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  • Writer's pictureScott Hatter

Look at all the pretty horses

As the new league year approaches, it's time to pay your dollar and hop on the QB carousel.

Last year, we threw out a number...12. That was how many NFL teams we thought could have a different starting QB heading into the 2021 season. At the time, this was largely driven by a phenomenal rookie QB class (which mostly held up), and by speculation regarding Russell Wilson, Dak Prescott, Deshawn Watson (the only time he will be brought up), and Aaron Rodgers. We were VERY close, as the real number ended up being 11. Well, it's 2022, and 2 of those 4 things are still very much story lines. But when you add in new coaches, the retirement of two of the biggest names in the sport, and general impatience by organizations at the most important position in all of sports, there is sure to be a significant amount of change this year as well.

The "Well, Duh" Group (2) - Tampa Bay and Pittsburgh

There are some obvious ones here, so let's get those out of the way. Tom Brady retired. And while there is already speculation that he's not done playing, I would be willing to bet he does not start the season anywhere, and certainly not in Tampa. 2 seasons and another title, TB12, Tampa Tom, Tommy (insert thick Boston accent), whatever you want to call the GOAT, Brady walks away with enough Super Bowl rings to have a day of the week collection. The Bucs will likely trade for someone AND draft a QB. Or there's always super outside chance to have a player coach in Byron Leftwich. He's 2 years younger than Brady after all.

While I've never been the biggest Big Ben Fan, an 18 year career and 2 rings is, by all definitions, a legacy. Ben Roethlisberger may ultimately go down as the Andy Murray (yes, that's a tennis reference for Rusty) of this QB era as he was never considered the best, but was always competitive and found a way to win a couple of rings even though he played in the same Era and conference as Peyton Manning and Tom Brady. That's pretty impressive when you consider the only QB with multiple rings in the NFC over the last 20 years is Eli Manning. Much like Tampa, the Steelers have a couple of QBs on the roster, but for a team that hasn't had a losing record since Big Ben was drafted, there are going to be looking to do better than Mason Rudolph. Roethlisberger is the modern reason GMs still look at mid-major and FCS talent to fill QB holes. This draft class has those in spades.

The "Well, yeah, I guess" Group (4) - Houston, Washington, New Orleans, and Chicago

The Texans, Commanders, Bears, and Saints all had week 1 starters from last season that finished the year injured or lost their jobs because of injury. Tyrod Taylor in Houston, Ryan Fitzpatrick in Washington, and Famous Jameis Winston in New Orleans are all free agents heading into this offseason and none is likely back with their former club.

Davis Mills looked serviceable enough in Houston. So much so, that I think people forgot he was a 3rd round pick, 3rd on the depth chart, and ended up with a higher QBR than Trevor Lawrence, Justin Fields, Zach Wilson (all drafted in the 1st round this year), Sam Darnold, and Baker Mayfield (former 1st round picks).

The Saints don't have an answer. Winston is a free agent and was not great when he was healthy. Even if they decided to retain him, he's recovering from a torn ACL/MCL combo from October and while that recovy time has improved in recent years, that's still 10 months. Taysom Hill has a contract that basically prevents him from ever getting the starting job, and Trevor Siemian has already not been the right answer a couple of times. This team has too much offensive and defensive talent to just let it die, but will also be headed into the season without Sean Payton at the helm. I have to believe the QB room was part of the reason he walked away. Free agency is the best possible answer for this team and there are some dream scenarios, so we'll wait and see if New Orleans can work it's voodoo to make any of those happen.

The Commanders are also likely without an answer in house. Taylor Heinicke was not horrible, but the FKA WFT faded down the stretch and know they have to find an answer here. When your most recent success came under leadership that now watches stock cars turn left as part of this retirement (shout out Joe Gibbs Racing), you know it's been a while. To me, this is the perfect draft one, sign one situation as Washington would really be taking a flier on a QB at 11, and could probably get close to equal talent in the 2nd round at pick 42. Even if Heinicke does win the starting job out of camp, this one still counts as Fitzmagic started week 1 last season.

I am putting the Bears in this group, maybe because of the place in my hear that Andy Dalton will always have, but if you believe Matt Nagy, Dalton would have been the starter had he not gotten injured. It will be Fields team, for better or worse, though something teams me Chicago could be on this list again next year.

The "I would if it were my team" Group (2) - Denver and New York (N)

The Broncos have a really solid young offensive core and a top tier defense that could contend with a top tier QB. Bear in mind, this is the AFC West, so it's not like Denver is a lock to win even with an upgrade at QB. Teddy Bridgewater is not bad. The problem is, that's his ceiling. He's a free agent likely looking for a starting job and I don't think it's going to be in Mile High. They hired an offensive head coach in Nathaniel Hackett who is going to want to focus there. My guess is he will want his own guy.

Daniel Jones is not good. The giants, for that matter, are not good. They brought in Brian Daboll mostly due to his success in turning around Josh Allen. the problem is, the only thing Jones and Allen have in common is questionable accuracy. In the last two seasons, while being on the field for 25 games (he also hasn't missed less than 2 games in a year yet, missing 6 last season), he only threw 22 TDs to 17 INTs. I get that the talent in New York is poor and this is by no means all his fault, but there is no way they are going to pick up his 5th year option. The smart move would be to either keep him as an $8M back-up and bring in someone new, or cut bait all together to avoid the poison in having him around and take the $8M cap hit. To me, this is where someone like Marcus Mariota or Mitchell Trubisky could make some sense. Both guys are fairly mobile which will be key in New York and a trait Daboll is used to with Allen.

