The quarterback position is the most important position in the NFL.
With training camps kicking off for all 32 teams, there are major storylines that follow the league’s best. Whether it’s position battles, new faces in new places, or even just contract disputes, there’s a lot to look forward to with pre-season just under two weeks away.
That’s why, this offseason, we’re going to be filtering through the news for you and helping to identify the key training camp storylines that you should be paying attention to for each position. Today, we move on to the top quarterback stories.
How do the new faces in new places look?
The 2022 off-season was filled with quarterbacks being traded. Whether it was Russell Wilson leaving Seattle for Denver, Deshaun Watson moving to Cleveland, or Matt Ryan saying goodbye to Atlanta, there was a ton of movement.
As unique an off-season as this was, it lays the groundwork for a very exciting training camp and preseason period. Most of the time, franchise quarterbacks do not play much in pre-season games to not risk injury.
Now the argument can be made that any additional time with new receivers and new offenses could lead to quarterbacks playing extended time in the pre-season. While players like Matt Ryan and Russell Wilson may not get a large number of snaps, working out privately with receivers you don’t really know is not enough to be ready for the start of the season.
How Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan, Watson, and others look in new places could also be a sign of things to come in the NFL where teams look to offload their quarterbacks to save some more cap room.
Make or Break Years for Quarterbacks
Daniel Jones, Jalen Hurts, and Jameis Winston are just some of over a third of the league’s quarterbacks who are entering make-or-break seasons.
Jones is potentially entering his last season in a Giants uniform after the team declined the fifth-year option on his contract. With a new head coach, and a better offensive line protecting him, the excuses have run out for Daniel Jones.
Then there is Jameis Winston, who has the unenviable task of replacing Drew Brees in a contract year for himself. Without the offensive mind of Sean Payton, Winston will need to produce even with a potential suspension looming for the Saint’s top offensive weapon, Alvin Kamara.
Jalen Hurts had the Eagles bolster their receiving core and defense to better maximize his potential. With two first-round picks next year, the Eagles could be in the market for a new quarterback, should Hurts fail in 2022.
Then there are other quarterbacks who are on their last chance. Baker Mayfield was traded to Carolina after the Browns wanted an “adult” at quarterback (and then promptly traded for a player with 24 sexual assault allegations), Carson Wentz is in the final year of his deal and was traded to Washington after the Colts blamed their 2021 woes on him.
Tua Tagovailoa, Da Prescott, and Jared Goff are other names to watch that need big seasons.
The NFL is a very fast league. One minute, you could be a rising star, and the next, you’re fighting for a roster spot. For a lot of quarterbacks, this year could very well be their last as starters.
The Pittsburgh Quandry
There are a few teams that will have quarterbacks battle in training camp. We already alluded to Carolina’s, but one major battle is in Pittsburgh.
The Steelers signed Mitchell Trubisky to compete for the starting job following Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement. Trubisky’s numbers are pretty solid since coming into the NFL and is 29-21 as a starter. Behind a loaded defense and talented skill group, Trubisky was in a very comfortable position.
Until the NFL Draft.
The Steelers selected homegrown talent, Kenny Pickett in the first round and announced that there would be quarterback competition in camp. Pickett was proclaimed the most pro-ready player in a weak draft class of quarterbacks and has adequate arm strength and solid accuracy.
There aren’t many position battles for quarterbacks left, but the one in Pittsburgh will be very intriguing. The Steelers have a roster that is ready for a playoff run now. Depending on who wins the job could also be the beneficiary of not having to do too much at one time.
NFC West Showdowns
When you make the conference championship and are looking to move away from the quarterback that helped lead the team there, you better believe the replacement is better at all levels.
That’s not really the case in San Francisco. Reports all say that the 49ers are allowing Jimmy Garrappollo to facilitate a trade but there aren’t any places where he’d be the starting quarterback right away.
The 49ers waited for the right deal for JimmyG and are now stuck. While the 49ers organization has vehemently said that Trey Lance will be the starter going into the 2022 season, the future of JimmyG is unsure.
