With NFL free agency around the corner and the 2022 NFL Draft coming up in April, Kevin Patra assesses the quarterback situations of all 32 teams around the league. Teams are sorted into categories signifying the level of stability at the position, then listed in alphabetical order, with players from last year’s QB room listed. Players not under contract in 2022 are denoted as unrestricted free agents (UFA), restricted free agents (RFA) or exclusive rights free agents (ERFA).
NOTE: Unless otherwise specified, cap figures come from Over The Cap.
Allen shrugged off a roller-coaster regular season to explode in the postseason, generating nine TDs and zero INTs in two games. The big-armed quarterback with a moose-like ability to run over defenders proved he’s capable of carrying the offense. The main question is whether his development into one of the game’s top passers continues sans Brian Daboll. For my money, however, Allen is a better bet to be an MVP than regress under new coordinator Ken Dorsey. The Pro Bowler hasn’t missed a game since his rookie campaign, but there is a void behind him, which the Bills should look to fill with a veteran if Trubisky finds a place to compete for a starting job.
No QB drips quite like Burrow. The Bengals signal-caller put on a show guiding Cincy to the Super Bowl despite taking a beating nearly every time he stepped on the field. It’s a stunner that Burrow is only dealing with an MCL sprain after getting sacked 70 times in 20 games. From his toughness in the pocket to his beautiful deep ball, there are few holes in Joey B’s game. The biggest question in Cincinnati is simply how to keep him upright moving forward.
Prescott started the season hot but cooled off down the stretch following a calf injury. He missed far too many throws for a QB of his caliber as the Cowboys’ offense vacillated between explosive force and inconsistent thud. When Dak is on, he’s one of the most exciting passers in the NFL, but Dallas needs more steadiness from the QB to make a deep run in 2022.
There is no need to belabor this point: At 26 years old, Mahomes is the face of the NFL. The Chiefs could bring back Henne as a veteran study buddy or add a different sage film-watcher to help the QB room, but there are bigger fish to fry in K.C.
Herbert proved his rookie season was no fluke as the second-year QB authored jaw-dropping throws weekly. His massive arm and mobility allow Herbert to make throws others can’t even dream of attempting. If the Chargers upgrade his surroundings, Herbert could win some hardware at NFL Honors next February.
The Packers spending Super Bowl week letting every major reporter know they’re doing everything they can to keep Rodgers happy was no accident. If Rodgers moves forward with a trade demand, Green Bay brass will say it tried, but the veteran QB didn’t want to stay. If Rodgers wants out or walks away from football entirely, the Packers could be in for a drastic overhaul. If he does remain with Green Bay, it would surely come with a contract extension, making him the highest-paid signal-caller in the NFL. Rodgers has undoubtedly earned the right to control his career after back-to-back MVPs. Meanwhile, Love flaps in the wind. The youngster struggled in his lone start in 2021, but frankly, it’s nearly impossible to discuss his future without knowing Rodgers’ plan.
It’s only a matter of time before the Niners unload Garoppolo and his $24.2 million non-guaranteed base salary. With a boatload of teams needing a capable signal-caller, San Francisco should find a partner willing to take on the handsome but imperfect quarterback. Jimmy G proved he could move an offense and make the right reads when given time, but he also struggles under pressure and makes too many wayward throws. For the Niners, it’s Lance time. After making just two starts as a rookie, the type of offense Kyle Shanahan builds around the dual-threat quarterback will be intriguing. Lance is raw and talented, with a big arm and elusive running ability. He played better in his spot starts than stats would indicate. But he needs to work on fundamentals this offseason to help lead a playoff roster. Look for Shanny to add a cheap, trusty veteran to fall back on if Lance gets injured or stumbles big time.
