Predicting 2023 QBs for 17 NFL teams that could swap starters: Where Lamar Jackson, Jimmy G and others might play

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The 2022 offseason was a great one for big-name quarterback movement. Russell Wilson to Denver. Deshaun Watson to Cleveland. Carson Wentz to Washington. Matt Ryan to Indy. Tom Brady to retirement and back. Aaron Rodgers to … well, nowhere, as it turns out, but that was its own fun drama for a while.

It has left us wanting more.

So while we’re excited to get this NFL season started, we can’t help looking beyond it just a little and wondering what the 2023 offseason might offer in terms of quarterback movement. Who will be the disappointments shipped out before their contracts start looking bad? Who will be the big-name vets who want to play elsewhere? Who will be in line for the big extensions and become restless if they don’t get them?

We did this last year — looking at teams with unsettled QB situations and what might happen — and we hit on a few of them. So we’re doing it again. This is a list of teams whose quarterback situations beyond 2022 (if not sooner) are murky for one reason or another along with some predictions on what might happen.

Enjoy. There are more than you’d think.

Jump to a team:
Falcons | Ravens | Panthers | Lions
Packers | Texans | Colts | Dolphins

Vikings | Saints | Giants | Eagles | Steelers
Seahawks | Bucs | Titans | Commanders

Current starter: Marcus Mariota, probably
Signed through: 2023

The Falcons are among the teams that missed out on Deshaun Watson, so they pivoted to Mariota and drafted Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder in the third round. Kind of the same vet/rookie hedge the Pittsburgh Steelers (who we’ll cover below) are pulling. There’s no guaranteed money in Mariota’s deal beyond 2022, so all options will be open in Atlanta — where there’s a chance the Falcons could have a high draft pick.

Most likely outcome: C.J. Stroud (Ohio State) or Bryce Young (Alabama). Yeah, they like Ridder. But if the Falcons are picking first or second in the draft, could they really pass on one of these guys just to give last year’s third-round pick a chance?

Long shot: Ridder takes the job from Mariota during the 2022 season, the Falcons do better than we expect and they keep him as the starter next year, a la Jalen Hurts in Philly.

Current starter: Lamar Jackson
Signed through: 2022

Jackson is a former league MVP and unquestioned center of the Ravens’ universe. There is no good reason the Ravens should be on this list. However, you’ll note above that he is signed only through 2022. This is the second straight offseason in which Baltimore hoped to have Jackson signed to a contract extension but has (so far) been unable to get it done. Who knows? By the time you read this, he could have that extension and this could be irrelevant. But at the time of this writing, he does not, so we have to include the Ravens.

Most likely outcome: Jackson, by far. Seriously, the most likely outcome is an extension for Jackson before the start of the 2022 season. But if one doesn’t get done, the Ravens can (and surely will) franchise him for 2023 while they continue to work on an extension. It’s very difficult to imagine a scenario in which Jackson is not the Ravens’ starting quarterback in 2023, unless this season is a complete disaster in every way for him and the team.

Long shot: C.J. Stroud. If the Ravens are moving on from Jackson next offseason, odds are they’ve had a horrendous 2022 season and have a high draft pick.

Current starter: Baker Mayfield or Sam Darnold
Signed through: 2022 (Yes, both of them.)

It sounds as if Mayfield is leading the competition with Darnold even though he just got there. But whoever wins this competition has a lot to show if he wants to convince the Panthers to keep him beyond the season. Both guys are on their fifth-year options and eligible for free agency after this season. Carolina tried to get Matthew Stafford last year and tried to get Deshaun Watson this year … they’re on the lookout for the guy, and they’ll keep swinging big until they find him.

Most likely outcome: I guess Mayfield getting a second year, but I don’t know that there’s any way to know what’s “likely” to happen here. There could be a new coach, a new GM — lots of unknowns in Carolina.

Long shot: A trade for a star we don’t yet know will be available. Lamar Jackson, if he doesn’t get a deal done with Baltimore? Kyler Murray, if things go badly in Arizona? Totally spitballing here. Carolina’s QB future beyond 2022 is a complete mystery. To them, too!

