Before NFL teams begin reshaping their rosters via free agency and the draft, Nick Shook assesses the quarterback situations of all 32 teams. Teams are sorted into categories signifying the state of the position, then listed by alphabetical order.
Ready for a new face
Cincinnati Bengals: The Bengals are at the end of the road with Andy Dalton and in a prime position to select his successor with the first overall pick in the 2020 NFL Draft. No matter what might be lurking out there rumor-wise, it appears as though we're headed for a union between Cincinnati and Heisman Trophy-winning LSU quarterback Joe Burrow, who went to high school a couple hours east of Cincinnati in Athens, Ohio. Other needy teams aren't as lucky as the Bengals will be, though time will tell if Burrow is ultimately the answer.
Los Angeles Chargers: The Chargerssaid goodbye to franchise quarterback Philip Rivers earlier this offseason. If you were to talk to general manager Tom Telesco or head coach Anthony Lynn, they would tell you they'd be comfortable riding with Tyrod Taylor as Rivers' replacement, but we can't be so naive. With the Chargers picking sixth overall in the draft, they could be in a perfect position to take a successor like Oregon's Justin Herbert. A new face is coming, we just don't know exactly whose face it will be -- but it will surely be plastered around the new SoFi Stadium.
Miami Dolphins:Ryan Fitzpatrick returns as a bridge quarterback (and the team's 2019 leader in rushing yards!), but we all know that's a temporary fix. With the Josh Rosen experiment having proved a folly, Miami needs a true quarterback of the future, and the team is in an advantageous spot in the draft to select one. Seated at No. 5, the Dolphins might have to use their stash of capital to move up and grab Tua Tagovailoa if that's who they have their eyes on, or they could pick someone else. We'll know the answer by May, but that player might not take the reins immediately, as there could be a little bit more room for some FitzMagic before his time there is officially over.
At a crossroads
Carolina Panthers:Cam Newton's health is the main factor that will determine which direction the Panthers will proceed in. All signs -- especially the agreed-upon trade that will send high-quality guard Trai Turner west for veteran tackle Russell Okung -- point to a rebuild in Carolina under new coach Matt Rhule, and the 30-year-old Newton might not fit into those plans. Carolina must first determine whether Newton is healthy enough to qualify as a legitimate starter at the position, then either ride it out with him before he reaches the end of his contract next March or move on and find a successor. Will Grier and Kyle Allen proved they aren't that, so even with Allen signed to a one-year extension on Tuesday, moving on from Newton would require adding a quarterback in free agency and/or drafting one.
Jacksonville Jaguars: Minshew Mania or Foles Frenzy? The latter phrase has yet to catch on (no guarantee it will), but a position that seemed solidified when the Jags signed Nick Foles last offseason now seems uncertain. Foles' early injury forced Gardner Minshew into a starting role, which Minshew relinquished upon Foles' return to health, then regained after Foles floundered and the playoffs slipped out of reach. Does Jacksonville give it another go with the exciting (but occasionally uneven) youngster, or play the man they paid a whole lot last March? If it comes down to money, they'll do the latter -- but the finish to 2019 doesn't inspire confidence in Foles.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers:Jameis Winston is headed to free agency, but not without gifting the football world the first 30-30 season (30 touchdowns, 30 interceptions) in NFL history. Winston completed the feat by throwing a pick-six in overtime to lose Tampa Bay's final game of the season, a perfect capper to a campaign that featured Winston regularly trying to throw his way out of holes that were dug via early turnovers. As a result, he led the league in passing yards and helped two of his teammates become 1,000-yard receivers, but none of that seems to matter to Bruce Arians, who has been less than enthusiastic when answering questions about Winston's future with the team. Either the Buccaneers bring back Winston -- perhaps a new-and-improved version, after he underwent LASIK eye surgery and has had an offseason to recover from a broken thumb and a torn meniscus -- or they turn to a veteran on the open market while also tabbing a youngster to become the franchise's future at the position. It's decision time for the Buccaneers, and at the moment, it doesn't seem like we're trending toward another campaign with Winston under center.
Tennessee Titans: After nearly half a season of subpar play by Marcus Mariota, Mike Vrabel made the decision to turn to Ryan Tannehill, and the Titans were rewarded with a run to the AFC Championship Game. Now the team has another tough call to make: pay Tannehill, who is headed for free agency, the money he earned with his Comeback Player of the Year performance, or find another solution elsewhere? With running back Derrick Henry also in line to hit the open market, the Titans have a few items on their offseason to-do list. But they proved in 2019 they're built to win now, meaning drafting and developing a quarterback isn't really the way to go -- and solving the Tannehill conundrum has to be a priority.
