NFLTR Review: Where Things Stand With The 2022 QB Carousel

Happy holidays and thanks for reading! In this week’s issue, we check back in on what could be another offseason of QB drama:

  • Pump the brakes on Aaron Rodgers trade drama?
  • If the Broncos strike out on Rodgers/Wilson/Watson, what’s the alternative?
  • Panthers are in a pickle…

The Big Picture: 2022 QB Carousel Update

You’ve been hearing it since well before the start of the season, but 2022 could bring the most upheaval we’ve seen at the quarterback position in a long, long time. Half of the league or more could be in the market for a new starter, with elite talents like Packers QB Aaron Rodgers, Seahawks QB Russell Wilson and Texans QB Deshaun Watson the headliners potentially available. 

We broke it all down for you on the eve of Week 1 but obviously a lot has changed since then. Fifteen weeks of football are in the books. Some quarterbacks have solidified their standing. Others have put themselves on the hot seat. So we thought it was a good time to check back in on where things stand after assessing all the shifting data points. 

To quickly recap, this is where all 32 teams stood at quarterback entering the season:


First-round rookies (99 percent locks)

Probably solid

Disillusioned veterans

Questionable veterans

Prove it youngsters

Stopgaps/bridge quarterbacks

The locks are still locks despite some real rough patches of play from guys like Mahomes, Jackson and Prescott. They’ve balanced that with plenty of games where they looked like their usual dynamic selves, though, so there shouldn’t be much reason for concern there. 

All of the rookies should be starters for their teams in 2022, with the caveat that Wilson has played poorly enough to potentially merit a discussion about bringing in a veteran backup who could start if necessary. In the veteran group, Tannehill and Wentz have both been about what people expected. Neither Tennessee nor Indianapolis is expected to be in the quarterback market this offseason. Things are much more tenuous with Mayfield. They might not move on but he hasn’t improved his standing this season. 

There’s not a whole lot to update with Watson. He still wants out but his legal situation remains the biggest roadblock to a trade unless the Texans lower their asking price. We went in-depth on the Seahawks and Wilson a couple of weeks ago and everything still stands. Their loss to the Rams on Tuesday means they have serious questions about the future of the organization and Wilson to answer in 2022. 

Starting with every other situation on the list, though, we have updates, broken down by team and quarterback:


There’s been tons of speculation that this is Rodgers’ final season in Green Bay, and for good reason. After a well-publicized rift with the team last offseason, Rodgers secured a contract adjustment that voided a year off of his deal and gave him a no-trade clause. That sets up a fork in the road for the Packers this offseason to either trade or extend him. 

Most people have assumed Rodgers will be traded. But reading between the lines of his comments so far this season, including how he’s talked about the front office to the media, I don’t think he’s ready to force his way out at all costs. The elephant in the room remains 2020 first-round QB Jordan Love, drafted as the successor to Rodgers. But if Green Bay recommitted to Rodgers over Love, who has two years and a fifth-year option left on his deal, and came to him with an extension that guaranteed his spot on the team through the remainder of Love’s rookie deal, I think Rodgers would take it. 

For the Packers and GM Brian Gutekunst, that would mean swallowing their pride and admitting they made a mistake by trading up to draft Love. But given how well Rodgers has played, and how Love has not impressed in his limited opportunities, it would take some serious gumption to move on from Rodgers at this point.

It’s still a delicate situation that the Packers could re-inflame if they don’t handle it well. But it’s also much more of a real possibility that this isn’t Rodgers’ final season in Green Bay than most of us might have thought a few months ago. 


The Vikings need to make the playoffs and make some noise to potentially stave off a wave of changes this offseason. That’s been a pretty consistent drumbeat from the reporters covering the team. Right now, they’d be the No. 7 seed in the NFC but they have games coming up against the Rams and Packers the next two weeks. The other teams on the bubble in the NFC have the advantage of much softer schedules. 

So the odds are decent there’s a new regime making decisions in Minnesota in 2022. And that puts Cousins’ status in question depending on how different decision-makers feel about his game. Cousins is great at compiling stats, less so at winning games. He’s also not cheap and has a sizable cap hit that probably needs to be addressed this offseason, whether it’s an extension or by trading him to a team desperate for an upgrade. 


