Current NFL Starting QBs Who Could Be Replaced in Regular Season

Alex BallentineAugust 15, 2022

Current NFL Starting QBs Who Could Be Replaced in Regular Season

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    LANDOVER, MD - AUGUST 13: Baker Mayfield #6 of the Carolina Panthers looks to pass against the Washington Commanders during the first half of the preseason game at FedExField on August 13, 2022 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
    Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

    The 2022 NFL offseason was defined by quarterback movement, but very few quarterback situations are unresolved on paper going into the preseason.

    For now.

    There are really only three quarterback battles going on in training camp this year, involving the Carolina Panthers, Pittsburgh Steelers and Seattle Seahawks.

    But that doesn't mean the quarterback clarity will last for everyone through Week 18.

    Based on recent performance and the team's situation, these quarterbacks might start the season as the starter but are going to have to thrive to hold on to it.

Daniel Jones, New York Giants

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    New York Giants quarterback Daniel Jones (8) passes prior to a preseason NFL football game between New York Giants and the New England Patriots, Thursday, Aug. 11, 2022, in Foxborough, Mass. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa)
    AP Photo/Charles Krupa

    When the New York Giants signed Tyrod Taylor this offseason, they made it clear they were signing him to be the backup to Daniel Jones.

    Head coach Brian Daboll confirmed that back in April at an NFC coaches' breakfast, per Jordan Raanan of ESPN.

    But even while the new coaching staff and front office have spoken positively about their belief in Jones, their actions haven't necessarily matched their words. Adam Schefter of ESPN reported the team made a run at Mitchell Trubisky in free agency before signing Taylor.

    The team also declined Jones' fifth-year option, which would have added another year to his contract that would have cost the team nearly $22.4 million for the 2023 season.

    Instead, they've made 2022 an audition year for him to prove he can be the quarterback in Daboll's system and for the team moving forward. But the team also appears to be comfortable with Taylor fitting as well.

    "He's smart. He's a leader. He's athletic," general manager Joe Schoen said about Taylor, per Raanan. "He can run Dabes' system and [offensive coordinator Mike] Kafka—the stuff they want to do on offense. You don't have to change up your offense if he has to go into the game."

    The same statement holds true if they determine Danny Dimes isn't the guy long before Week 18.

Marcus Mariota, Atlanta Falcons

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    DETROIT, MICHIGAN - AUGUST 12: Marcus Mariota #1 of the Atlanta Falcons runs the ball while playing the Detroit Lions during a NFL preseason game at Ford Field on August 12, 2022 in Detroit, Michigan. (Photo by Gregory Shamus/Getty Images)
    Gregory Shamus/Getty Images

    It did not take the Atlanta Falcons long to name Marcus Mariota their starting quarterback. Charles London—the team's quarterback coach—named the former Heisman winner the starter after just one day of training camp, per Josh Kendall of The Athletic.

    The decision makes sense. Mariota has experience with head coach Arthur Smith going back to their days with the Tennessee Titans, and the next option is Desmond Ridder.

    The Cincinnati Bearcats quarterback was the No. 1-ranked passer on the Bleacher Report big board, but the NFL clearly disagreed with that assessment. He fell to the third round as several teams that could have drafted a quarterback passed on him.

    Still, Ridder has already shown the athleticism that makes him an interesting prospect with 59 yards rushing on six carries in his preseason debut along with a game-winning touchdown pass.

    Mariota hasn't started a game since 2019 when he lost his job to Ryan Tannehill and signed on to become a backup for the Las Vegas Raiders in 2020. He's thrown a total of 30 passes over the last two seasons.

    Maybe he turns out to be the guy to run Smith's offense and bring the Falcons to some level of respectability. If he doesn't, the Falcons are better off playing their young players and seeing what they have.

    That could ultimately move the needle in Ridder's direction by the end of the season.

Baker Mayfield, Carolina Panthers

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    LANDOVER, MD - AUGUST 13: Baker Mayfield #6 and Sam Darnold #14 of the Carolina Panthers warmup before the preseason game against the Washington Commanders at FedExField on August 13, 2022 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
    Baker Mayfield and Sam Darnold (Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)

    Baker Mayfield was always going to need to prove himself in 2022.