Need to be convinced
Cleveland Browns: Is Baker Mayfield really the answer at the position? After a very promising rookie year in 2018, Mayfield fell back to earth in the Browns' massively disappointing 2019 season, throwing 21 interceptions against 22 touchdown passes. The 6-10 campaign led to the firing of first-year head coach Freddie Kitchens, a parting of ways with GM John Dorsey and his front office staff and yet another turning of the page in Cleveland. According to one former Browns staffer I spoke with recently, Mayfield has the tools necessary to blossom into the franchise quarterback Cleveland thought it had found, but he needs to play more within the team's designed offense and cut down on the freelancing. No more running around and making a play for Mayfield, who is suddenly facing what could be a make-or-break campaign in just his third season.
Denver Broncos:Drew Lock finally was healthy enough to play in the team's final five games and shined, completing 64.1 percent of his passes for 1,020 yards with a 7:3 TD-to-INT ratio. His rookie performance was enough to give Broncos fans hope that GM John Elway finally found the team's next guy under center, but that isn't a sure bet. Lock needs to prove those five games weren't a fluke by continuing on a path toward becoming a franchise quarterback in 2020. Otherwise, it's back to the drawing board yet again for Elway's Broncos.
New York Jets:Sam Darnold isn't the earth-melting quarterback Jets fans viewed him as when the team selected him third overall in the 2018 draft, but the evaluation remains incomplete, thanks in part to his time missed last season with mononucleosis. That made two straight campaigns in which Darnold failed to play in more than 13 games. When he has played, he's shown signs he could be the guy. He'll need to be better than his 84.3 passer rating from 2019, but he also needs the Jets' front office to help him out with better offensive linemen. We'll see if 2020 is the year Darnold proves the Jets right in selecting him -- or wrong, and in need of a new solution at the position.
Washington Redskins: The 'Skins didn't need to move up in last year's draft after all in order to land their guy, Dwayne Haskins, but the Ohio State product still has some work to do before the franchise feels comfortable at the position. Haskins started seven games (appearing in nine total) and completed 58.6 percent of his passes, but his even touchdown-to-interception ratio (7:7) illustrates a quarterback trying to find his footing at the professional level. Haskins deserves some credit, as he was working with a thin receiving corps and playing behind an offensive line that was forced to go the entire season without Trent Williams and five games without Brandon Scherff. Haskins should find the going to be a little easier in 2020 if the Redskins can add receiving talent in a draft that's deep at the position, but the onus will be on the signal-caller to prove he's the guy.
Chicago Bears: It's make-or-break time for Mitchell Trubisky, the former No. 2 overall pick of his draft class. The quarterback did enough to see the Bears to the playoffs in 2018 but didn't make any progress in 2019, at times bringing the team down. He's not yet a bust, but he's trending toward that title, meaning the pressure is officially turned up on Trubisky -- and the entire Bears organization, which needs him to either take a noticeable step forward or out himself as a disappointment so the franchise can find another solution. Uncertainty reigns in the Windy City. But it seems like the Bearshave to bring in competition of some sort -- someone who'll push Trubisky more than Chase Daniel.
Detroit Lions:Matthew Stafford isn't going anywhere, as Detroit management will tell you until you're tired of hearing it, but it's about time the Lions take advantage of the franchise quarterback they have before his time in the NFL runs out. With Matt Patricia seated firmly atop a very warm seat, plenty of change could be coming, which usually doesn't produce immediate success. Stafford still has some time to capitalize, but with his injury history at 32 years old, that road isn't as long as it might be for others. The pressure is on in Detroit to both win soon and also put together a plan for life after Stafford.
Indianapolis Colts: GM Chris Ballard will happily admit the Colts aren't sold on Jacoby Brissett, explaining the reasoning for his two-year contract signed before the 2019 season. We're now entering Year 2 of that deal, and he might not even see that through. Indianapolis seems to be a prime landing spot for Philip Rivers, who once played under Colts head coach Frank Reich (Rivers' quarterbacks coach and offensive coordinator with the Chargers). That could be an ideal pairing, or the Colts could give Brissett another go -- but with a roster built to contend now, there isn't exactly a long runway for Brissett to work with. This question could easily be answered in free agency.
Las Vegas Raiders: Mike Mayock took a relatively firm stance in support of Derek Carr during the NFL Scouting Combine, pointing out deficiencies elsewhere when attempting to find a reason for the Raiders' offensive struggles. They didn't score in the red zone, they didn't score in goal-to-go situations and they didn't force enough turnovers on defense, Mayock said, and that's not Carr's fault. But at least some of the scoring woes fall on the shoulders of the quarterback, no? Will Jon Gruden push for a new option under center? Or will he run it back with Carr and what should be an improved receiving corps after this offseason? Tom Brady's free agency could have something to do with this, but so could the availability of some other quarterbacks, too.
