NFL Quarterbacks Who Are on the Hot Seat in 2022

Kristopher Knox@@kris_knoxFeatured ColumnistApril 2, 2022

NFL Quarterbacks Who Are on the Hot Seat in 2022

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    Lynne Sladky/Associated Press

    The 2022 NFL offseason has been filled with notable trades involving quarterbacks. Matt Ryan, Deshaun Watson, Russell Wilson and Carson Wentz were all dealt during the first wave of free agency.

    Hidden behind the sheer shock value of the trades themselves is the fact that they were largely precipitated by other quarterbacks failing to meet expectations.

    The Washington Commanders wanted an upgrade over Taylor Heinicke and dealt for Wentz. The Indianapolis Colts weren't happy with their first year of the Wentz experiment and replaced him with Ryan.

    The Cleveland Browns didn't believe that Baker Mayfield was true franchise-quarterback material and traded for Watson. The Denver Broncos felt the same about 2019 second-round pick Drew Lock and replaced him with Wilson.

    One can debate whether any of these quarterbacks got a fair shake, but the reality is that franchises are no longer willing to be overly patient with the game's most important position. Mayfield is still with the Browns, but he will soon become the third first-round quarterback from the 2018 class to be gone from the team that drafted him.

    The cycle is going to continue, and you'll find a look at seven quarterbacks who enter 2022 on the hot seat below. Each situation is unique, but these players all face the possibility of being replaced next year. Though they certainly have plenty to prove in 2022, second-year players like Zach Wilson, Justin Fields and Trevor Lawrence were not included.

Sam Darnold, Carolina Panthers

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    Mark LoMoglio/Associated Press

    To be fair, Sam Darnold might not make it to the 2022 regular season as the Carolina Panthers' starter. Carolina already tried and failed to acquire Watson. It might look to draft a quarterback early too, possibly at sixth overall.

    However, the Panthers aren't committed to drafting a quarterback early, at least not publicly. They're also leaving the door open for Darnold to keep the reins this season.

    "I think Sam's going to play significantly improved football," coach Matt Rhule said, per Darin Gantt of the team's official website.

    Carolina doesn't have a ton of choice at this point. It missed on Watson and is set to pay Darnold $18.9 million guaranteed on his fifth-year option. Even if the Panthers do draft a quarterback, Darnold could still be the Week 1 starter.

    "With quarterbacks, you have to say to yourself, who are they going to be in two years, three years? If you're smart, don't rush them," Rhule said.

    Whether he's the clear-cut starter or a bridge, though, Darnold is facing his last chance with the Panthers. He never lived up to his draft status (third overall in 2018) with the New York Jets, which is how he became available for Carolina last offseason.

    Darnold's inaugural season with the Panthers was just as disappointing as his Jets tenure, if not worse. He threw nine touchdowns and 13 interceptions, went 4-7 as a starter and posted a passer rating of only 71.9. For his career, he has a 76.9 rating and a 17-32 record.

    If Darnold flounders once again this season, finding a third team to give him a starting opportunity will become very difficult.

Jared Goff, Detroit Lions

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    Duane Burleson/Associated Press

    Like Darnold, Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff could be replaced in the 2022 draft. However, the Lions don't appear sold on drafting a quarterback early, and they're at least open to trading the second overall pick.

    Detroit has also publicly shown support for Goff, who was acquired as part of the trade that sent longtime starter Matthew Stafford to the Los Angeles Rams.

    "Jared played good football for us late in the year," general manager Brad Holmes said, per Tim Twentyman of the team's official website. "So we have a lot of optimism about Jared going forward. We have a quarterback."

    The question is whether the Lions will have Goff beyond this season. The No. 1 pick in the 2016 draft is signed through 2024. However, he will have just $10 million in dead money on his deal after 2022. He'll need to show more if he's going to play out his current contract.

    Goff hasn't been an embarrassment as a pro by any means. He was a Pro Bowler in 2017 and 2018 and helped the Rams reach the Super Bowl during the 2018 season. However, L.A. wanted Stafford because it believed Goff had hit his ceiling as a good-not-great quarterback.