The Falcons are a real wildcard in the quarterback picture in 2022. Ryan is another veteran quarterback with a cap hit that is set to be astronomical. Atlanta was in actual cap hell this past offseason and things don’t get much better this coming year. The Falcons might have no choice but to do something with Ryan because their roster is so top-heavy they don’t have a lot of options to create cap space. 

As far as on the field, Ryan has started to show his age at 36. He never had a particularly strong arm to begin with but it’s been a liability at times in 2021. Still, Ryan has overall played well considering his supporting cast and if the Falcons wanted to trade him, they probably would have a market. They could also try to run it back and hope they improve the roster enough around Ryan to be relevant. 

While the Falcons have been in playoff contention, that’s more a product of a weird year in the NFC than any indication of team quality. They passed on taking a quarterback this past draft but reportedly would have taken Lance if he had been available at No. 4. Whether or not they look to get younger at the position probably depends on how they evaluate the 2022 class. Whatever happens, Atlanta represents a major domino in the 2022 quarterback carousel. 


A month into the season, Carr was on his way to once again resoundingly answering any doubters and earning a lucrative extension from Las Vegas in 2022. The demise of HC Jon Gruden injects a little bit of uncertainty into the future, however, as the Raiders are set to potentially have a completely new regime in 2022. There’s a good chance Carr is a selling point to build around for whoever comes on board next, but it’s not 100 percent. 


Lance hasn’t toppled Garoppolo from the starting job like many expected but it’s still looking like it’s going to be his job in 2022 after a year to watch and learn. Garoppolo would have to do something extraordinary during the postseason to keep it. He technically is still under contract for next season but it’s more likely any playoff success would just serve to juice what the 49ers hope his trade value is as they turn to the next phase of their plan with Lance. 

San Francisco was supposedly holding out for a first-round pick this year for their veteran QB after taking Lance, but it’s hard to see Garoppolo’s value coming anywhere close to that. He has a scheduled $25.6 million salary in 2022 which is quite a chunk to take on for someone who has been to this point a low-end starter with an extensive injury history. That’s also a complete non-starter as a backup salary, so the 49ers can’t plausibly sell that they’ll just keep him if no trade materializes. To cap it off, he has a no-trade clause, meaning he could force his way to free agency and have his pick of teams, though that might mean a pay cut from what he’s currently making. 

The Athletic’s Mike Sando talks to a ton of executives every year in his QB Tiers article, which provides a good gauge of how the NFL views different quarterbacks compared to public perception. Garoppolo widely polled as a Tier 3 quarterback, which is defined as a legitimate starter who needs a strong running game and defense to win. That’s good enough to garner some interest, especially if there’s a team out there that gets desperate when the music starts fading, but there’s a strong chance San Francisco ends up releasing Garoppolo in the end. New Orleans, Washington and Houston are some interesting landing spots that could make sense. 


As was expected before the start of the season, the tea leaves seem to indicate this is Roethlisberger’s final season in Pittsburgh with retirement this offseason imminent. The Steelers have been doing a ton of homework on the 2022 class of quarterbacks and it seems like there’s a good chance they take one in the first or second round. They have Mason Rudolph as a veteran option but perhaps they look for another upgrade as well. 

The organization has tended to avoid splashy moves, so it seems like the Steelers won’t be players for any of the big names who might be available. That’s the sense from tenured veterans on the beat like the Athletic’s Ed Bouchette at least. Then again, the ethos of the organization is to always compete, which means that can’t completely be ruled out. 


Detroit was probably always stuck with Goff in 2022 because of his contract anyway, but the veteran has really come on strong the past few weeks and taken some of the urgency out of addressing the position. Expect the team to still do its homework on this rookie class but continuing to build the rest of the roster and giving Goff a chance with a better supporting cast looks a lot more viable than it did a month ago. 


Winston’s ACL injury, unfortunately, cut his evaluation in New Orleans short. While the team’s passing game was obviously limited with Winston (he averaged just 23 pass attempts a game), it’s not clear whether that was due to personnel shortages on offense or an attempt to minimize Winston’s ability to throw a game away. 