Will we get another offseason full of Wilson playing coy about wanting out of Seattle? The current belief in Seattle is the two sides will work together for at least one more year, with both hoping for a bounce-back campaign after a promising finish to the season. But, as we saw last offseason, things can get muddled in a hurry. Wilson could decide his best chance at another ring is to force his way out. Even then, could Seattle play hardball, believing there is no other franchise QB on the horizon in this year’s crop of options? If we assume Wilson remains a Seahawk, there is reason to believe the QB can regain his status as a top-flight passer after an up-and-down 2021. Wilson surged down the stretch of the season after struggling through injury.
Contract situation looming
Jackson remains the most dynamic dual-threat quarterback in the NFL. This offseason’s big question is when will his massive extension get done, with both sides taking a patient approach entering Jackson’s fifth season. The QB missed the season’s final four games with an ankle injury but already appears over the issue. Huntley proved a perfect backup for the Ravens, and given Jackson’s health issues last season, it would be an absolute stunner if they let the former undrafted passer out of the building.
The biggest question in Cleveland this offseason is whether the Browns are willing to wed Baker for the long haul. Mayfield played through injuries that clearly hurt his performance, and no one should question his toughness. But the up-and-down nature of his first four seasons leaves big question marks as to whether he can ever become a top-shelf passer. The Browns could have Mayfield play out his fifth-year option then play the franchise-tag game, a la Kirk Cousins in Washington. It’s probably the prudent move from the organization, given Mayfield’s turbulent play. But would that approach upset the best QB the franchise has had in eons and cause Mayfield to seek a trade?
With GM Kwesi Adofo-Mensah and coach Kevin O’Connell taking over, the biggest question in Minnesota is Cousins’ future. The veteran is a streaky passer but better than the average fan considers. The Vikes could bite the bullet and sit on his $45 million cap number before moving on in 2023. That would be a giant pill to swallow. Cousins’ name is sure to come up in trade talks, but that would likely come with Minnesota eating a large amount of his guaranteed salary to facilitate a swap. In that outcome, the Vikings would then be left without a quarterback. No bueno. Or, we could see the alternative a large swath of Vikings fans dread — the team could extend Cousins’ contract, lowering his current cap hit. With no other viable solution on the roster and cap issues to manage, it’s a tough predicament for the new brass.
New coach Josh McDaniels has spoken glowingly about Carr, and NFL Network Ian Rapoport reported that the Raiders are prepared to discuss a contract extension as the QB enters the final year of his deal. The structure of any consummated deal will show just how committed the new leadership is to Carr. The signal-caller is coming off a top-10 type season — even if some outside of Vegas don’t want to admit as much. Carr stretched the field more than he had in previous campaigns and guided a chain-moving offense with aplomb. With Mariota likely seeking a chance to start, the Raiders could bring in young blood to work behind Carr in 2022 and potentially groom for the future.
The Rams shot their shot with the Stafford trade last offseason, and it paid off with a Lombardi Trophy. Sean McVay desired an upgrade to a QB who would make plays when the run game was stymied. Stafford did just that in Super Bowl LVI, authoring one massive no-look pass that changed the course of the game. Stafford’s big arm opened up the passing concepts McVay could employ and made the offense much more dangerous than we’d seen in recent seasons. For much of the season, Stafford was the QB he’d always been in Detroit, waxing and waning between stupendous and erratic. But the four-game postseason stretch was the best of his career. He made huge throws in each contest, from the bomb to Cooper Kupp against Tampa to leading game-winning drives versus San Francisco and Cincinnati. NFL Network Insider Ian Rapoport reported that the Rams and Stafford are working on a contract extension, which makes sense for both parties.