    With the Lions last season, Goff was certainly not great, though again, not a disaster. He went 3-10-1 as a starter but posted a respectable 91.5 passer rating. That was good enough for Detroit's rebuilding year but not enough to suggest that Goff can be the Lions' franchise quarterback.

    He could still be that quarterback. With an improved supporting cast, he could return to Pro Bowl form. If he doesn't, though, Detroit will be looking to part with him just as the Rams did—only the Lions won't have to trade his contract to make it happen.

Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles

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    Jason Behnken/Associated Press

    When the Eagles decided to pull the plug on Wentz, they turned to 2020 second-round pick Jalen Hurts. While Hurts was far from perfect as the starter in 2021, he helped take Philadelphia to the postseason.

    The Eagles, it seems, believe that Hurts can be a permanent fixture under center.

    "Spending some time around Eagles coach Nick Sirianni during his media session at the just-completed NFL owners meetings, I came away convinced he is all in on seeing if Jalen Hurts can be the team's long-term solution at quarterback," CBS Sports' Jason La Canfora wrote.

    Still, Hurts needs to go out and prove Sirianni and the Eagles right in 2022. While Philadelphia did reach the postseason, Hurts went a middling 8-7 as a starter. He was an effective dual-threat quarterback but completed just 61.3 percent of his passes. He ranked 22nd in passer rating (87.2).

    The reality is that while the Eagles may like Hurts, they need him to be better on the field. This is a team likely to stick with him because it believes it can win now.

    "I don't view the Eagles as being a big player in the quarterback market today," ESPN's Adam Schefter told 97.5 The Fanatic (h/t Rob Tornoe of the Philadelphia Inquirer). "My sense is they think they have a pretty good team, that they can win now, they think it's a good draft, and they're going to help themselves with other players."

    If the Eagles can't win now and if Hurts fails to improve in Year 3—his second season as a full-time starter—Philadelphia will likely seek alternatives. Hurts will be entering the final year of his rookie contract in 2023 and will be a prime candidate to serve as a one-year bridge to a rookie-to-be-drafted.

    To keep the starting job long-term, Hurts needs to prove that he can elevate the Eagles offense, not simply manage it.

Daniel Jones, New York Giants

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    Steve Luciano/Associated Press

    Unlike Darnold and Goff, Daniel Jones is still with the team that drafted him. The New York Giants took the Duke product sixth overall in 2019. He showed flashes of promise as a rookie, finishing with 3,027 passing yards, 24 touchdowns, 12 interceptions and an 87.7 passer rating.

    He hasn't been as promising since.

    As a rookie, Jones took over for an aging Eli Manning. Since being handed the keys in 2020, he has been both inconsistent and underwhelming. He's thrown just 21 touchdowns and 17 interceptions over the past two seasons and has gone 12-25 as a starter with the Giants overall.

    Jones has also had a serious fumbling issue. He's put the ball on the ground 36 times in 38 games. That's unacceptable, even for a quarterback on a bad team. Jones finished the 2021 season sidelined by a neck injury.

    The Giants are going to give Jones a chance to audition for new head coach Brian Daboll and general manager Joe Schoen. However, New York doesn't appear willing to commit beyond this season.

    "It seems likely they will pass since he's yet to show any real consistency in his first three seasons as a starting quarterback and it would mean guaranteeing him $20-plus million for 2023," Jordan Raanan of ESPN wrote.

    New York doesn't appear likely to draft a quarterback early, but it did bring in journeyman Tyrod Taylor as quarterback insurance. If Jones cannot be a reliable signal-caller in 2022, the Giants might pull him and they will almost assuredly move on next year.

Kyler Murray, Arizona Cardinals

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    David Becker/Associated Press

    A quarterback landing on the hot seat isn't purely about on-field results. Mayfield is a perfect example.

    The Browns quarterback set a then-rookie record with 27 touchdown passes in 2018. He then led Cleveland to its first playoff victory as an expansion franchise in 2020. However, he struggled in 2019 and again in 2021—though he battled a torn labrum for most of this past season.

    Mayfield was a quarterback Cleveland could win with but not consistent enough to justify paying him like an elite signal-caller, so the Browns found what they believed to be an upgrade.

    Arizona Cardinals quarterback Kyler Murray may be facing a similar situation.

