Just as we all expected at the start of the 2022 NFL season, the league's 2023 offseason could hinge significantly on the fates of Geno Smith and Jared Goff.
Yeah, the NFL never stops making us use the ¯\_(ツ)_/¯ emoji.
See, just a few months ago, preseason mock drafts almost always had the Seattle Seahawks and Detroit Lions picking in the top 10, partly due to the fact that Smith and Goff were their respective quarterbacks. That was especially the case with the Seahawks, who appeared to be entering a post-Russell Wilson bridge year with Smith serving as a placeholder, but the Lions were also widely expected to struggle ahead of a year in which they can save more than $20 million by parting ways with Goff.
Unsurprisingly, a lot of those mock drafts also had at least one but often both of those teams selecting quarterbacks in the top portion of Round 1.
Well, never mind that. In the midst of the home stretch, Seattle and Detroit are both scrapping for playoff positions in the NFC. They entered Week 15 a combined 13-13 with positive scoring margins, in large part due to the fact that Smith and Goff both rank in the top 10 among qualified passers in terms of touchdown throws, yards per attempt, passer rating and QBR.
Smith has completely salvaged a once-nearly-forgotten career, while Goff is playing possibly the best football of his life for an inspiring Lions squad. Both are also certainly earning themselves a lot of money, because the former is scheduled to hit free agency this offseason while the latter is increasing the chances that the Lions hand him the $30.65 million he's owed for 2023 rather than cutting him loose for about a third of that rate.
But it gets even more bizarre than that, because the irony is the Seahawks are still on track to land the second overall pick and the Lions are still in line for the fourth overall selection. That's because Wilson and the Denver Broncos are having such a shockingly miserable year after that trade sent a first-rounder to Seattle, while Matthew Stafford's Los Angeles Rams have experienced a Murphy's Law-level Super Bowl hangover two years after shipping two first-rounders to the Motor City in the Goff-Stafford swap.
It'd be pretty odd if the season ended today, but if that were to happen, the Seahawks would possess the second and 17th overall picks, and the Lions would be on the clock at four and 15.
Now, both teams are left with intriguing decisions to make. If they wind up with premium top-10 picks, do they still take quarterbacks? It's entirely possible these are aberrational seasons for both Smith and Goff, who will both be quite expensive compared to rookies like Bryce Young. C.J. Stroud, Will Levis or Anthony Richardson in the next few years.
An early-offseason decision to go quarterback in the draft and cut bait from either vet could enable either team to spend much more in free agency, increasing their chances of taking a step forward (or at least maintaining status quo) with pro-ready rookies under center.
But on the other hand, a decision not to go signal-caller on April 27 would allow either already-seemingly-playoff-caliber squad to add two more pro-ready non-quarterback weapons each that evening (with the draft capital to move up for practically anybody they want).
Imagine this Seattle team in 2023, with Smith proving 2022 wasn't a fluke and, say, Will Anderson Jr. or Jalen Carter and Christian Gonzalez, Kelee Ringo or Joey Porter Jr. on defense?
Imagine this Detroit team in 2023, with Goff continuing to finally live up to his potential and, say, Anderson or Carter and Gonzalez, Ringo or Porter on defense?
That'd terrify the rest of the conference.
Beyond that, the "quarterback or no quarterback" calls in Detroit and Seattle will have ripple effects throughout the league inside and outside of the draft. Teams that right now could be in the mix for guys like Young, Stroud, Levis or Richardson—the Houston Texans, Indianapolis Colts and Carolina Panthers, in particular—could decide to instead pursue Goff or Smith if either were to become available in the spring.
In other words, until we have word on where Goff and Smith will reside next season, 2023 mock drafts might be more out to lunch than ever.
But that's what we love about this ¯\_(ツ)_/¯-inducing league, right?