Bringing him back is a decent fallback option for New Orleans if they can’t do better. He’s young enough to still potentially have some upside. But I fully expect the Saints to be in the mix for Wilson if the Seahawks make him available. The only thing they really have to do to fit him on the cap is free enough space to get his base salary in the door, then they can restructure. It’s quite doable. The bigger obstacle will be trade compensation and convincing Seattle to trade Wilson within the NFC. 

Taysom Hill is still a factor with that contract I guess and the Saints could look to pair Winston or another veteran with a rookie. Garoppolo, Bills QB Mitchell Trubisky and Bridgewater come to mind as veterans that might be good system fits if the Saints strike out on Wilson and want to add more competition besides Winston. 


I would still expect the Dolphins to be involved in the sweepstakes for Watson this offseason. Tagovailoa has had some solid moments since a rocky first half of the season, most of which was spent injured, but he hasn’t shown the type of transcendent ability that Watson has. 

(He also hasn’t been accused by nearly 25 women of sexual misconduct, which arguably should matter more. But for teams, all that matters is getting clarity on the legal and disciplinary consequences Watson is facing) 

If Miami can’t swing a deal for Watson, they can continue to work on developing Tagovailoa and building the supporting cast around him that he needs to thrive. The ceiling for him doesn’t look as high as it does for his other 2020 classmates like Burrow and Herbert, there’s no getting around that. But he still could be good enough to win with. 

Should the Dolphins trade for Watson, I think Tagovailoa has shown enough to fetch a second-round pick, at a bare minimum, from another team in return. 


New York has to decide on Jones’ fifth-year option this coming offseason. After ruling him out for the rest of the season with a nebulous neck injury, the final body of work for him in 2021 is underwhelming yet again, with 10 passing touchdowns, seven interceptions and 6.7 yards per attempt. In EPA/CPOE composite (expected points added/completion percentage over expected), Jones is 25th in the league. 

Still, everyone in the building up to this point, including HC Joe Judge, has publicly and privately had nothing but support for the former No. 6 overall pick, praising his leadership skills, mental acumen and work ethic in particular with the faith that the production will come around as he figures the game out and gets more help around him. They cite injuries and a deficient supporting cast as factors that have held Jones back so far. 

Time is running out, though. The option, which is due in May, guarantees Jones $21.369 million in 2023. The general manager who drafted Jones is likely out at the end of the season. New York is reportedly on Wilson’s trade destination wish list if he exits Seattle — and the Giants have an extra first-round pick this year from the Bears. I don’t know that there’s a real strong chance of that happening for a variety of reasons but it can’t be completely ruled out. 

Jones should be the betting favorite to start for the Giants in 2022 but anything beyond that is up in the air, as it is for everyone in that organization right now after a decade of losing. 


What a disaster 2021 has been for Carolina and Darnold. A promising start to the season was revealed to be a mirage as Darnold reverted to the same bad habits that got him dumped by the Jets. Carolina brought back Cam Newton after an injury to Darnold, but he’s been unable to pull the offense out of the tailspin caused by injuries, poor personnel decisions at offensive line and instability at offensive coordinator. 

Carolina compounded their mistake by inexplicably picking up Darnold’s fifth-year option back in May, guaranteeing him $18.9 million for 2022, so they’re basically stuck with him. They could tack void years onto his deal and convert it into a signing bonus to split the hit over two seasons but it’s just making the best of a bad situation.

As far as finding an actual answer at quarterback, the Panthers will be limited by the money and picks they’ve already sunk into the failed answers so far, plus the other picks they’ve already dealt away in 2022. Carolina made a run at trading for Stafford last offseason and has consistently been linked to Watson. However, they don’t have the draft capital other suitors do and it appears Watson prefers Miami above all other destinations. Don’t underestimate owner David Tepper’s desperation but at this point the deck seems stacked against a blockbuster deal. 

Panthers HC Matt Rhule is going to be under a lot of pressure to get the position right in 2022 after swinging and missing horribly on Darnold and Bridgewater the past two seasons. He also passed on both Fields and Jones in the draft this year. He talks a big game about staying patient and trusting the process of team building but a lot of his decisions seem motivated by short-term thinking. That doesn’t seem like it would lend itself to drafting a quarterback, especially given the public perception of the 2022 class, but having a young quarterback to develop could give Rhule something to point to as a reason he deserves to keep his job a little bit longer. 