    Murray is a two-time Pro Bowler who helped Arizona reach the playoffs in 2021. However, he has a losing record (22-23-1) as a starter, has yet to deliver a playoff victory and missed time with an ankle injury this past season.

    He's been good but not good enough to carry Arizona deep into the postseason—and now Murray appears to be angling for a new deal. His agent, Erik Burkhardt, also released a statement expressing Murray's desire for a long-term deal that is "in line with the current QB market."

    Will the Cardinals reward Murray with a lucrative long-term second contract? That will likely depend on how he performs in 2022. If the Oklahoma product doesn't deliver a postseason victory, Arizona may hesitate to extend him, leading the Cardinals to a situation similar to the one Cleveland faced earlier this offseason.

    Murray might not seem like a prime hot-season candidate, but the idea of the Browns dumping Mayfield seemed unfathomable this time last year. Yet, here we are. Murray must prove that he can do more than put up good numbers in the regular season.

Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans

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    John Amis/Associated Press

    Ryan Tannehill is an outlier on this list because he's an older quarterback—he'll turn 34 in July—and because he came in to replace another quarterback on the hot seat. Tannehill was drafted eighth overall by the Miami Dolphins in 2012. He didn't work out in Miami but has been mostly good for the Tennessee Titans.

    Tannehill was brought in to back up 2015 second overall pick Marcus Mariota in 2019. He was a Pro Bowler that season, and Tennessee moved forward with Tannehill as its starter instead of Mariota. It also signed Tannehill to a lucrative four-year, $118 million contract.

    While Tannehill has played winning football for the Titans—he has a 30-13 record with Tennessee—he hasn't exactly elevated the talent around him. He's made key mistakes at times too, like in his three-interception game against the Cincinnati Bengals in the divisional round this past postseason.

    Albert Breer of Sports Illustrated wrote the following:

    "There are real questions on Ryan Tannehill's long-term viability as the Titans quarterback after how last season ended for the AFC's top seed, particularly since so much of their core (Derrick Henry, Kevin Byard, Taylor Lewan, A.J. Brown, Jeffery Simmons) is made up of guys in the prime of their careers, meaning this should be that group's championship window."

    Tannehill is under contract through 2023, but the Titans are only truly committed to him for another year. While he'll have $18.8 million in dead cap remaining on his contract in 2023, Tennessee could save $17.8 million off the cap by releasing him.

    If Tannehill can't return to Pro Bowl form and can't carry Tennessee deeper into the postseason, the Titans are going to find a quarterback who can.

Tua Tagovailoa, Miami Dolphins

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    Willfredo Lee/Associated Press

    Miami Dolphins quarterback Tua Tagovailoa has had an up-and-down start to his pro career. He was in and out of the lineup as a rookie—sharing time with Ryan Fitzpatrick—and he missed time with a finger injury in 2021.

    Tagovailoa has a 13-8 record as a starter but a passer rating of only 88.8. He's shown accuracy, completing 66.2 percent of his passes. He's also struggled to push the ball downfield.

    Last season, Tagovailoa ranked 25th in yards per pass attempt (6.8).

    The Dolphins are going all-out to support him. They brought in an offensive coach in Mike McDaniel, franchise-tagged tight end Mike Gesicki, traded for Pro Bowl receiver Tyreek Hill and signed Terron Armstead, Cedrick Wilson Jr., Connor Williams, Chase Edmonds and Raheem Mostert.

    If these additions don't make Miami's offense hum, Tagovailoa will bear the brunt of the criticism.

    "The Dolphins have loaded up in ways that should make any quarterback happy and feel well-positioned for success, yet somehow their offseason has come off like a backhanded compliment," Nora Princiotti of The Ringer wrote.

    Tagovailoa hasn't been good enough thus far to make Miami consider granting him an extension after the 2022 season—the Cincinnati Bengals and Los Angeles Chargers are in a much different position with Joe Burrow and Justin Herbert, respectively. He hasn't been awful enough for the Dolphins to pull the plug, either.

    This is a make-or-break year for the Alabama product, and if he again struggles with this supporting cast, Miami may look to part ways with Tagovailoa before he reaches Year 4.


    Contract information via Spotrac.