Last year, Josh Rosen became the first quarterback since 1987 to be drafted in the top 10 and then be shipped away before the start of his second season.
It looks like Rosen will be on the move yet again this spring, and his options are dwindling.
The former UCLA football quarterback was selected by the Arizona Cardinals with the No. 10 overall pick of the 2018 NFL Draft, but the Cardinals wound up with the No. 1 overall pick one year later. New top pick and former Oklahoma quarterback Kyler Murray became the hot new thing in Arizona, and Rosen was sent packing.
Rosen threw for 11 touchdowns, 2,278 yards and 14 interceptions in 13 starts for Arizona his rookie season, but those figures dropped to one touchdown, 567 yards and five picks in three starts with the Miami Dolphins in 2019. Quarterbacks Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold – who were both top-10 picks alongside Rosen in 2018 – have met their fair share of roadblocks through two seasons as well, but there’s no sugarcoating it: Rosen has been far from perfect.
With the Dolphins projected to use the No. 5 pick on Alabama quarterback Tua Tagovailoa in the 2020 NFL Draft, and 37-year-old Ryan Fitzpatrick expected to hold down the fort while Tagovailoa recovers from injury, Rosen could very well be on his third team in as many seasons.
The same signal-caller who broke records at UCLA is on the verge of becoming a bona fide journeyman. Whether it has to do with his raw skill or how he fit in with his prior teams, Rosen has struggled and needs to find a permanent landing spot sooner rather than later.
Rosen is under contract for another two seasons, so it’s not like he gets to pick where he ends up next. But there are destinations out there for Rosen, and he still has a chance to get back on his feet.
New England Patriots
The Rosen-Patriots rumors have been present since before he was even drafted, but the connection makes sense now more than ever.
There were rumors swirling in April 2018 that coach Bill Belichick and the Patriots would trade up into the front half of the first round to take Rosen. New England was fresh off a Super Bowl loss to the Philadelphia Eagles, and while quarterback Tom Brady had just won league MVP, he was already 41 years old.
The Patriots won the Super Bowl in 2019 but failed to make it to the AFC Divisional Round in 2020, and Brady is now flirting with retirement and leaving in free agency.
Whether or not Brady returns to Foxborough, Massachusetts, next season, Rosen could fit right in.
Add in the fact that the Patriots recently added Jedd Fisch – who was Rosen’s offensive coordinator in his record-breaking 2017 season at UCLA – to their coaching staff, and a Rosen-to-New England trade would be a win-win for all parties.
If Brady reunites with the Patriots, they will still need an understudy to take over for him when his career inevitably comes to a close. Rosen would benefit from a year or two learning from Brady, a future Hall of Famer with three MVPs and six Super Bowl rings.
Some of the best quarterbacks in NFL history, such as Aaron Rodgers, Patrick Mahomes and Steve Young, spent years on the bench behind other well-established signal-callers in Brett Favre, Alex Smith and Joe Montana, respectively. Brady is seen by many as one of the greatest quarterbacks of all time, so it wouldn’t hurt for Rosen to take a few pointers from him.
And if Brady does decide to leave the Patriots behind this offseason, Belichick will need a replacement as soon as possible.
If Belichick wants to avoid older options like Philip Rivers or Drew Brees, Rosen could be one of the most interesting candidates out there.
Los Angeles Chargers
Speaking of Philip Rivers, his 16-year tenure with the Los Angeles Chargers is reportedly over.
Rivers has racked up 224 consecutive starts, meaning the Chargers haven’t had another player start at quarterback since 2005. Former Buffalo Bills starter Tyrod Taylor is on the books for $5 million next season, but he is far from a long-term solution for a team still trying to build a permanent fanbase in Los Angeles.
Rosen was born and raised in Southern California, and considering he played college ball at UCLA, he could be the perfect fit for the Chargers to draw local interest and build toward the future.
The Chargers already have wide receiver Keenan Allen, wide receiver Mike Williams, tight end Hunter Henry and running back Austin Ekeler on the roster, giving Rosen a handful of dynamic weapons should he get traded home to Los Angeles.
He would still probably have to battle it out with Taylor in order to secure the starting gig, but Rosen’s return to Los Angeles would be a welcome one.
When Rosen took part in UCLA’s NFL pro day at Wasserman Football Center in March 2018, one visitor stood out among the rest.
John Elway – former Super Bowl champion and current Denver Broncos general manager and president of football operations – was in attendance that day along with several coaches on his staff. There may have been some turnover on the roster and on the sidelines in the two years since, but an Elway-Rosen partnership would be a long time coming.
The issue – from Rosen’s point of view – with the Broncos is that they may already have their guy. Quarterback Drew Lock led Denver to a 4-1 record down the stretch last year, picking up seven touchdowns and 1,020 yards in that span.
However, 53.3% of Lock’s passing yards came after the catch, and that’s out of his measly 204 yards per game. The Missouri product showed promise, and he is only 23 years old, but he was a second-round pick last year while Rosen got picked early in the first round the year before.
Having two young quarterbacks fight for a starting job is not unheard of – it resulted in a division title and several winning seasons for the Washington Redskins when they pitted Robert Griffin III and Kirk Cousins against each other five years ago.
So while the path to stardom may be messy if Rosen has to go through Denver, don’t be surprised if Elway finally makes a play for the guy he’s wanted for years.