What a mess the Panthers have made of the QB position under Matt Rhule. The coach has swung and missed like he’s imitating Rob Deer. Teddy Bridgewater? Nope. Gone in one year. Cam? Nah. Walker? Never given a realistic chance. Darnold? Oy. The Panthers’ decision to pick up Darnold’s fifth-year option, thereby guaranteeing him $18.858 million in 2022, was head-scratching at the time. It’s even more inexplicable now. Darnold’s head spun for most of his 11 starts last season, making bewildering decisions and some god-awful throws. In none of his final eight starts did Darnold throw for 220-plus yards. Yes, the offensive line was disastrous, and every blue moon, the QB would make a dynamic play that would pique interest. But he’s nowhere near consistent enough to be an everyday starter. Where Rhule turns next is anyone’s guess. Owner David Tepper has been pushing for a splash acquisition but has yet to find a keeper.
The more things change, the more they stay the same. Once again, Denver enters the offseason with major quarterback questions. Bridgewater appears poised to move on after one season. Lock hasn’t proven he’s the long-term answer. The big fish for Broncos fans is Aaron Rodgers, who worked with new coach Nathaniel Hackett the past three years. Denver would make a logical partner if Rodgers demands a trade from Green Bay. With a playoff-ready roster, a star addition would immediately boost the Broncos’ profile. But we’ve been saying that since Peyton Manning retired.
Sean Payton got out of dodge before the Saints had to answer their big QB question of 2022. Re-signing Winston shouldn’t be ruled out, considering the veteran’s solid play before he tore his ACL. But the Saints are likely to have competition for Winston’s services given the dearth of quality signal-callers hitting the open market. A trade for Jimmy Garoppolo could be an answer, but that would need to come with a reworked contract. Given the Saints’ offensive line struggles in 2021, Jimmy G behind that line wouldn’t be pretty. Then there is the Taysom question. Payton was the gadget player’s most prominent advocate. With the coach gone, whether the new staff gives Hill a shot at the starting gig or how they use him period will be telling. Selecting an intriguing prospect like Malik Willis would immediately provide some juice in the post-Payton era, but that might require trading up in the draft.
With Big Ben finally riding off into the sunset, the Steelers have their first big QB decision in nearly two decades. Rudolph didn’t shine as a fill-in and shouldn’t be considered anything other than a stop-gap backup. Haskins is a wild card who Mike Tomlin has talked up, but when we last saw him on the field, he was a slow processor with major accuracy issues. The likely bet is the Steelers shop for a veteran in the free-agent market — Jameis Winston or Marcus Mariota – to pair with a rookie signal-caller drafted early. Look for Pittsburgh to add at least one quarterback with dual-threat ability this offseason after recent years with the statuesque Roethlisberger at the helm.
As Cam Newton can attest, you don’t want to be the man who replaces the G.O.A.T. You want to be the man who replaces the man who replaced the G.O.A.T. Brady’s retirement shifts Tampa’s biggest offseason question mark to the quarterback position. Trask didn’t play a snap all season, making him an unknown projection. With a big arm, could he fit perfectly in Bruce Arians’ system? Sure. Could he also struggle processing and get overwhelmed in the pocket? Maybe. Despite a bevy of free agents, the Bucs still boast a playoff-caliber roster if they find the right quarterback. Given they sit just a year removed from a Super Bowl, I’d expect GM Jason Licht to try to pull off a trade for a veteran he believes can keep the Bucs atop the NFC South.
The Fitzpatrick signing blew up after just 16 snaps, paving the way for Heinicke to start 15 games. The 28-year-old gunslinger moved the ball well at times, but his upside is limited. The Commanders are a team to watch on the trade market as they once again attempt to find a franchise signal-caller. Heinicke is a fine fallback option if all else fails, but if Washington is to be a true playoff contender, an upgrade is necessary.
Well, that spiraled quickly. Murray went from early-season MVP candidate to injured to stumbling into the playoffs to scrubbing his social media amid reported friction with the Cardinals. Perhaps the perceived spat between the former No. 1 overall pick and the club is simply contract jostling. Arizona had better hope it is because there is no replacement for Murray on the roster, and free agency is dire. Murray displayed a penchant for otherworldly plays, and at times, he’s as breathtaking as any QB in the league. But once again, the Cardinals’ offense grew stagnant, and Murray isn’t at his best staying in the rhythm of the offense. NFL Network’s Mike Garafolo reported that the club wants more maturity and leadership from Murray. That road is likely two-way from the QB’s perspective.