Current starter: Jared Goff
Signed through: 2024

A lot of people were surprised the Lions didn’t look for a quarterback this offseason. But the way the team viewed it, the draft didn’t offer a ton of enticing options and dealing away picks for a veteran option wasn’t the smartest idea for a team at this stage of its rebuild. Lions GM Brad Holmes was part of the Rams’ front office when they drafted Goff first overall in 2016, so he has history with him and, at least at one time, was a big fan. The Lions decided to give Goff, who’s 27, another year to show whether he could be more than a short-term stopgap. But this is the final year of his contract with any guaranteed money in it, so the Lions are in position to move on in 2023 if they want.

Most likely outcome: Will Levis (Kentucky). The Lions look like they’re pretty strong on both lines, and it’s reasonable to think they’ll show enough improvement that they won’t be back up near the very top of the draft. Levis is pretty well regarded by a lot of quarterback evaluators for his ability to perform without being surrounded by top talent. I don’t know. That sounds like a Dan Campbell kind of thing to me.

Long shot: Goff has a mid-career renaissance and convinces the Lions he’s the guy with whom they want to move forward.

Current starter: Aaron Rodgers
Signed through: 2026

It’s funny, because in some ways, Rodgers was the inspiration for this piece last year — the symbol of what we expected to be a massive 2022 offseason of QB movement — and he stayed put! And he signed a new contract that, as you see above, runs through 2026. So what are the Packers even doing on this list? Well, it’s Rodgers. He’s an unpredictable sort. Who knows what sort of hallucinogenic tea or fancy enema might result in a change of mind from Rodgers about the rest of his career? What if the Packers win the Super Bowl and he decides that’s enough for him? He’s 38 years old, and the guy sitting behind him was the team’s 2020 first-round pick. All I’m saying is, when it comes to Rodgers, if you think you know, you’re wrong.

Most likely outcome: Rodgers returns for 2023. He’s scheduled to earn almost $60 million in 2023, which you would think would provide some incentive. And he seems pretty determined to keep Jordan Love on the bench.

Long shot: Rodgers retires, and Love takes over, becoming a starter in his fourth season, just like Rodgers did.

Current starter: Davis Mills
Signed through: 2024

The Texans are going to give 2021 third-round pick Mills a shot, and there are more than a few people around the league who think he might be able to take the job and run with it. Houston has little to lose by trying. Pro Football Focus recently ranked its roster the worst in the entire league, and there is little reason to believe a young QB’s growing pains will be the reason the Texans miss the playoffs. No reason not to see what Mills can do, but if he doesn’t show he can be the guy, there’s not a lot of downside in moving on and looking to upgrade in 2023.

Most likely outcome: A high rookie draft pick. The Texans could have the top pick in the draft, which means they could be the team choosing between Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud and Alabama’s Bryce Young. They also have Cleveland’s first-round pick, which could also be a high pick depending on how many games Deshaun Watson has to miss. So with two (potentially high) first-rounders, Houston would be in a position to move up to get its QB of the future in next year’s draft if needed.

Long shot: Mills shows enough, and the team has enough success, to convince the Texans to give him another year.

Current starter: Matt Ryan
Signed through: 2023

Another year, another starting QB in Indianapolis, where the Colts haven’t had the same Week 1 starter in consecutive years since before Andrew Luck’s shocking retirement right before the start of the 2019 season. Ryan comes via trade from Atlanta, and the Colts feel lucky to have him. They traded 2021 starter Carson Wentz to Washington before they knew who they were getting to replace him, which is a risky move that tells you how they felt about Wentz by the end of the season. Ryan is 37 and six years removed from his MVP season, but Indy believes he has plenty in the tank and is just what their otherwise strong roster needs to help get it over the hump.

Most likely outcome: Ryan. Hey, at some point they’re going to start the same guy twice in a row. Ryan has $12 million of his 2023 salary guaranteed already, and the rest of his $21.7 million guarantees at the start of the 2023 league year, along with a $7.5 million roster bonus. The Colts would have to be as dissatisfied with Ryan as they were with Wentz to ship him out by then, or else he’d have to retire as Philip Rivers did after his only year in Indy. Either of those things is possible, but the most likely outcome, which is what this paragraph is for, is that Ryan plays for the Colts again at 38.

