four wins
    (227 votes)
  • 27%
    five wins
    (178 votes)
  • 6%
    six wins
    (42 votes)
  • 5%
    seven or more wins
    (35 votes)
643 votes total Vote Now