7 NFL Teams Most Likely to Have a New Starting Quarterback in 2022
Five weeks remain in the 2021 NFL season, and the playoff races are tight, particularly in the AFC. However, it's never too early to look ahead to the offseason, and you can bet several franchises are already focused on it.
One of the biggest storylines of this past offseason was the quarterback carousel. Five quarterbacks were drafted in the first round, while Carson Wentz, Gardner Minshew II, Matthew Stafford, Jared Goff, Teddy Bridgewater and Sam Darnold were all traded.
We could see a similar amount of quarterback movement this offseason, even though the rookie quarterback class isn't perceived as especially strong. Jameis Winston, Cam Newton, Andy Dalton and Bridgewater are just some of the signal-callers scheduled to hit the free-agent market. Quarterbacks may again be popular on the trade market, too.
Here, we'll dive into the seven teams most likely to have a new starter in 2022. We'll dive into their current quarterbacking situations, why changes are likely to occur and what the options are moving forward.
Teams are listed in alphabetical order.
The trade for Darnold has not worked out for the Carolina Panthers. The former New York Jets quarterback was a disaster before landing on injured reserve with a shoulder injury, posting a career-worst passer rating of just 71.3.
The Panthers have already picked up Darnold's fifth-year option, but it would be a shock to see him as Plan A in Carolina next season.
The Panthers brought back Cam Newton after Darnold's injury. While he played well in his first start of 2021, Newton was miserable in Week 12. He completed just five of 21 attempts in a 33-10 loss to the Miami Dolphins. That lopsided defeat led to the dismissal of offensive coordinator Joe Brady.
Unless Newton makes a significant improvement under interim coordinator Jeff Nixon, it's hard to envision him as more than a current-season stopgap.
According to CBS Sports NFL Insider Jason La Canfora, the Panthers were interested in acquiring Deshaun Watson before the trade deadline but ultimately backed off. Watson could be an option in the spring, but he still faces 22 civil lawsuits and 10 criminal complaints from women who have accused him of sexual assault or misconduct.
Carolina probably won't make a move on Watson until/unless his situation is resolved. Instead, the Panthers—who currently hold the No. 8 pick—will likely examine other options or take their chances in the 2022 draft.
Bridgewater beat out Drew Lock for the Denver Broncos' starting gig in camp, but he has failed to flourish in his new home. Bridgewater has a solid passer rating of 95.0 on the season but has struggled with consistency and pushing the ball down the field. He ranks 19th in yards per completion among qualifying quarterbacks.
In a division that features Patrick Mahomes, Justin Herbert and Derek Carr, a good game-manager isn't enough. With Bridgewater slated to hit free agency, expect the Broncos to look for an upgrade in the offseason.
The draft will be an option, but Denver is likely to first try its hand at the trade market. Along with Watson, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers and Seattle Seahawks quarterback Russell Wilson could be available.
According to Fox Sports' Jay Glazer, the Packers have agreed to trade Rodgers after this year if he still wants out. Glazer also believes Wilson could try forcing his way out of Seattle in the offseason.
"Right now, everything's great. But in the offseason, can I see Russell do this again? A million percent. I see Russell trying to do this again," Glazer said on the NFL on Fox pregame show in October.
There's no guarantee Green Bay or Seattle will be willing to trade its quarterback, but the Broncos—who have the league's third-ranked scoring defense—are at least likely to try for a win-now move.
The Detroit Lions got their first win of the 2021 season in Week 13, thanks in no small part to Jared Goff's best performance of the year to date (296 yards, three touchdowns, one interception). However, one win isn't going to solidify Goff's long-term future in Detroit.
Acquired as part of the trade that sent Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams, Goff has always projected as a stopgap under center. The Lions are in full rebuild mode, and they're armed with a pair of first-round 2022 draft selections.
Detroit currently holds the No. 1 pick in next year's draft, though it might not use that selection on a signal-caller. Oregon pass-rusher Kayvon Thibodeaux is the top player on Bleacher Report's big board, and grabbing a premier sack artist with the top pick would make a lot of sense for the Lions.
It would be a mild surprise, though, if the Lions didn't come back with their second first-round selection and nab a signal-caller. Quarterbacks like Pittsburgh's Kenny Pickett and Cincinnati's Desmond Ridder could be available near the bottom of the first round, where L.A.'s selection is likely to fall.
There's a reasonable chance the Lions keep Goff for another year to serve as a bridge while developing a rookie, but he isn't the long-term answer—he has a 1-16-1 record without Rams coach Sean McVay.
Expect the Lions to turn the page from Goff early in 2022, if not before Week 1.