The deck was stacked against Hurts entering the season given Philadelphia’s three first-round picks in 2022. But he has the Eagles in playoff contention and has shown enough promise in his audition this season that there’s a strong argument to build around him for at least another year. His athleticism is a great trump card and the team has shifted the offense to be more run-focused and better-suited to Hurts’ strengths. He needs to improve his decision-making and consistency but he already has improved his completion percentage 10 points from his rookie season. 

If the Eagles get a crack at someone like Watson or Wilson, it’s hard to pass that up. But at this point, Hurts has shown enough potential that it doesn’t make sense for the Eagles to spend resources that could be used to further fortify the team to either bring in someone else from the carousel or draft a QB. It’s better to build around him and see if he can continue to develop into a legitimate starting or franchise-level quarterback. 


Heinicke is a terrific story and will absolutely be a part of the picture for Washington in 2022. But it’s unlikely he’s unchallenged as the starter, as he’s just too limited physically. Washington will either draft a quarterback or bring in someone to compete with Heinicke for the starting job. Some names mentioned by the beat include Trubisky and Raiders QB Marcus Mariota, both of whom are scheduled to be free agents. 

Washington was one of the teams that apparently had trade interest in Mariota this past offseason but shied away due to some of the incentives in his contract that would have made it burdensome. Both he and Trubisky could draw interest as Tannehill-style reclamation projects — former high first-round picks who flamed out with their initial teams. 

While Washington was involved in trade talks for Stafford, HC Ron Rivera has expressed a reluctance to shed too many assets in a deal for a quarterback for fear of not being able to provide a strong supporting cast. This year has shown the Football Team is still a few steps away from being a contender, unlike the next and final team on our list, so it would make sense for Rivera to try and either band-aid for another year or draft a quarterback rather than swing a blockbuster trade. 


Just like in 2020 with the Panthers, Bridgewater has had moments of competency as a game manager for Denver. But it continues to be obvious that he’s much better suited as a game manager as opposed to someone who can consistently lift a team to victory. The Broncos are seen around the league as a team that’s just a quarterback away from being a serious factor — and expect them to approach the offseason that way. 

Denver has been speculated as a landing spot for Rodgers since last year’s draft, and they do make sense for a lot of reasons. The defense is strong, especially under the oversight of HC Vic Fangio, and the skill positions are loaded with talent. The offensive line is solid, especially when healthy, and they could potentially bring Packers OC Nathaniel Hackett over as well, who is highly regarded by Rodgers. Green Bay would rather get Rodgers to the AFC if they do trade him. 

If those two sides patch up their differences, the next most logical target would be Wilson. The same reasons for Rodgers apply to Wilson as well and Denver is on his reported trade wish list this year. They’re also the only AFC team. However, there’s a possibility the Broncos are either outbid or Seattle plays hardball with Wilson given he’s still under contract. 

So what are Denver’s options if they can’t land the big-name game? The Broncos have been linked to Watson in the past but not as strongly as other teams. If the Vikings decide to trade Cousins, the Broncos are a team to keep an eye on given GM George Paton was a key front office exec in Minnesota for years and years. Really, just go down the list, from Cousins to Ryan to maybe even Garoppolo. 

The draft is also technically a possibility, but the Broncos were the other quarterback-needy team that elected to pass on Fields and Jones this past April. And either one would probably be seen as the No. 1 quarterback prospect available if they were in this class. 

Speaking of which, addressing the 2022 quarterback class is a good way to wrap this up, as it will be a major factor in the coming offseason. Teams have done a decent amount of scouting on this class, enough to get a first impression. And that first impression is that this class isn’t nearly as good as last year’s. There aren’t any elite, slam-dunk prospects seen in the same light as guys like Lawrence, Burrow, Tagovailoa or Murray, to name a few examples from recent years.

However, a fair amount of people in the league still expect as many as five quarterbacks to go in the first round this year. Some of that is the yearly demand at the position which can push guys up the board. But some of it is also that there are legitimately intriguing quarterbacks set to be available even if there isn’t anyone you can say at this juncture will undoubtedly be a top-five or top-ten pick. 

