The NFL landscape shifts every year, with franchises altering their coaching or roster composition in such a way as to significantly change their perception and outlook. Such change turned the Oakland Raiders -- who invested heavily on both sides of the ball last offseason -- from the owners of a 13-year playoff drought into a 12-4 squad.
A reversal of fortune comes fastest when it involves a switch at the quarterback position, and multiple veterans could find new homes this offseason. While the Green Bay Packers need not worry about their triggerman, one of their divisional opponents appears likely to bring in new blood in the coming months.
The Chicago Bears have made little secret of their quest for new starting QB. ESPN's Jeff Darlington reported Tuesday that the team has begun actively pursuing a trade partner for embattled starter Jay Cutler. Whether or not they secure a deal for Cutler, it follows that the Bears will consider acquiring a replacement through free agency and trading in addition to the upcoming NFL draft.
So which veteran signal-callers could realistically land in the NFC North as a result?
While not a veteran in the traditional sense, Garoppolo has spent the last three years working in New England's system and performed more than admirably in 2016 as a multi-game replacement for the suspended Tom Brady. Given his age (25) and potential, the Patriots expect him to garner considerable interest leading up to the draft.
For the Bears, Garoppolo offers the promise of consistency and competency at the game's most important position for a decade or more. He also hails from the Chicagoland area, something that can't hurt his standing with the team's fans.
At the same time, he also comes with a hefty price tag. Reports indicate that the Patriots' demands start at a first-round pick. The Bears' top selection -- the No. 3 overall pick -- seems a lot for a player with less than 100 career pass attempts and only one year left on his rookie contract. If Chicago can convince New England to accept their early second-rounder instead, perhaps a deal becomes more palatable.
While the Buffalo Bills just signed Tyrod Taylor to a long-term extension last year, a looming $27.5 million option bonus due in March could prompt the team to cut ties. Taylor doesn't have the high ceiling of other veteran passers available this offseason, but he has proven himself as a stable, turnover-resistant option for those seeking mere credibility at the position.
The Bears wouldn't trade for Taylor, at least not without reworking his deal. However, should the Bills release him over the next month, the Bears could secure one of the premier running quarterbacks in the league. Given that the Packers have struggled to defend such signal-callers, acquiring Taylor could have a considerable effect on the NFC North race.
No quarterback available this offseason has dealt with more significant injuries over the last two seasons than Tony Romo. Multiple broken collarbones cost him most of the 2015 season, and a back injury opened the door for Dak Prescott's unprecedented rise last year. Despite a decorated career with the Dallas Cowboys, Romo expects to make his exist sometime before the draft.
Still, availability concerns hound Romo, his play when healthy does not. Even at 36, Romo remains able to perform at a high level. During his last full season, he finished second among quarterbacks in the MVP race. His experience and quick mind should also allow him to adjust to a new offense and supporting cast in short order. If the Bears wish to secure a high-end band-aid under center, Romo makes a compelling case.
Adding Romo could also give Chicago time to groom a long-term replacement. Given that the 2017 draft class reputedly lacks anything approaching a can't-miss quarterback, the opportunity to select a prospect and resist forcing him onto the field immediately might prove too enticing to resist.