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The dominant story of this NFL offseason, at least before the salaries for receivers exploded and basically forced some to be traded, was the influx of outstanding quarterbacks to new teams which turned Super Bowl dreams in Denver, Cleveland, and perhaps Indianapolis, into tangible 2022 season goals.
But there’s another story which affects more teams and that’s going mostly ignored. Consider how many teams, seeing ample evidence their veteran quarterback is not elite, are staying with that guy.
They’re letting it ride.
FILE – Denver Broncos quarterback Drew Lock (3) passes against the Kansas City Chiefs during the first half of an NFL football game Jan. 8, 2022, in Denver. Lock says he is relishing the chance to get a fresh start for his career following his trade to the Seattle Seahawks. (AP Photo/Jack Dempsey, File)
They may or may not have tried to upgrade but ultimately decided that surrounding the same guy who hasn’t been good enough with more talent was their best approach to making the guy, well, good enough.
Team after NFL team is facing this scenario for 2022 because the avenues for improving now are quite barren — with more trades unlikely and no other draft promising young talent for another year.
So these teams are going to ride or die with their guys — even though their guys haven’t proven on the field they definitely deserve the confidence.
Consider the Philadelphia Eagles, for example. They’re one of these teams.
Despite owning plenty of draft capital in multiple drafts, the Eagles decided they were going to hope incumbent starter Jalen Hurts could develop into a star.
The Eagles did everything they could to upgrade their roster in free agency and even traded away a first-round pick for Tennessee Pro Bowl receiver A.J. Brown. They did everything they could to maximize the draft with good picks Jordan Davis, Cameron Jurgens and Nakobe Dean the first three rounds of the draft.
And now it’s up to Hurts to prove himself.
“It’s understood. It’s my opportunity, it’s my team,” Hurts said this week when asked about the obvious support general manager Howie Roseman showed in not replacing him. “It’s my team, so we’re ready to go.”
Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa (1) throws a pass against the New Orleans Saints during the first half of an NFL football game Monday, Dec. 27, 2021, in New Orleans. (AP Photo/Butch Dill)
That’s a lot of confidence in a quarterback who has thrown 22 touchdowns and 16 interceptions.
But the Eagles have a fallback position. Like many other teams that are basically gambling on improvement from a starting quarterback that desperately needs to get better to stick around beyond next season, the Eagles have a fallback plan for 2023.
They have two first-round draft picks lined up for the ’23 draft that they can use in whatever manner they decide, including by conducting a quarterback search next offseason.
Multiple teams in the uncertain-but-praying-for-a-miracle quarterback situation have fallback positions that might also lead them to having new quarterbacks in 2023.
Here are the teams and their positions:
Miami Dolphins: QB — Tua Tagovailoa. Situation — Tua hasn’t been good enough in either of his first two years while fellow 2020 first-round picks Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert have been outstanding. The hope is a coaching change and the overhaul of the offense at both offensive line and receiver position will lead to a new and amazing Tua being unveiled. The fallback — The Dolphins have more than most teams. They have two first-round draft picks in the ’23 draft, and they have the muscle memory of chasing Tom Brady to be their quarterback the last couple of years. And next year Brady is a free agent.
Pittsburgh Steelers: QB: Mitchell Trubisky. Situation — Ben Roethlisberger has retired so Trubisky was signed to what is basically a one-year, prove-it deal. If he plays well, the Steelers have him under contract for ’23 but if not, they can cut him and save $8 million in cap space. It’s a gamble on a former No. 2 overall pick who washed out in Chicago. The fallback — The Steelers selected Kenny Pickett in the first round of the draft last week.
Tennessee Titans: QB — Ryan Tannehill. Situation — Tannehill has not been a good playoff quarterback and last year’s 3-interception game was especially egregious. The Titans sniffed around on trying to trade for Aaron Rodgers but were quickly rebuffed. If Tannehill doesn’t play up to his $38.6 million salary cap charge, this will likely be his final year with the team. The fallback — The Titans selected Malik Willis in the third round of the draft last week.
New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones throws under pressure during the first half of an NFL football game against the Philadelphia Eagles, Sunday, Nov. 28, 2021, in East Rutherford, N.J. (AP Photo/Corey Sipkin)
Houston Texans: QB — Davis Mills. Situation — Mills is only in his second year which suggests he deserves more time, especially considering the fact he was good in four of the final five games he played. But he’s a rough spot because the Texans have been losing for a while now and need results from everyone — including him. So he needs to deliver some to keep his job. The fallback: The Texans have two first round picks in the 2023 draft.
Washington Commanders: QB — Carson Wentz. Situation — Washington has been digging through the QB trash of other teams hoping to find a treasure and Wentz is the latest guy the club has pulled out of the bin. Wentz has washed out in Philly and Indy and probably doesn’t get a leash that extends beyond 2022 unless he plays well. The fallback: The Commanders selected Sam Howell in the fifth round of the draft but who knows?
New York Giants: QB — Daniel Jones. Situation — He’s got a new coach and new GM and they’re saying they’re confident in Jones but they’re not showing that confidence because they declined to exercise the fifth-year option on his rookie contract. So it’s likely put up or bye-bye for Jones. The fallback — The Giants are one of only two teams on this list without an obvious fallback plan if their QB doesn’t perform.
Detroit Lions: QB — Jared Goff. Situation — It looked bad for Goff and the Lions that a trade that sent Goff to Detroit and Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams resulted in the Rams winning the Super Bowl. So Goff, not good enough last year, has to play to a higher standard because the Lions can save up to $26 million in cap space in 2023 by cutting him. The fallback — The Lions have two first-round draft picks in 2023.
Atlanta Falcons: QB — Marcus Mariota. Situation — They traded Matt Ryan and signed Mariota, who washed out in Tennessee and was a backup in Las Vegas. It’s a big opportunity for Mariota to play for Arthur Smith, his former Tennessee offensive coordinator. But if he plays as he did in Tennessee that won’t be good enough. The fallback — No obvious path to an upgrade.
Carolina Panthers: QB — Sam Darnold. Situation — He washed out with the New York Jets and was a disappointment in Carolina last season. The Panthers tried to find a replacement by trading for Deshaun Watson but he didn’t want to come. So if Darnold doesn’t make it work now both he and coach Matt Rhule could be out. The fallback — The Panthers selected Matt Corral in the third round of the draft.
Seattle Seahawks: QB — Drew Lock. Situation — They traded or were forced to trade (depending on whom you believe) Russell Wilson to Denver and that ended a fine era in team history. They got Lock as part of that trade but tried to get into the Deshaun Watson sweepstakes. He wasn’t interested. Lock has 25 TDs and 20 interceptions in three seasons, so he needs to stop turning the ball over or this is probably his final chance to be an NFL starter. The fallback — The Seahawks have two first-round and two second-round picks in next year’s draft.