San Francisco 49ers: This one might be more outsider-driven than anything, but Jimmy Garoppolo hasn't exactly been the franchise quarterback his highly lucrative contract makes him out to be. Statistically, Garoppolo put together a good year in 2019, throwing for just a hair under 4,000 yards and posting a 27:13 TD-to-INT ratio. But when the 49ers needed a quick strike to regain the lead in Super Bowl LIV, Garoppolo was unable to get the job done, most notably missing an open Emmanuel Sanders deep in the waning minutes of the game. The 49ers are a Super Bowl contender again in 2020, but their quarterback hasn't proven he's a Super Bowl-caliber signal-caller. With rumors of Tom Brady potentially landing almost any and everywhere, could Garoppolo be standing on uncertain footing? Or are we making a big deal out of nothing?
Los Angeles Rams: After reaching Super Bowl LIII, the Rams handed out a healthy contract to Jared Goff well before he could even entertain the thought of free agency. Last season didn't reinforce that decision, though, leading some to doubt Goff's ability to lead the franchise into the new decade. Goff's passer rating fell from 101.1 in 2018 to 86.5 last year, his Rams missed the playoffs and the club dropped out of the group of favorites in the NFL. With Todd Gurley not showing many signs of a potential resurgence, the Rams are in a tough spot financially. And with an astronomical dead cap number on Goff's contract this season ($51 million), the 25-year-old QB isn't going anywhere, so the Rams are stuck -- for now. That number drops drastically in 2021 ($15 million) and 2022 ($10 million), leaving L.A. an escape hatch if things don't improve. But before we go tearing apart the Rams as they move into their new stadium, we'll first have to wait and see if Goff can help Los Angeles turn things around.
Philadelphia Eagles: Much like the Goff situation in Los Angeles, Philadelphia is married to Carson Wentz. Except unlike Goff, the Eagles' potential out with Wentz doesn't arrive until 2023, meaning you're going to see much more of No. 11 in midnight green. They're more entrenched with Wentz than the Rams are Goff, but they also made the playoffs last season, so this isn't a bad situation as long as Wentz can take the next step toward legitimate stardom. An addition to Philadelphia's receiving corps this offseason might help things.
Dallas Cowboys:Dak Prescott will be a free agent by mid-March if the Cowboys can't find a way to keep him under team control. It's most likely they'll franchise tag him, which would answer one problem but also create another, as he'll probably command a league-leading salary on any sort of long-term pact. On a talented team built to win now, Prescott's upcoming payday will take up a good chunk of Dallas' salary cap, meaning sacrifices will have to be made elsewhere. Maximizing that window will no longer come at a bargain price, understandably inspiring nervousness. Even if the Cowboys can keep Prescott, it won't be without losses elsewhere.
New England Patriots:Tom Brady turns 43 in August, and he isn't even guaranteed to be back in New England in 2020. While we pass the time updating the world on whatever Brady is up to with the hope of finding a clue that might lead us to his future destination, the Patriots have to be planning for the worst-case scenario in the event they can't keep the best quarterback in the history of the game. Right now, the logical Brady replacement on the roster is Jarrett Stidham, which doesn't exactly inspire a ton of confidence. And even if Brady does return, he sure wasn't playing at his usual Pro Bowl level in the second half of 2019. A new face is coming for the Patriots in the not-too-distant future, even if the team's faithful fanbase doesn't want to accept it. It's just up to the Pats to identify who that might be, and how long it might take for them to secure his services.
New Orleans Saints:Drew Brees says he'll be back to play for the Saints in the coming season, which answers their question at the position in 2020, but beyond that, the future remains very murky. Brees is 41 years old, and his ideal successor, Teddy Bridgewater, is most likely headed elsewhere to take a starting job in a market not located in Louisiana. Even if the Saints can make a run at a title in 2020, the future isn't nearly as bright, making this a two-stage problem: sign Brees and find out who is going to replace him down the road (perhaps Taysom Hill?).
Pittsburgh Steelers: The clock's ticking, and Ben Roethlisberger isn't getting any younger. Pittsburgh's lack of preparedness for life after Big Ben was on full display last season when it was forced to turn to Mason Rudolph and Devlin "Duck" Hodges for the majority of the year, leading to an 8-8 finish and a second straight postseason spent at home. There doesn't seem to be a long-term solution in sight, either, as the Steelers don't have a first-round pick in April's draft and also don't have a future face of the franchise on the roster. Pittsburgh's confident Roethlisberger will return to full strength after elbow surgery, but that isn't helping anyone sleep easily when thinking of the franchise's plan beyond the 38-year-old.
Arizona Cardinals: Arizona went against the grain last April and spent a first-round pick on a quarterback for a second straight draft, selecting Kyler Murray and promptly shipping out Josh Rosen. The Cardinals' move proved to be wise, as Murray earned Offensive Rookie of the Year honors, completing 64.4 percent of his passes for 3,722 yards with a 20:12 TD-to-INT ratio while also running for 544 yards and four scores. There's room for improvement, as evidenced by Murray's 87.4 passer rating, but the Cards aren't going into this offseason unsure at the position. Instead, they'll spend it attempting to improve elsewhere in order to give Murray the best chance to continue on his upward development course.