    Mayfield's career thus far has been marked by inconsistency, and while the Panthers were smart to trade for the former Cleveland Browns quarterback, it's still unclear if they are going to get the 2020 version of him or the 2021 edition.

    At this point, it's well-documented that Mayfield played with a torn labrum in his non-throwing shoulder last season. From Week 3 on, he was hampered by the injury and looked nothing like the quarterback who threw for 26 touchdowns to eight interceptions while leading the Browns to their only playoff win since 1994.

    For now, everything seems to be going well in Carolina.

    "He has a good presence about him," offensive coordinator Ben McAdoo said, per David Newton of ESPN. "And he's got a fire in his gut." Newton also noted that McAdoo and head coach Matt Rhule said it was "impressive" how quickly Mayfield picked up on the mental side of things in training camp.

    Newton also reported Rhule won't name a starter until after the team's second preseason game against the New England Patriots. So it's fair to wonder how much of the team's excitement around its new quarterback is manufactured if it isn't willing to name him the starter yet.

    Ultimately, things could go either way. If Mayfield looks like the guy he was in 2020, the Panthers are going to have to decide if they want to give him a new contract.

    If he struggles again with a healthy shoulder, he could wind up conceding the job to Sam Darnold or rookie Matt Corral.

    As usual with Mayfield, everything is on the table.

Geno Smith, Seattle Seahawks

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    PITTSBURGH, PA - AUGUST 13: Geno Smith #7 of the Seattle Seahawks scrambles out of the pocket under pressure from Henry Mondeaux #99 of the Pittsburgh Steelers in the first quarter during a preseason game at Acrisure Stadium on August 13, 2022 in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Justin Berl/Getty Images)
    Justin Berl/Getty Images

    Geno Smith was the only Seahawks quarterback to throw a pass in the entire first half of their preseason opener against the Pittsburgh Steelers.

    For now, that's a good indication that he is leading the quarterback battle that's going on in Seattle. He should also be familiar with the system, as he made four appearances and three starts in relief of Russell Wilson last season and proved to be a safe option.

    He took great care of the ball and threw for five touchdowns to just one interception in those games. However, he didn't make a whole lot of plays, and the Seahawks went 1-2 with him conservatively running the offense.

    The veteran might be capable of getting the season off to a start in which they aren't a disaster, but there's almost no upside to having the 31-year-old be the starter.

    Drew Lock, on the other hand, has showcased some playmaking skills that have surprised head coach Pete Carroll.

    "I'm surprised at some stuff that Drew does," Carroll said, per Gregg Bell of the Tacoma News Tribune. "His movement. His natural ability. His ability to move and throw the ball with his feet in awkward positions at times to get the ball out, his quickness of release. I saw that stuff, but until I saw the person, I didn't know."

    Lock is certainly not a cure-all. He went 8-13 as the starter with the Denver Broncos and threw 25 touchdowns to 20 interceptions across 21 starts.

    At this point, however, he's the most exciting option the Seahawks have on the roster.

Mitchell Trubisky, Pittsburgh Steelers

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    Pittsburgh Steelers quarterback Mitch Trubisky (10) scrambles ]against the Seattle Seahawks during the first half of an NFL preseason football game, Saturday, Aug. 13, 2022, in Pittsburgh. (AP Photo/Fred Vuich)
    AP Photo/Fred Vuich

    With the Ben Roethlisberger era in the rearview mirror, the Pittsburgh Steelers have more ambiguity at the quarterback position than ever.

    Heading into the first preseason game, head coach Mike Tomlin told CBS Sports that Mitchell Trubisky would start if the Steelers had to play a meaningful game right now. The veteran coach pointed to Trubisky's statistics, resume and experience advantage over the others.

    The former Chicago Bears starter certainly looked the part in the first preseason game against the Seahawks, as he led a seven-play, 90-yard drive to open the game, capping it off with a 13-yard touchdown pass to Gunner Olszewski.

    But perhaps the most telling part of Tomlin's answer to the question was the end. The coach said that it's "appropriate to start there," referring to Trubisky's advantages.

