QB future of all 32 NFL teams: Aaron Rodgers, Tom Brady and other not-so-simple scenarios

Jimmy Garoppolo is giving the San Francisco 49ers much to think about regarding their future at quarterback.

Geno Smith and Daniel Jones have revived their careers, but it’s not clear what their markets might look like beyond their current teams.

Kyler Murray and Russell Wilson are struggling for teams that are committed to them almost no matter what happens, while the New York Jets just benched 2021 second overall choice Zach Wilson after 20 starts.

In Los Angeles, the Rams have to be wondering what the future holds for Matthew Stafford after the 35-year-old quarterback suffered his second concussion in three weeks.

With so much swirling at the NFL’s most important position, it’s a great time to check in on all 32 quarterback situations. I’ve grouped them in buckets based on their teams’ commitment levels to them, from teams committed without reservation to teams looking for new starters and everyone in between.

1. Committed Without Reservation

We have a top-tier QB for the next decade, and if we don’t have a long-term deal yet, it’s only because our guy isn’t eligible for one yet.

Signed thru: 2030 | APY Rank: 5 | QB EPA Rank: 2

The Chiefs’ offense has gotten better by 5.2 expected points added (EPA) per game despite subtracting receiver Tyreek Hill. That has helped Kansas City win despite ranking 29th on defense/special teams. The question with Patrick Mahomes is whether/when the team might seek to rework his deal for flexibility as the cap charges increase. The Chiefs left Mahomes’ nearly $36 million cap figure untouched this year.

Signed thru: 2028 | APY Rank: 6 | QB EPA Rank: 3

The Bills’ offense has climbed in the EPA rankings from 31st in Josh Allen’s rookie season to third this season, helping to transform Buffalo into an AFC contender. The defense/special-teams component has also ranked near the top of the league. Will that continue once Allen’s cap charges balloon? His deal counts $16.3 million this season before hitting $40-50 million over the next three, unless the Bills revisit it.

Signed thru: 2023 | APY Rank: 19 | QB EPA Rank: 6

Joe Burrow becomes eligible for a new contract after this season and should be the Bengals’ starter for the next decade if the team can protect him better. He’s on a short list of quarterbacks to start in Super Bowls in their first two seasons. Russell Wilson, Colin Kaepernick, Ben Roethlisberger and Tom Brady are the most recent ones before Burrow.

Signed thru: 2023 | APY Rank: 27 | QB EPA Rank: 16

The other quarterbacks in this group are more accomplished than Justin Herbert. They are also enjoying better seasons statistically. That doesn’t change how the Chargers or other teams view Herbert for the long term. The concern is whether the Chargers have the best structure around him, from scheme to healthy weaponry/linemen.

2. Committed With Some Reservations

We have a top-tier QB, but it’s tough feeling as good as those other teams above us feel.

Signed thru: 2026 | APY Rank: 4 | QB EPA Rank: N/A

The fully guaranteed contract Deshaun Watson signed makes the Browns more committed to him than any team is committed to its quarterback. Watson still gets his own category because Cleveland must have some reservations entering into such a deal, knowing Watson would be suspended 11 games and could be at risk for harsher punishment if more allegations arise.

3. Committed & Content

We have a Tier 2-3 QB and things are going well.

Signed thru: 2025 | APY Rank: T-8 | QB EPA Rank: 5

Dallas restructured Dak Prescott’s contract in March to create cap flexibility, the sort of thing a team does when its quarterback is part of the long-term plan. Prescott played one of his best games against Minnesota last week and, backed by a strong defense, should have an opportunity to factor more significantly in the playoffs.

Signed thru: 2024 | APY Rank: 10 | QB EPA Rank: 22

Despite a strong game against New England on Thanksgiving, Kirk Cousins is on pace for career lows in yards per attempt, passer rating, EPA per pass play, EPA per pass attempt and percentage of pass attempts producing explosive gains since 2015, his first season as a full-time starter. Some of that could be because the Vikings are learning a new offense. Perhaps his big game against the Patriots is the start of a strong finishing kick. Whatever the case, Cousins’ contract features a fully guaranteed $20 million roster bonus in 2023, plus a no-trade clause and large salary-cap consequences for Minnesota if the team released him.

4. Committed With Questions

We have our guy, but there are some questions about the future, including possibly next season.

Signed thru: 2022 | APY Rank: 47 | QB EPA Rank: 21

The Ravens have built their offensive structure around Lamar Jackson’s skill set, which required significant commitment. They have said they want to extend Jackson’s contract. They have suggested Jackson is the one who has resisted entering into a deal. Baltimore will presumably use the franchise tag to keep Jackson if a long-term deal remains elusive. There are questions about Jackson’s long-term future in Baltimore in the absence of an extension.

“I think if Deshaun (Watson) did not get a fully guaranteed deal, my guess is that Lamar would have gotten a deal done,” a veteran agent said. “Otherwise, there is no context for Lamar not doing a deal. If you are Lamar, I get it. You are like, ‘Wait a minute, man, it can be done, it has been done and it was done for a guy who has been suspended. You drafted me, I’ve been great, I can’t get it?’ I think there is a lot of that involved.”