The "I don't get it, but" Group (3) - Minnesota, San Francisco, and Indianapolis

These are 3 teams who all have the same mind set. They don't LOVE what they have at Quarterback, so they are quietly updating those dating profiles and looking to swipe right on someone new this offseason. If we want to butcher that metaphor, the 49ers would be crazy based on looks alone with Jimmy GQ back there, but Garoppolo is apparently on the market. I know the playoff ending was bad, and it WAS bad. This is purely a financial decision, as the 49ers only get hit with with about $1.4M if they trade Jimmy and to keep him would cost them over $26M. I agree he's not a $26M QB, but I don't agree Trey Lance is the better option near, mid, or long term. This is 100% about not looking bad after they traded away 2 1st round picks to get Lance to begin with. Pride cometh before the fall be warned.

The Vikings head into this offseason trying to find a way to spend as much money as possible on one single QB without ever making it past the 2nd round of the playoffs. Their last trip to the conference championship game cam behind the arm of Case Keenum. Kirk Cousins has a hall of fame agent, but not hall of fame talent and should be the happiest guy ever in retirement knowing that he gamed the system for every penny possible when he started the guaranteed money trend in the NFL. Ultimately, the reason I don't get this move is that it feels a lot like the Garoppolo situation in San Fran. Cousins is not great, but he's not awful, he just happens to make too much money ($35M with a $46M cap hit). It certainly seems like Minnesota is going to try and pull a LA Rams type deal and get some other sucker to take Cousins. The problem is, their roster is nowhere near what the Rams had before that move. Cousins only has one more year left on his deal. To me, the smart move is to let him finish it out and see what you can do.

Everyone on every network has an opinion on Carson Wentz. I won't spend too many words on either side of this argument, but when he's good, he's pretty darn good, and when he's bad, it's brutal. We talked at length about this situation 2 shows back and in my view, they way the Colts season ended has as much to do with horrible coaching as it does Wentz making questionable decisions. His contract is complicated as the Eagles still owe him money, so this feels a bit like Teddy Bridgewater the last few stops, but that also means he's cheap. Go ahead and draft someone, great. But don't push that panic button after one year.

The "If money wasn't a factor" Group (3) - Atlanta, Carolina, and Detroit

Matt Ryan is certainly well passed his prime, and the Falcons are in major limbo after letting Julio Jones go and then having Calvin Ridley walk away. There is so much to fix in Atlanta. There is no running game and a middle of the road defense. Their most explosive play is Kyle Pitts, who looks great at tight end, but unless he's on the George Kittle/Travis Kelce level, that was always going to be too high to draft a tight end. Here's the catch, the ice man is going to make somewhere around $35M this year and carries a $40M dead money hit. The dead money number gets a ton better next year, but he will have even less open market value at age 38. This could be similar to an NBA expiring contract trade, but I don't think the Falcons will find a dance partner.

Let's group these last two together. Sam Darnold is bad. Jared Goff is bad. The Panthers are bad and the Lions have and may always be bad. Goff's contract is way crazier than Darnold's as he's making about $32M a year to celebrate 3 and a half win seasons. Darnold is ONLY making $18M this year as his extension became guaranteed in Carolina. In both of these situations, there is so much more to fix than QB, but man are the QBs bad. The McCaffrey of it all in Carolina will likely determine their fate this year, in a division that could be wide open despite Bruce Arians best intentions to reload instead of rebuilding. In both situations, if you didn't have to pay these guys, you wouldn't, but alas, those pesky contracts.

The "Here we go again" Group (2) - Seattle and Green Bay

Russell Wilson is far too talented to wither and die in Seattle. The question still remains how talented. And will another team think he's a 3 first round pick talent franchise QB heading into his age 34 season? Since Wilson still has two years left on his deal, Seattle would have to get a bounty to move him. Considering the current talent around him, I would say yes. Can Tampa swing this big again? Could you imagine him with that offense in Minnesota? There are plenty of places I would love to see Wilson go. Given the state of the relationship up there, it might actually happen this year.

Aaron Rodgers has no idea what he wants to do. No, I don't have sources to that information. But it certainly seems that way. As much as I love Dietzman, it certainly feels like the Achilles heel for the pack may very well be their location during playoff time. While he's a wizard on the frozen tundra, the elements certainly feel like Green Bay is giving everyone else a discount when they come to town (Rodgers rate anyone?). One thing seems clear to me. No Davante Adams, no Rodgers. I think that probably makes sense for everyone involved. Even though he's coming off back to back MVP seasons, there's probably only a couple left and the elusive 2nd title looms large. If A-rod is true to his word, this may be one of the first dominoes to fall. But after a 12 day cleanse, who knows what visions are dancing through his head.

Ten! I give it a ten!

If you just add up the above, that's half the league, 16 teams, with story lines involving moving their QB1. While that number seams a outrageous, I would easily set the over-under at 10. With the franchise tag window closing on March 8th (doubtful there are ANY QBs tagged this year, which is weird), and legal tampering starting on March 14th ahead of the official (?) window of the 16th, we should start to get some answers. The draft isn't until April 28th though, so the silly season will continue for quite a while. For a position that had historically had a fairly high level of stability, this QB carousel seems to just be getting into second gear. Let's all find our horse, hold on to that pole, and enjoy the ride.

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