There are two classes often brought up in comparison. One is the 2013 class, which following the riches of the 2011 and 2012 classes provided just one first-rounder (E.J. Manuel) and a whole lot of bleh. The most successful quarterback from that year has been Mike Glennon. But the other is the 2017 class, which was seen as a lull in between the 2016 class (Goff/Wentz No. 1 and No. 2 overall, Prescott rookie of the year) and the anticipated 2018 class (Darnold, Mayfield, Jackson, Allen, Rosen). 

Like this year, there was no consensus top prospect. Trubisky went No. 2 overall, Mahomes went 10th and Watson 11th. Trubisky busted but Mahomes and Watson are two of the best in the entire sport now. I’m not trying to say there’s a Mahomes or Watson in this 2022 class but I don’t think it’s going to be a wasteland like 2013. 

Teams have watched plenty of tape already, but the real meat of the draft process has yet to start. We still have the Senior Bowl and Combine, where teams will get the chance to get in the heads of these quarterbacks and figure out what makes them tick. There are pro days and draft meetings where the coaching staff will be integrated. Some teams will fall in love with certain quarterbacks, and it only takes one with a high enough pick to pull off a shocker. 

This Week In Football

  • The coaching cycle is starting to heat up with two vacancies now available after the Jaguars canned Urban Meyer. And already a number of the major names expected to be hot this cycle have been linked to the job. Jacksonville is expected to still be an attractive opening despite very little success in the past 10 years due to the presence of Lawrence. Former Eagles HC Doug Pederson has made it clear he’d be interested and that should be mutual given Pederson’s track record. Patriots OC Josh McDaniels, Buccaneers OC Byron Leftwich, Bills OC Brian Daboll and Buccaneers DC Todd Bowles are other names that have cropped up, with Leftwich, a former Jaguars quarterback, also picking up some buzz
  • The Bears are expected to join the Jaguars and Raiders as a vacancy at some point in the next few weeks, perhaps as soon as this coming Monday given the NFL rule change to allow head coaching interviews with two weeks to go in the regular season. It’s regarded as inevitable that HC Matt Nagy will be fired. The biggest questions are how deep the changes will go and who will replace Nagy to try and shepherd the Bears back to success. 
  • Three vacancies would qualify as a really quiet coaching cycle compared to most years when there can be five or six openings. But there continues to be persistent buzz around the Texans that HC David Culley could be one and done. It was a strange process last year, with a maligned owner and unhappy quarterback making Houston the obvious bottom of the barrel for any coaching candidate with options. Culley’s hire was way out of left field, as he was 65 and had been a career position coach to that point. The Texans haven’t been good with Culley but to be fair they tore things down to the studs and beyond. Anyone would have been hard-pressed to have success. But if Texans GM Nick Caserio sees a chance to upgrade, perhaps he takes it. 
  • As far as potential general manager openings, there really is only one that’s set in stone and that’s in New York where Giants GM Dave Gettleman is expected to be out at the end of the season. The Giants are going on 10 years of being abysmally bad (in case you missed the numerous, multi-part series by different outlets recapping the decade of ineptitude), so this next hire carries a ton of weight. Despite how things have deteriorated, it appears owner John Mara is seriously considering promoting from within with 25-year front office veteran Kevin Abrams. That would not exactly inspire confidence from fans regarding turning things around, but the Giants are notoriously insular as an organization. Perhaps they have to drift further toward rock bottom before that changes. 
  • It’s been a busy week in New York, as the Giants also confirmed they are shutting down QB Daniel Jones for the rest of the season as they proceed cautiously with a neck injury. It ends what has been another bleh season for the former No. 6 overall pick. Realistically, the Giants probably should begin exploring other options, especially with the extra first-round pick they picked up by trading with the Bears last year. But everything coming from the team on and off the record has consistently reiterated confidence in Jones, so it doesn’t appear the team feels the same way. To add even more insults and injuries, veteran WR Sterling Shepard tore his Achilles. Traditionally that’s been a tough injury to come back from, and Shepard was already viewed as a potential cap candidate for the Giants who need to do a lot of book-clearing next offseason. It may not be the end for Shepard as a Giant but it doesn’t look good. 
  • This time of year is when injuries take on extra cruelty, as major ones can often linger into the following season. That’s the case for Buccaneers WR Chris Godwin, who suffered a torn ACL and other issues on a big hit to his knee against the Saints. Godwin was playing out this season on the franchise tag and was due to make a truckload of money as a free agent, either from Tampa Bay or someone else. A decade or two ago, he would have been in real trouble. But modern medicine has taken a lot of the bite out of ACL injuries, though they’re still a major obstacle not to be taken for granted. The typical recovery is nine to 12 months after surgery. That pushes Godwin right up to the start of next season in September. Packers LT David Bakhtiari suffered a torn ACL around the same time last year and he started the season on the PUP list and still hasn’t returned to the field after a setback during rehab. Titans OLB Bud Dupree also tore his ACL late last season while playing on the tag, but his market was still fairly strong, as he signed for $16 million a year with Tennessee. He’d be the first to say he hasn’t been at full strength for most of the season, but the Titans viewed him as a long-term investment. Godwin will be viewed the same way and should still end up with a large deal in March. 
  • Modern medicine has done quite a bit for player health, but as alluded to earlier Achilles injuries remain among the most severe that a player can have, particularly for running backs. When Rams RB Cam Akers tore his Achilles before the season began, we pointed out that no running back ever has returned to play at a high level after suffering that injury. On Thursday, Los Angeles designated Akers to return from injured reserve just five months after he suffered the injury. The Rams are optimistic Akers will be able to contribute to what they hope is a deep playoff run, but I should caution we’re still a few steps away from that. Akers has to work his way back into game shape and five months is a quick return for any player, period, from this injury, let alone a running back. It’s also not just about returning to play, but returning to effectiveness. We’ve seen Achilles injuries turn numerous backs into a shell of their former selves. Akers was one of the league’s rising stars at running back, what will he look like now? 
  • After years of drama, legal and familial, it looks like things are trending toward the Broncos to be sold early in 2022 after the children of deceased former owner Pat Bowlen have been unable to resolve their differences over the inheritance of the team. It’ll be interesting to see what the final price ends up being, as some have speculated it could crack $3 billion given the rapid growth the NFL is expected to see over the next decade. 