Long shot: Jimmy Garoppolo. This assumes Ryan does retire as Rivers did and the Colts aren’t in position to draft a long-term answer. Let’s also say, in this imaginary long-shot scenario, that Garoppolo ends up playing half the season or more for Cleveland, which has Deshaun Watson coming back in time for 2023, and Garoppolo does a good enough job that someone wants him as their starter. He’d be a perfect fit for a team that changes QBs every year and isn’t ready to go into rebuilding mode.

Current starter: Tua Tagovailoa
Signed through: 2023 (plus team option for 2024)

You know the story at this point. This is something of a make-or-break year for Tagovailoa, who was the No. 5 overall draft pick in 2020 but still hasn’t solidified himself as the surefire long-term answer for Miami. The Dolphins just got docked a draft pick, fined and had their owner suspended for a cloak-and-dagger effort to replace Tagovailoa with Tom Brady. They were still working this time last year to get Deshaun Watson. First-year head coach Mike McDaniel, plus an infusion of offensive line and wide receiver talent, have Tagovailoa in a good position from which to succeed. If he can’t, the Dolphins will have a tough choice next May on whether to pick up his fifth-year option for 2024.

Most likely outcome: Tagovailoa. Call me an optimist, but the guy was the No. 5 pick. I’m not ready to say he doesn’t have the talent to be a franchise quarterback. McDaniel might be the right guy to get the most out of him, and Tyreek Hill gives him a unique target and advantage he has not had during his career. Add in the fact that the lost draft pick for the Brady/Sean Payton tampering incident reduces Miami’s ability to find Tagovailoa’s replacement in next year’s draft, and the bet here is that the Dolphins see enough in 2022 to keep after it with Tagovailoa in 2023.

Long shot: Brady. We know they want him, right? Stephen Ross doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy to give up on something like this. Brady is a free agent again at year’s end and can pick his destination if he doesn’t decide to retire for real this time. Don’t rule it out, is all.

Current starter: Kirk Cousins
Signed through: 2023

Cousins will turn 34 later this month, so he has some years left, but there’s a new front office and coaching staff in Minnesota, and they at least thought about switching up at quarterback this offseason before giving Cousins another extension. This one includes $30 million in guaranteed money in 2023, which likely encourages both parties to run it back a year from now. But, in the current market, it’s not a number that would discourage another team from trading for him. And again, under new management there, you never know.

Most likely outcome: Cousins returns for one more season. For the reasons I listed above and because he’s pretty good! If you’re going to get rid of your quarterback, you’d better have an upgrade ready.

Long shot: Baker Mayfield. I don’t know. I couldn’t come up with a good one, and I don’t think the Vikings will have a high enough pick to draft a long-term difference-maker. So I picked Mayfield because he was in Cleveland when Vikings GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah was there. I have no idea if Adofo-Mensah likes him. But I had to put a name here.

Current starter: Jameis Winston
Signed through: 2023

Winston is back as the starter after an injury-shortened 2021 season, and at age 28 he’s hoping to write a brilliant second chapter of his career in New Orleans. It could absolutely happen if he stays healthy. The Saints appear to have a strong team around him, with a championship-caliber defense and the likely return of former No. 1 wide receiver Michael Thomas to help him out. But there’s no guaranteed money left on Winston’s contract after 2022, and all options are open for both him and the Saints (who tried to get Deshaun Watson before he went to Cleveland and went back to Winston only once that didn’t work out).

Most likely outcome: Winston does well and signs a longer-term extension with the team.

Long shot: Russell Wilson, if the Broncos don’t extend him. New Orleans was on Wilson’s list of four teams a year ago. Remember that? Seems like so long ago now …

Current starter: Daniel Jones
Signed through: 2022

The Giants declined to pick up the fifth-year option on Jones’ contract for 2023, so the No. 6 overall pick from the 2019 draft is eligible for free agency after this season. With a new coaching staff and front office in place, it is unquestionably a make-or-break year for Jones, whose career has been beset by injuries, turnovers and coaching changes. Can head coach Brian Daboll bring some stability to the situation and do for Jones what Daboll was able to do for Josh Allen in Buffalo?