Mills played surprisingly well down the stretch after returning to the lineup for the final five games, sporting a 9:2 touchdown-to-interception ratio with a 68.4 completion percentage. The rookie showed vast improvements in reading defenses and didn’t fear the big shot. Mills possesses workable traits to be a starting QB. The big question surrounding Houston is the future of Watson, who is still facing a cavalcade of civil lawsuits and a criminal investigation. After basically paying Watson to sit the entire 2021 season, a trade could happen in the coming months after clubs gain more clarity on his legal future.
Lingering question in South Beach
New coach Mike McDaniel has spoken glowingly of Tua, suggesting the club is finally ready to ride with the former first-round pick without the distracting questions. Behind a faulty offensive line, Tagovailoa did well to get the ball out quickly last season and showed good accuracy. But his lack of deep passing restricted the offense, as did his penchant for crippling INTs. McDaniel’s scheme should cater to Tua’s skill set better than previous editions. With Brissett set to hit free agency, there is a need for a capable backup in Miami after Tagovailoa battled injuries last season. The Dolphins are in an interesting spot with a young QB who enters Year 3 still needing to prove he’s the man for the job. If he doesn’t shine under McDaniel, it could be back to the drawing board for Miami.
Veterans holding the fort
When the Falcons reworked Ryan’s contract last offseason, they essentially said he was the QB for at least the next two years. With $40.5 million in dead money to move on, Ryan is set to return for his 15th season. The 36-year-old continues to play above average even if he declined slightly in 2021. He can still make pinpoint throws and stand tall in the pocket despite less than ideal blocking. After watching Matthew Stafford win a Super Bowl, it’s hard not to view Ryan as a QB who could buoy the right roster. Whether the Falcons’ roster will be close to good enough remains to be seen. Atlanta should bring in another young QB to groom after Rosen proved once again he’s not an answer, and Franks was used more as a gadget player.
Despite a rocky Year 1 in Detroit, Goff is poised to keep the Lions’ starting job for a second season. In 2021, the veteran quarterback was who he always has been. Given time and a solid run-game, Goff can guide an offense. When the pressure ratchets up, he disintegrates like an Oreo in milk. With a $30 million dead-money hit to move on and Detroit still in the middle of a long rebuild, the Lions aren’t cutting bait this year. The question is whether GM Brad Holmes identifies his QB of the future in the 2022 draft — by most accounts a weaker group — or waits until 2023 to make his move.
Tannehill didn’t put up as gaudy numbers as previous seasons, but his play leading the injury-ravaged Titans to the AFC South title flew under the radar. The veteran still possesses the ability to thread the needle and can stand in versus pressure. Blocking issues and a receiver corps that was rarely healthy held back the deep ball that was missing from the offense for stretches. The playoff loss brought criticism on the QB, but in reality, he wasn’t far off from previous seasons. The postseason exit might bring chatter about Tennessee moving on, but given his salary situation ($29 million guaranteed) and better-than-average play, he shouldn’t be going anywhere.
Indy traded for Wentz last offseason, viewing him as a rehab-able commodity who could bolster the position for the future. Instead, the Colts split the middle. They missed the postseason, even while Wentz hit the play-time benchmark that meant they’d have to give Philly their 2022 first-round pick as part of the deal. Wentz’s season ended on a dramatically poor note, with the QB throwing for fewer than 200 yards in four out of the final five games. The slide thrusts Indy toward a pivotal decision with the QB, who is set to cost $28.29 million against the salary cap while pocketing $15 million guaranteed. Do the Colts run it back, hoping he can be more than the up-and-down QB he’s shown to be outside of one magical run in 2017? Or do they try to offload his contract and move on? And if so, is there anyone available that would even represent an upgrade? Indy put all of its eggs in the Wentz basket in 2021 and are still in a precarious position heading into 2022.