Nickels & Dimes

Quick-hit thoughts and observations from around the NFL…

The Panthers don’t find themselves in Skip Bayless’ crosshairs that often. There are bigger targets for him to manufacture outrage and views. So when he takes aim at Rhule’s QB rotation between Newton, PJ Walker and now apparently Darnold, calling it a “clown show,” you know it’s bad. Especially because Skip is 100 percent right…

Terrific breakdown of how the NFL has made Mahomes mortal this year…

I’ll probably write a lot more on the Chiefs at some point in the next few weeks, but if teams stick with this blueprint against Mahomes and KC — and there’s no reason they wouldn’t right now — Mahomes has to become more surgical to counter. The blueprint for him is Rodgers, who had Mahomes’ ability to create off-platform and hit any throw on the field but learned how to patiently take what the defense gave him until they lost patience and gave him an opening. Then he would strike…

It would also help if Kansas City had a legitimate No. 3 option in the passing game. They really miss Sammy Watkins, as crazy as that is to say. They are just done with Mecole Hardman, evidenced by his falling snap counts and Mahomes bypassing him on a two-point conversion attempt last Thursday despite him being wide open and the first read…

Fascinating look at the scientific method at work…

I absolutely hate when offenses are bailed out on an underthrown pass with an interference call. It’s become so bad offenses have actually built it into their playbooks on third and longs to try and get the call. That said, this flag should absolutely have been thrown…

Rams LT Andrew Whitworth is the first-ever 40-year-old to start a game at left tackle, and he’s as elite as he’s ever been despite a serious knee injury last year. You obviously have Tom Brady playing deep into his 40s but it feels like more players at more positions are playing longer than what conventional wisdom would indicate. Something to keep an eye on…

Very relevant as we are poised to enter another hiring cycle…

Also relevant. Predicting successful coaches is a complete crapshoot. But it seems like it’s worse pulling from college…

There’s so much to unpack here…

And more from the disaster that was Urban Meyer in Jacksonville, in case you somehow missed this one. Meyer never denied kicking Josh Lambo, he only took issue with the characterization of how hard…

This is probably all you need to end the Jonathan Taylor MVP debate. But he’s having an absolutely incredible season. If he were a quarterback, his EPA per play would be better than more than half the starters in the league this year…

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