Deshaun Watson is almost certainly on his way out of Houston—he requested a trade this past offseason—and the Texans' current crop of quarterbacks have been underwhelming.
Rookie third-round pick Davis Mills has shown some promise, but he's thrown seven touchdowns, eight interceptions and holds a passer rating of 78.4. Journeyman Tyrod Taylor has gone 2-4 as a starter but has been equally disappointing on the stat sheet.
Taylor has thrown five touchdowns, five interceptions and has a rating of 76.7. He is also playing on a one-year deal and is likely to hit the open market in a few months.
There's always a chance head coach David Culley believes he can develop Mills as a long-term starter. However, if he believed that already, it's unlikely Houston would have turned back to Taylor once he recovered from his hamstring injury—which it did.
It'll be back to Mills for the time being, as Taylor is "week-to-week" with a wrist injury, according to NFL Media's Ian Rapoport. This could be Mills' last chance to audition for the 2022 season.
If the Texans can successfully move Watson, they should be loaded with draft capital in 2022 and beyond. They currently hold the No. 3 pick, and at some point, they're likely to draft a quarterback and/or add a veteran to start over Mills.
New York Giants
Full disclosure here: I was close to including the Washington Football Team instead of the New York Giants. However, Taylor Heinicke has shown enough this season (6-5 as a starter) that I don't believe Washington will be quick to move in a different direction.
"He just keeps on showing why he needs to be our quarterback," Washington defensive lineman Jonathan Allen said of Heinicke, per Kevin Brown of NBC 4 Washington.
To be fair, New York may still be the least likely of these seven teams to make a quarterback change. Daniel Jones, the 2019 No. 6 pick, is still developing and probably deserves one more year. However, Jones hasn't solidified himself as a quality option and has some serious ball-security issues.
Jones, who has gone 12-25 as a starter, has thrown 29 interceptions and has fumbled a whopping 36 times in less than three seasons. He's also currently sidelined by a neck injury, and there's no guarantee that he'll get the opportunity to finish the season strong.
New York's quarterback decision won't be based solely on Jones' play, anyway. According to Rapoport, general manager Dave Gettleman is likely out after this season. His replacement may very well want to get "his guy" under center instead of Jones.
The big question is whether New York's new GM will believe an upgrade lies in the draft or will first try to make a play for a veteran like Rodgers or Wilson.
The Giants, who currently own the No. 5 pick, will have options to weigh. Keeping Jones will be one of them, but it's reasonable to believe the Giants have seen enough from the Duke product to move on.
"Roethlisberger privately has told former teammates and some within the organization that he expects this to be his final season playing quarterback for the Pittsburgh Steelers, league sources told ESPN on Saturday," Schefter wrote.
That said, Roethlisberger hasn't weighed in on his decision publicly.
"I'll address any of that stuff after the season," Roethlisberger said, per ESPN's Brooke Pryor.
The Steelers will have multiple options when it comes to replacing Big Ben. Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins are both on the roster, and the Steelers could look to augment a playoff-caliber roster with a guy like Rodgers or Wilson, should they become available.
Paul Zeise of the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette believes it's more likely Pittsburgh drafts a signal-caller and looks for a bridge option in free agency.
"I would think they would make a move to bring someone like Jameis Winston in and use that as a bridge year," Zeise wrote. "... I do think the Aaron Rodgers or Russell Wilson options are a bit of a pipe dream."
Regardless of who is under center in 2022, it isn't likely to be Roethlisberger.
San Francisco 49ers
As is the case in Pittsburgh, the San Francisco 49ers are almost assuredly going to have a new starter in 2022. Unlike the rest of the teams on this list, though, San Francisco won't be searching for a signal-caller in the offseason.
The 49ers traded up to No. 3 this past offseason and used the pick on North Dakota State quarterback Trey Lance. The full-time transition from starter Jimmy Garoppolo to Lance is expected to happen in the offseason.
"Absent a Super Bowl run, which at this point is still theoretically possible, this is the 49ers' plan next season: start Trey Lance, trade Jimmy Garoppolo. Not a surprise there, they've been pretty up front about that," Rapoport said on NFL Gameday Morning.
As Rapoport noted, this isn't a surprise. Garoppolo may provide the best option to win now, but this isn't a situation similar to Rodgers holding off Jordan Love in Green Bay. Lance has appeared in five games and made one start this season, but he should be "the guy" starting next year.
This, of course, will make Garoppolo an option for the six other teams listed here. No one should be startled if we see the Eastern Illinois product starting for a different team when the 2022 season kicks off.