    It makes sense that Trubisky will get the nod at the beginning of the season, but it doesn't change the fact that first-round pick Kenny Pickett was brought in to be the team's long-term starter.

    Outside of Trubisky's second season in which he actually finished third behind Drew Brees and Patrick Mahomes in QBR, he's never finished higher than 21st as a starter. Getting a fresh start in Pittsburgh could rejuvenate his career.

    If it doesn't and the Steelers suffer, there's a good chance we are going to see Pickett before the year is over.

Carson Wentz, Washington Commanders

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    LANDOVER, MD - AUGUST 13: Carson Wentz #11 of the Washington Commanders looks to pass against the Carolina Panthers during the first half of the preseason game at FedExField on August 13, 2022 in Landover, Maryland. (Photo by Scott Taetsch/Getty Images)
    Scott Taetsch/Getty Images

    Carson Wentz is the most recently productive quarterback on this list, but it shouldn't be shocking if he isn't the starter by the end of the season.

    On paper, Wentz is the best quarterback the Washington franchise has had in a while. His passer rating of 94.6 from 2021 is higher than any starter for them since Kirk Cousins in 2016.

    Yet, Wentz will be starting for his third team in three years. The Eagles were willing to eat the biggest dead cap hit in NFL history to get him off the roster. Zak Keefer of The Athletic reported that some inside the Colts organization were "finished with the Carson Wentz experiment long before the team's late-season collapse."

    That late-season collapse included a loss to the Jacksonville Jaguars with a playoff spot on the line in Week 18.

    On one hand, the Commanders committed a large sum of cash and gave up draft picks, including a second-rounder, to acquire Wentz. On the other, his contract comes with an out in the 2023 season in which Washington could move on from him without incurring any dead cap charges.

    Should Wentz falter, the Commanders have two options in Taylor Heinicke and Sam Howell.

    Heinicke was 7-8 as the starter last season, so they've won at a reasonable level with him behind center. Howell brings upside as a fifth-round draft pick who had phenomenal freshman and sophomore campaigns at North Carolina before struggling in his final season with just 24 touchdowns to nine interceptions.

    If Howell is impressing in practice and Wentz isn't winning games, there could be a temptation to scrap the Wentz project and either turn the reins back over to Heinicke or give the rookie a shot.

Zach Wilson, New York Jets

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    PHILADELPHIA, PA - AUGUST 12: Zach Wilson #2 of the New York Jets throws a pass against the Philadelphia Eagles in the first half of the preseason game at Lincoln Financial Field on August 12, 2022 in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. (Photo by Mitchell Leff/Getty Images)
    Mitchell Leff/Getty Images

    It's not ideal to cut bait on a young quarterback too early. Quarterback development isn't always linear, and patience can be key to seeing a return on a high draft pick.

    That being said, the New York Jets should have higher expectations for Zach Wilson this season.

    The second-year quarterback was not good last season after going second overall. He was among the slowest quarterbacks to get rid of the ball, according to Next Gen Stats. While some quarterbacks hold on to the ball too long but make big plays to make up for it, Wilson didn't fall into that category.

    He had the worst completion percentage over expected (minus-10.3) by a considerable margin. Mike Glennon was second-worst at minus-8.2 followed by Trevor Lawrence at minus-5.4.

    To make matters worse, Wilson suffered a bone bruise and a meniscus tear during Friday's preseason game that will require surgery, and it is expected to keep him out for two to four weeks.

    Some of his struggles last season could be chalked up to being a rookie and adjusting to the speed of the NFL. However, the Jets have done enough that they should expect massive improvement in 2022.

    They bulked up the offensive line with the addition of Laken Tomlinson and gave Wilson two reliable tight ends in Tyler Conklin and C.J. Uzomah. Rookie running back Breece Hall gives him a promising option in the backfield as well.

    If Wilson doesn't make a jump, we already know that head coach Robert Saleh is a big fan of veteran Joe Flacco. The head coach said he believes the former Ravens signal-caller is "a starting quarterback in the league," per Cody Benjamin of CBS Sports.

    Those words could end up being prophetic.

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