Most likely outcome: A draft pick. There are going to be quality QB prospects in next year’s draft that weren’t in April’s. C.J. Stroud, Bryce Young, Will Levis … If Jones flops and the Giants finish with another high pick, they’ll be in a draft spot from which Daboll and GM Joe Schoen can select his replacement.

Long shot: Mitch Trubisky. He was Allen’s backup in Buffalo last year, and by all accounts, Daboll enjoyed the experience and saw something in the former No. 2 overall pick. Pittsburgh should, if all goes to plan, have moved on to 2021 first-rounder Kenny Pickett by then. If the Giants don’t like where they are in the draft, Trubisky could be an appealing and familiar option for Daboll in the meantime.

Current starter: Jalen Hurts
Signed through: 2023

A second-round pick in 2020, Hurts supplanted incumbent starter Carson Wentz late in that season and started the whole 2021 season for the Eagles. It hasn’t been perfect by any means, but Hurts showed the Eagles enough last year to earn another shot in 2022 to prove he can be their franchise QB. Philly has built a strong-looking team around him, with depth on defense, a good offensive line and an exciting blend of skill at receiver and tight end. If Hurts can take the next step in his own development, the Eagles could easily be a playoff team in 2022. They’re already a popular pick to steal the NFC East away from the defending champion Cowboys. However, if they come out of this season unconvinced on Hurts, they have two first-round picks with which to find a replacement.

Most likely outcome: Hurts. Come on, if I’m going to believe in Tua Tagovailoa surviving his make-or-break year, I have to bet on Hurts, too, right? I’ve had plenty of evaluators tell me they don’t think Hurts has the ability as a passer to last long term. But I just think the young man has the right kind of stuff inside of him to prove people wrong and succeed where others think he can’t. I believe he showed more improvement in 2021 than the Eagles expected and believe he can do it again in 2022. Plus, they have a good team that’s poised to have the kind of year that doesn’t make them want to make major changes. Call me a wide-eyed optimist, but it’s August. Isn’t that the time for NFL optimism?

Long shot: Russell Wilson. Yeah, it’s a real long shot, and it assumes A) Wilson’s first year in Denver doesn’t go well, and B) the new owners don’t want to sign him to the kind of long-term deal he’s seeking. Philly has multiple first-rounders to deal, and if Hurts flames out, I would expect Howie Roseman to take a big, big swing at a replacement. I thought about putting Lamar Jackson here, but I thought that would set off even more of a firestorm, so I didn’t do it. Or did I?

Current starter: Mitch Trubisky, probably
Signed through: 2023

The Steelers’ effort to replace Ben Roethlisberger likely begins with Trubisky, who appears to be the leader of a QB competition that also includes Mason Rudolph and first-round rookie Kenny Pickett. Pittsburgh signed Trubisky to a two-year, $14.285 million contract, but next year’s $8 million salary is not guaranteed. So he must show something in order to keep the job, even if he does win it and hold it all year. This is an unsettled situation, and it’s not out of the question that all three of the guys listed above play QB for the Steelers at some point this season. It’s far from guaranteed that any of them will in 2023.

Most likely outcome: Pickett. Either he takes over the starting job at some point during the season, or the 2023 offseason gets him ready to be the 2023 starter. The Steelers picked him in the first round because they think he can be their franchise quarterback, and they’re going to have to find out sooner rather than later whether they’re right.

Long shot: Trubisky plays well enough to get an extension and keep Pickett on the bench. Trubisky’s mobility should help him overcome a shaky offensive line to some extent, and if he stays healthy and leads the Steelers to the playoffs, it’s not impossible that he could keep the job.