Signed thru: 2026 | APY Rank: 1 | QB EPA Rank: 25

Will Aaron Rodgers and the Packers still want to proceed together in 2023 if this season continues to unravel? Rodgers probably would not retire, because doing so would cost him nearly $60 million. If the sides pursued a trade, the Packers could do this pretty comfortably from a cap standpoint. Rodgers’ deal, which does not include a no-trade clause, is scheduled to count about $32 million against the Packers’ cap next season. That figure would increase to $40 million if the Packers traded Rodgers before June. It would drop to $16 million if they waited until then before making the move (the remaining $24 million would hit the cap in 2024).

Signed thru: 2023 | APY Rank: 15 | QB EPA Rank: 15

Tom Brady remains among the top quarterbacks in the game and will have options next season if he decides to continue playing. Could he reunite with Josh McDaniels in Las Vegas? Could he finish his career with the San Francisco 49ers, whom he rooted for as a kid? Where would the Buccaneers fit into any decision? So many questions. Not many answers at this early stage.

Signed thru: 2025 | APY Rank: 7 | QB EPA Rank: 13

A disappointing first season for the Raiders under McDaniels raises questions about what types of changes might come in the offseason. Trading Derek Carr would require the quarterback waiving his no-trade clause. The Raiders otherwise can easily bail from Carr’s contract after this season. The deal counts nearly $33 million against the 2023 cap if Carr is on the roster, but less than $6 million if he is not.

Signed thru: 2024 | APY Rank: 14 | QB EPA Rank: 9

The Titans would save $27 million in 2023 cash and nearly $18 million in cap if they moved on from Tannehill after this season, which doesn’t mean they will want to go that route. Tennessee has a 36-15 record (.706) with Tannehill in the lineup, averaging better than 25 offensive points per game in his starts. The Titans did use a 2022 third-round choice for potential successor Malik Willis, but there’s little evidence he’s ready to take over soon. How Tannehill finishes this season could be influential simply because the contract does give the team flexibility at this point.

5. Committed With Concerns

We have our guy locked into an expensive deal, or is it the other way around?

Signed thru: 2028 | APY Rank: 3 | QB EPA Rank: 20

The extension Arizona entered into with Kyler Murray seemed dubious from the start as news broke of the “homework” clause requiring Murray to study more and play video games less. Fallout from the clause led the team to remove it from the deal, but that doesn’t change the dynamics. Arizona cannot practically escape its deal with Murray until 2025 at the earliest.

Signed thru: 2028 | APY Rank: 2 | QB EPA Rank: 24

The Broncos’ deal with Russell Wilson locks them in so strongly for the next few seasons, the team’s only recourse could be to draft another quarterback, simply to give the team another option. Perhaps Wilson will play much better for a different coach in the future, or with a healthier and improved supporting cast. For now, the team is in a very bad position.

Signed thru: 2026 | APY Rank: T-8 | QB EPA Rank: 26

Matthew Stafford belongs in the “Committed and Content” category if his health stabilizes and the Rams can support him well enough to restore past productivity. Those are big ifs right now. Stafford entered the season with elbow problems, missed one game with a concussion, left another game with what the Rams feared might be another concussion and will miss another game with a neck injury the team discovered once Stafford entered the concussion protocol for a second time. Stafford also reported feeling numbness in his legs. The injuries and the Rams’ murky outlook raise all sorts of big-picture questions. As for his contract, another $57 million becomes fully guaranteed in March.

6. Evaluating: Optimistic

We like what we see from our guy, but we still have time to let this thing play out.

Signed thru: 2023 | APY Rank: 55 | QB EPA Rank: 7

Jalen Hurts becomes eligible for an extension in the offseason. He remains under contract for 2023 at $1.3 million, with no fifth-year option for 2024, because he was not a first-round pick. The Eagles could use the franchise tag for Hurts after next season if they wanted to buy time. They could also enter into an extension, but after coming to regret their deal with Carson Wentz, will they rush into a deal?

Signed thru: 2023 | APY Rank: 23 | QB EPA Rank: 1

This season is proving Tua Tagovailoa can produce at elite levels in the right system with elite weaponry. Time is on the Dolphins’ side if they want to make sure Tagovailoa can stay healthy for long enough stretches. Picking up Tagovailoa’s fifth-year option for 2024 would buy more than enough time for the Dolphins to make such an evaluation.

Signed thru: 2024 | APY Rank: 32 | QB EPA Rank: 19

It took the Bears six games to adapt their offense to Justin Fields’ dual-threat abilities. The change has revealed Fields as the most promising quarterback prospect in Chicago for decades. The Bears need to upgrade his weaponry next.