Not exactly the best place to be in right now.
The 49ers aren’t the only NFC West team to be going through that though. The Seattle Seahawks, after trading away Russell Wilson, have a quarterback battle of their own.
After missing out on the Baker Mayfield sweepstakes, the Seahawks seem prepared to have a camp battle between Geno Smith and Drew Lock.
I’ll repeat it again: Geno Smith and Drew Lock. Riveting.
Could the Seahawks trade for JimmyG? It’s unlikely but is an extremely intriguing option. But as of this moment, it is clear that the NFC West is ripe with debates on quarterbacks
And that’s not even getting into what the Cardinals have done over the last week. After giving Kyler Murray the second highest per year total in a new extension, reports came out about the official wording of Murray’s contract stipulating that the quarterback must spend four hours a week watching film without any distractions.
It doesn’t need to be explained about how odd a demand this is and only draws further criticism towards Murray’s character. There’s a lot going on in the NFC West that isn’t being talked about enough.
Injuries to the Top Signal-Callers
Jimmy Garoppolo is currently dealing with a shoulder injury. Matthew Stafford is recovering from an elbow injury, and now Joe Burrow is getting surgery to remove his appendix.
While none of the injuries are expected to be an issue once the regular season begins, it is worth keeping an eye on franchise quarterbacks recovering from major injuries.
Injuries like Matt Stafford’s injury could linger later on in the season. Cowboys quarterback Dak Prescott is a prime example of this. Last season, Prescott was dealing with an arm injury that kept him out for multiple weeks. While arm fatigue isn’t common amongst quarterbacks, and Prescott had an excellent start to the season, the Cowboys and their passing game struggled later in the year and ultimately couldn’t get out of the first round of the playoffs.
In the end, the current injuries aren’t major issues to some of the top players in the league, but it is worth to keeping an eye on.
How do Quarterbacks look without their top wide-out?
Aaron Rodgers lost Devante Adams. Patrick Mahomes lost Tyreek Hill and even Ryan Tannehill lost AJ Brown.
It wasn’t only quarterbacks that were traded this off-season. Top receivers in search of lucrative contract extensions got their money’s worth and found greener pastures over the last few months.
Now pro-bowl quarterbacks will be without their top targets and will need to shoulder the load themselves.
We have never seen Patrick Mahomes play without Tyreek Hill and his development will be interesting to watch as the year goes on. Ryan Tannehill saw the Titans draft Malik Willis in the third round. If he struggles out of the gate without AJ Brown, how quickly do the pitchforks come out demanding a change at quarterback?
Aaron Rodgers has had success before Devante Adams, but the Packers receiving core is extremely barren of a legit number one threat. Could that make Rodgers a better passer? Sure. It could also lead to Rodgers’ decline as well.
The NFL Cap is a complex process. The way positions are judged and graded based on the cap is even more so.
Quarterbacks are seen as the most important position on the roster. But when they are paid as the most important, it means other positions of need are ignored.
It’s up to the quarterback to make do with the weaknesses that come from their own contracts, but it also can leave a player angry at their own roster.
The recent turnover at top positions leads to a dangerous cycle:
The quarterback gets drafted. The quarterback plays well under the rookie deal and leads the team to success. The signal-caller then wants top dollar in extension talks and drains the team of necessary cap room to improve the roster. The roster, having been cut down of top talent to make room for the quarterback deal, is not as good as before which requires the quarterback to do more with less. The quarterback, being sick of needing to do more with less, blames the front office for not surrounding him with better talent. The front office, realizing they can’t do anything while the quarterback’s contract is an albatross looks to trade the quarterback to get better picks and more cap relief. With those picks, the team then drafts another quarterback.
And the cycle continues.
Some teams have landed themselves in quarterback purgatory. Others are gearing up for another title run. The only thing that is known for sure is that the quarterback position will be the most watched spot on almost every roster this season.