Brian Daboll and the new brass have talked up Jones as their QB for 2022, but Big Blue could swiftly move on if an upgrade presents itself. While Jones played better than his numbers indicated before a neck injury wiped out the end of his third NFL season, turnovers remain an issue. It’s nearly impossible to separate Jones’ struggles from the woeful offensive line play in front of him. Glennon and Fromm’s disastrous efforts after Jones went down only made the 24-year-old seem better in hindsight. But if there is a team with the ammo to go hunting for big game — i.e., Russell Wilson — in the trade market, it’s New York.
The Eagles insist Hurts is the starter in 2022. Of course, GM Howie Roseman said similar things about Carson Wentz last January, before changing gears. Hurts displayed impressive dual-threat ability when the Eagles’ ground game was churning, and they could do a whole lot worse than riding the 2020 second-rounder for another season. But the QB needs to improve his downfield accuracy and fundamentals in the pocket to quell the questions about whether he’s the answer under center. Minshew remains under contract and is a good plug-and-play option or trade chip. Roseman is always looking to add to the QB room, so a big move that shuffles the deck should never be ruled out in Philly.
This offseason is all about nurturing Fields. The previous coaching staff did a poor job when it came to consistently playing to Fields’ strengths in his rookie season. That task now falls to new offensive coordinator Luke Getsy. Fields showed flashes of brilliance, with a big arm and elusiveness in space. However, he’ll have to speed up his progression and improve at reading the defense. The raw talent is there for Fields to be the most electric QB in Bears history, but he needs to develop quickly and get help from a thin receiver corps to make a Year 2 leap. Given Fields’ injury issues last season, the backup role becomes more prominent for Chicago. Foles could hang on to the gig, unless the Bears are willing to eat $7.7 million in dead money to move on and find another veteran.
Lawrence, like most of the members of this rookie class, struggled for stretches. The No. 1 overall pick tied for the league lead with 17 interceptions (matching Super Bowl champion Matthew Stafford). But there were signs of the transformational talent that made him the shoo-in top QB in the 2021 NFL Draft. Lawrence combines arm talent with athleticism. This offseason, he needs to work on shaving tenths of a second off his processing, as sometimes his balls were just a hair late, negating the chance for big plays. But there is zero question Lawrence has the goods to be a premier QB for years to come. Now the Jags must upgrade the supporting cast, starting with injecting speed into the offense under Doug Pederson. Given the new coach’s history with elevating QBs, Lawrence should be in for a far better 2022.
Jones proved he’s a worthy heir to the Patriots’ throne with a stellar rookie campaign. The most pro-ready QB in the 2021 draft provided calmness down the stretch, along with accuracy, and he dropped the occasional pretty deep ball when required. He needs more help from the receiver corps, but the makings of a franchise QB are there. With offensive coordinator Josh McDaniels leaving for Las Vegas, there could be another learning curve as Jones adjusts to the new play-caller, but given how he performed as a rookie, there shouldn’t be questions about whether he can make the traditional Year 2 leap. Unlike the rest of his draft-mates, Jones has already demonstrated he can lead a playoff team.
Wilson’s rookie season included more potholes than a 100-year-old road in disrepair. The No. 2 overall pick came out of the gate holding the ball too long, trying to make the big play. His 9:11 TD-to-INT ratio, as well as a whopping 44 sacks in 13 starts, summed up his struggles. On the plus side, Wilson played smarter down the stretch and didn’t throw a pick in his final five games, showing a better willingness to check down to the open receiver instead of forcing a tough pass. Wilson entered the NFL with raw talent. That wasn’t tamed in Year 1. It’s a huge offseason for Wilson, who must prove he can read defenses better and make the right play in his second campaign operating coordinator Mike LaFleur’s offense.