For the first time since eight games were played in the quarterfinal round of the 1982 playoff tournament, which expanded to 16 teams after a strike shortened the season to nine games, the NFL has more than four games in a postseason weekend. The six games to be played over the next two days, involving 12 total teams, feature key players who could be playing their finals games for their current teams.
Six of the starting quarterbacks — half of them — could be wearing their current uniforms for the final time.
Here’s the list, along with the reasons why they could be moving on.
Philip Rivers, Colts: He signed a one-year, $25 million deal in March 2020. The Colts, at a minimum, would likely offer him something less than that to return for another (likely final) year. At most, they’d thank him and move on. If the Colts upset the Bills today, that could change. Win or lose, the possibility of a trade for Eagles quarterback Carson Wentz looms.
Alex Smith, Washington: It’s unclear whether he wants to keep playing, and it’s unclear whether Washington wants to keep him on the team. Smith is due to earn $18.75 million next season, and none of it is guaranteed. He has made $71 million in three seasons with Washington.
Tom Brady, Buccaneers: He signed a two-year contract, and above all else the Buccaneers want Brady back for 2021. It’s ultimately his call. Despite being halfway between 43 and 44, Brady continues to play at a very high level. It’s high unlikely that a loss tonight would send him into retirement. The question is whether losing as significant favorites over Washington would cause Brady to consider looking for another team in 2021. (Yes, he’s under contract for another year; if he wants out, but do you think they’ll tell him no if he wants out?)
Mitchell Trubisky, Bears: He becomes a free agent in March. If he plays well against the Saints and if the Bears lose, the Bears will have to make an offer that will result in Trubisky not hitting the market. The franchise tag remains unlikely; without it, Trubisky’s agents surely will know what’s behind Door No. 2 before accepting whatever the Bears bury behind Door No. 1.
Drew Brees, Saints: All signs point to 2020 being Drew’s last year. Coach Sean Payton on multiple times has indicated that there will be a new quarterback next year, perhaps reflecting the team’s true preferences (recent comments from G.M. Mickey Loomis notwithstanding). Brees has said in the past he’ll play for the Saints or no one. Next year, it’s likely he’ll be playing for no one.
Ben Roethlisberger, Steelers: A quarterback with a penchant for drama surely would at least hint that retirement is a possibility if the Browns somehow win in Pittsburgh for the first time since 2003. The Steelers may have a say in this, too; Roethlisberger has a cap number in excess of $41 million if he stays, but only $22.25 million if he goes. If the stays, a new contract that kicks the salary-cap can down the road becomes a must.