Signed thru: 2022 | APY Rank: 37 | QB EPA Rank: 12

The Seahawks’ handling of the quarterback situation has been a revelation, but it’s not yet clear what has been revealed. Is Geno Smith this good? Was Russell Wilson that bad? Would Seattle, emboldened by its success with Smith, think it could fare similarly well with Drew Lock if the price tag for re-signing Smith seemed too high? What quarterbacks might be available to Seattle in the draft? The Seahawks are loaded with picks, after all. The next couple months will reveal plenty.

Signed thru: 2024 | APY Rank: 18 | QB EPA Rank: 10

It’s been a solid but unspectacular second season for Trevor Lawrence in Jacksonville — a step in the right direction, with plenty of time before any decisions must be made. He’s completing a higher percentage on short passes as the Jaguars make fuller use of the screen game.

7. Evaluating: Need More Info

It’s too early to feel very strongly one way or another.

Signed thru: 2025 | APY Rank: 36 | QB EPA Rank: 29

Kenny Pickett has been pretty good, especially of late, but it’s too early for the Steelers to feel strongly one way or another. They’ve got time. Pickett just needs to keep playing and developing.

Signed thru: 2024 | APY Rank: 21 | QB EPA Rank: N/A

How Jimmy Garoppolo finishes this season while subbing for the injured Trey Lance could have ramifications for all. Lance has barely played, which is why the 49ers need more information. But some of that information is going to be furnished by Garoppolo, who is riding high at the moment but will presumably experience some volatility before season’s end.

8. Evaluating: Hope to See More

We have some concerns about our guy but still think the future can be bright.

Signed thru: 2024 | APY Rank: 34 | QB EPA Rank: 28

Mac Jones was as productive as he’s been in a long time Thursday night at Minnesota, thanks to improved protection. In seven previous starts this season, Jones had four touchdown passes with seven interceptions for an offense that has suffered the NFL’s fifth-largest decline in EPA per game from last season. Perhaps things are on the upswing again.

Signed thru: 2024 | APY Rank: 20 | QB EPA Rank: 33

Look around the AFC East to see what Buffalo and Miami have done to help their quarterbacks. Then, look at what the Patriots and Jets have done to help theirs. Zach Wilson hasn’t helped himself, which is one of the reasons the Jets benched him for the time being.

9. Looking to Upgrade

We need to prioritize the position this offseason.

Signed thru: 2024 | APY Rank: 11 | QB EPA Rank: 14

The Lions got their current quarterback, Jared Goff, from the Rams. They could get their next one via the Rams as well, given that Detroit holds Los Angeles’ first-round pick in 2023 (currently sixth). Goff’s contract becomes easy for the Lions to escape after this season. He has played well enough for the Lions to stay the course, but if the Lions are on the rise, the 2023 draft could be their last chance (for a while) to select a quarterback near the top.

Signed thru: 2023 | APY Rank: 17 | QB EPA Rank: 18

The Falcons have done a great job fitting their offense to Marcus Mariota, but they remain limited in the passing game and need to find another option for the long term. The recently drafted Desmond Ridder provides one option.

Signed thru: 2022 | APY Rank: 29 | QB EPA Rank: 17

Returning to the Giants would be ideal for Daniel Jones. Would it be ideal for the Giants? The team needs to consider other options, but finding a quarterback early in the draft didn’t work out in 2022 and probably isn’t going to work out in 2023, either. Do the Giants want to continue fitting their offense around what Jones does (and might not) offer?

“That’s going to be the toughest offseason question,” an exec from another team said. “If you are Daniel Jones, you don’t want to go to another team. You want the Giants to pay you because you want to be with (Brian) Daboll, because he brings the most out of you. What are you going to do, go to New Orleans and play for a defensive head coach? Like, what? It is very interesting.”

Signed thru: 2022 | APY Rank: 42 | QB EPA Rank: 11

The Saints have not moved with urgency at quarterback since Drew Brees retired. Trading Sean Payton’s rights for an early draft choice could help deliver a young prospect. The team could then use Andy Dalton or the equivalent as a bridge to the future.

Signed thru: 2023 | APY Rank: 13 | QB EPA Rank: 23

The Colts will carry $18 million in dead money on their 2023 cap if they move on from Matt Ryan. No matter what they do, they’ll need to look for someone with greater staying power than Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz or Ryan.

Signed thru: 2022 | APY Rank: 46 | QB EPA Rank: N/A

The Commanders have three quarterbacks in Taylor Heinicke, Carson Wentz and 2022 fifth-round pick Sam Howell. It’ll be tough going all-in on any one of them next season.

Signed thru: 2024 | APY Rank: 63 | QB EPA Rank: 32

Houston is first in the 2023 draft order and owns tons more draft capital from the Watson trade. This should be pretty straightforward.

 

Signed thru: 2022 | APY Rank: 22 | QB EPA Rank: N/A

Sam Darnold will be the Panthers’ third starting quarterback in as many weeks. Time for Plan D.

(Top illustration: John Bradford / The Athletic; photos: Timothy T. Ludwig, David Eulitt, Elsa, Patrick Smith / Getty Images)

Source

Leave a Comment