Buffalo Bills:Josh Allen might actually be the guy in Buffalo after all -- even if he gets the job done in a bit of an unorthodox way. The quarterback led the Bills to a wild-card berth in 2019, completing 58.8 percent of his passes for 3,089 yards with a 20:9 TD-to-INT ratio, and he nearly broke Buffalo's "gets us" meter when he stepped off a plane in frigid temperatures wearing only a short-sleeved hoodie and a ballcap. That makes for a beloved signal-caller in Western New York. But he'll have to cut down on his running (109 attempts, 510 yards, nine touchdowns) if he wants to make a long career out of this. For now, there's optimism in Buffalo. We'll see if the Bills can take the next step with Allen in 2020.
Minnesota Vikings: Turns out that fully guaranteed contract wasn't a bad decision after all. Kirk Cousins finished the regular season as the fifth-best quarterback in the NFL, per Pro Football Focus grading, and helped lead the Vikings to the NFC Divisional Round before bowing out against the eventual conference champion 49ers. Aided by an effective, Dalvin Cook-led running game, Cousins flourished in the play-action passing game, recording the best passer rating (107.4) of his career while throwing just six interceptions in 15 regular-season games. His success helped earn offensive coordinator Kevin Stefanski a head-coaching job in Cleveland and quelled any worries about the future of the position in Minnesota -- well, except for the fact that Cousins' current contract is up after the 2020 season. If the Vikes aren't on top of that, they could find themselves in the "Known unknowns" section of this exercise real quick.
New York Giants: The Giants' selection of Daniel Jones was roundly criticized, but he acquitted himself pretty well once he took over for Eli Manning. Jones completed 61.9 percent of his passes and posted a 24:12 TD-to-INT ratio as a rookie, starting 12 games and helping the Giants sleep soundly after bidding Manning farewell into the pleasures of retirement. Having spent the No. 2 overall pick on RB Saquon Barkley the year before, the Giants still made out with Jones, who has New York excited about its signal-caller for the first time in a while. Now he just has to prove his first campaign wasn't a fluke.
Atlanta Falcons:Matt Ryan is three seasons removed from an MVP campaign, but while his Falcons struggled mightily in 2019, he's not the problem. He'll need GM Thomas Dimitroff to find him another receiver (to add to a corps featuring Julio Jones and Calvin Ridley) and likely replace Austin Hooper at tight end, but Ryan's standing is solid.
Baltimore Ravens:Lamar Jackson is the reigning MVP and the face of Baltimore's offensive revolution, which took the league by storm in 2019. He's not going anywhere. With opponents now having a year's worth of film of Jackson operating in Greg Roman's offense, though, the Ravens will need to find a way to continue such success in 2020. And Baltimore also has to answer some free-agent questions. Could GM Eric DeCosta add another receiving threat to go along with Marquise Brown and tight end Mark Andrews? Is Mark Ingram long for Baltimore (he sure seems like he is now)? These are questions the Ravens will have to answer on the offensive side of the ball, but the quarterback spot's as good as gold.
Green Bay Packers:Aaron Rodgers will be in the Hall of Fame one day, and he's still playing at a Hall of Fame level in Green Bay. His pairing with Matt LaFleur produced 13 wins in 2019. And the Packers' offense could take a step forward in Year 2, especially if they can add a playmaker in the passing game. Green Bay will need to find a successor for the 36-year-old Rodgers, but that need isn't nearly as pressing as it is elsewhere. For now, it's time to try and make another run at a title.
Houston Texans:Deshaun Watson's superhuman, tackle-breaking completion to Taiwan Jones set up Houston for a playoff victory at home and proved how valuable he is to the Texans' future. He's not going anywhere. Bill O'Brien and Co. don't have to spend a moment worrying about the starting quarterback position. There are needs elsewhere, but not under center.
Kansas City Chiefs:Patrick Mahomes just won Super Bowl MVP. Do we really need to say much more? A year after winning NFL MVP, Mahomes one-upped it, overcoming an in-season knee injury to lead the Chiefs to their first title in 50 years. Everything is good at the position in K.C., although the team could use a reliable veteran as a backup if Matt Moore doesn't return.
Seattle Seahawks: If Lamar Jackson's Ravens have the most certain situation under center, Seattle is a close second, thanks to the play of Russell Wilson. The star signal-caller was putting together an MVP-caliber season early in 2019 before Jackson's play overwhelmed the rest of the league, and Wilson is the main reason the Seahawks are annual contenders, no matter the changes elsewhere. Seattle needs to find a reliably healthy running game to help Wilson, but he's the definition of a "franchise quarterback" at this point.