Current starter: Geno Smith or Drew Lock
Signed through: 2022 (both of them)

The Seahawks ended up having to trade Russell Wilson to the Broncos this offseason when it became clear they weren’t going to meet his contract extension demands next year. They got back Lock as part of that trade and already had Smith on the roster. Seattle didn’t pursue an upgrade, though there are plenty of people in the league who believe the Seahawks are ready to pounce when and if the 49ers end up cutting Jimmy Garoppolo. We will see. Regardless, the future at QB in Seattle is a complete unknown, and the Seahawks have two first-round picks next year (theirs and Denver’s) with which to address it.

Most likely outcome: C.J. Stroud or Bryce Young. We’re forecasting the Seahawks to be among the worst teams in the league and put themselves in position to draft whomever they believe is the best QB in the 2023 draft.

Long shot: They snatch up Garoppolo after the Niners cut him and his play persuades them to keep him as their long-term starter, tormenting 49ers coach Kyle Shanahan forever for replacing Garoppolo with Trey Lance.

Current starter: Tom Brady
Signed through: 2022

You might not have heard this, but Brady just turned 45 and therefore will be 46 when the 2023 season starts (#math). He already retired this past offseason, even though he thought better of it a month later and decided to come back. Regardless of how long he does or does not want to keep playing, Brady’s deal with the Bucs voids in March and he’d be free to go elsewhere. Sounds like Miami is a place in which he has had at least some interest, no?

Most likely outcome: Jameis Winston balls out in New Orleans, Brady retires or goes elsewhere, the Saints don’t offer Winston what he wants, and the Bucs bring back their former No. 1 overall pick for a triumphant return as Brady’s successor! All right, maybe it’s not “likely,” but it’s certainly not impossible. And it’s pretty cool!

Long shot: Brady re-signs and sticks around to win a ninth Super Bowl title. (You see what I did there, right?)

Current starter: Ryan Tannehill
Signed through: 2023

Tannehill has revitalized his career since moving from Miami and helped lead the Titans to the No. 1 seed in the AFC playoffs last year. But he also threw three interceptions in a crushing playoff loss to the Bengals, spoiling a nine-sack effort from his defense and raising questions about whether he’s the guy to lead Tennessee to the Super Bowl. He has two years left on his contract, but his 2023 salary of $27 million is not guaranteed. The Titans’ 2022 roster has major question marks at wide receiver and on the offensive line. The team drafted quarterback prospect Malik Willis in the third round of April’s draft. There are a few things working against Tannehill’s long-term future in Tennessee.

Most likely outcome: One more year of Tannehill in 2023. I thought about it, and you can imagine the Titans taking a step back. But they’re so well coached, I have a hard time imagining them bottoming all the way out. Twenty-seven million dollars is a pretty good price for a starting quarterback in 2023, so it wouldn’t be too surprising for the Titans to run it back with Tannehill even if they have a disappointing season. Willis was thought of as a longer-range project by most people ahead of the draft, so he might not even be ready to take over.

Long shot: Willis. He has the raw ability and the makeup. It’s just a matter of honing his skills. Perhaps he comes on more quickly than expected. Perhaps the Titans do bottom out and decide to rebuild around the kid.

Current starter: Carson Wentz
Signed through: 2024

Washington is another one of these teams in the QB wilderness, just taking swing after swing in a so-far-futile effort to get it right. Can the Commanders unlock something in Wentz that the Eagles and Colts have decided, in successive seasons, they could not? Stranger things have happened, I guess, and Wentz won’t turn 30 until the end of the year, so he might not be a totally lost cause. But he’s also far from a sure thing, and none of his salary is guaranteed beyond this season. Washington absolutely has to be on this list of teams with questionable QB situations.

Most likely outcome: Jimmy Garoppolo. If you don’t buy the idea of a Wentz bounce-back, and you don’t imagine fifth-rounder Sam Howell being ready to take over in time for next year, you have to think Washington’s looking for a steady, shorter-term solution. Garoppolo almost certainly will be looking for a starting opportunity.

Long shot: Howell, potentially? I’ve had evaluators tell me they thought he was the best of the QB prospects in April’s (admittedly underwhelming) draft, so who knows?

Source: ESPN

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