Thursday, January 20, 2022

2022 NFL offseason: Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson, Kirk Cousins among 15 veteran QBs who could be on the move

Recent years have seen plenty of big-name quarterback movement across the NFL, with Tom Brady, Matthew Stafford, Carson Wentz and Jared Goff among Pro Bowl signal-callers to swap teams just since 2020. A lot can change between now and the end of the 2021 campaign, but the 2022 offseason is shaping up to offer just as much, if not more, QB relocation.

Here’s an early look at 15 different veteran QBs, including nine current starters, who could conceivably change scenery for a variety of reasons:

*Note: All projected cap savings listed are pre-June 1 totals courtesy of Over the Cap.

Aaron Rodgers | Packers

Packers’ savings if traded: $19.3 million

Potential suitors: Dolphins, Steelers, Broncos, Browns, Washington, Raiders, Eagles

He responded to the Packers’ first-round investment of Jordan Love with literally two straight MVP-caliber seasons and, potentially, a third straight 13-win season. In other words, he’s taken ownership of the franchise and its direction. And chances are he won’t find a better setup than in Green Bay. But let’s say 2021 ends on an unexpectedly sour note; a couple of AFC contenders would surely come calling with lucrative offers.

Russell Wilson | Seahawks

Seahawks’ savings if traded: $11 million

Potential suitors: Saints, Raiders, Eagles, Dolphins, Broncos, Steelers

Of the top-tier options, Wilson feels most likely to move. For one, his agent publicly entertained a trade prior to 2021, even listing preferred destinations — the Saints and Raiders among them. And then there’s Seattle’s collapse this year, with a rebuild potentially on the horizon. It’s fair to wonder if Russ has taken a step back, especially after finger surgery affected him this year, but plenty would pay for his poise.

Kirk Cousins | Vikings

Vikings’ savings if traded: $35 million

Potential suitors: Browns, Broncos, Panthers

Cousins doesn’t get nearly enough credit for his efficiency and deep-ball accuracy, even if he’s not good enough on his own to lift Minnesota to the stars. But if Mike Zimmer and/or Rick Spielman are replaced, they might prefer to save money and restart the QB search. Kevin Stefanski feels just as likely to pay $35M for Cousins than extend Baker Mayfield in Cleveland, and Broncos GM George Paton, who helped land Kirk in Minnesota, would surely call.

Matt Ryan | Falcons

Falcons’ savings if traded: $8.1 million

Potential suitors: Broncos, Browns, Washington, Steelers

His situation feels quite similar to that of Matthew Stafford after 2020: he’s a good, not great, QB better suited for a contender than a team in transition. Atlanta doesn’t really have a succession plan, so Arthur Smith might be hesitant to deal Ryan for minimal cap savings. But they could still get decent compensation. Had the 49ers not drafted Trey Lance, they would’ve been in play.

Derek Carr | Raiders

Raiders’ savings if traded: $19.9 million

Potential suitors: Broncos, Browns, Steelers, Saints, Panthers, Washington

Carr has been solid, if unspectacular, for a good chunk of his Raiders career. Vegas could do much worse. But the veteran isn’t owed anymore guaranteed money, and the team will be rebuilding with a new coach, if not also a new front office, in 2022.

Tua Tagovailoa | Dolphins

Dolphins’ savings if traded: (-$1.5 million)

Potential suitors: Texans, Washington, Seahawks, Lions, Panthers

This is totally dependent on the Dolphins acquiring another big-name veteran, which they reportedly strongly considered even after Tagovailoa’s solid rookie season. Tua himself has earned more time, but Miami may prefer play-making to his efficiency.

Jimmy Garoppolo | 49ers

49ers’ savings if cut or traded: $25.6 million

Potential suitors: Saints, Panthers, Giants, Falcons

Trey Lance is the future in San Francisco, and Garoppolo’s multiple injuries this year have confirmed it. San Francisco will save a ton by either trading or releasing him. The question is which club will like him enough to let him compete for a short-term job.

Jameis Winston | Saints

Saints’ savings: N/A (free agent)

Potential suitors: Washington, Steelers, Vikings

Winston fared very well in his audition to succeed Drew Brees early in 2021, only to have a torn ACL delay any definitive evaluation. His most likely destination probably remains New Orleans, but maybe another squad gives him a one-year trial.

Nick Foles | Bears

Bears‘ savings if cut: $3 million

Potential suitors: Jaguars, Texans, Vikings, Rams

He may request his release, or the Bears will just do it themselves in order to avoid carrying a $10.7M backup behind Justin Fields. He long deserved to be ahead of Andy Dalton on their depth chart. And he still deserves a backup job somewhere.

Jared Goff | Lions

Lions’ savings if cut: $650,000

Potential suitors: Saints, Washington, Falcons

No one’s absorbing his contract in a non-salary-dump trade (he’s due over $90M from 2022-2024), but Dan Campbell may not care to keep such an expensive backup around if/when Detroit makes a long-term QB investment.

Teddy Bridgewater | Broncos

Broncos’ savings: N/A (free agent)

Potential suitors: Saints, Giants, Vikings

He’s done in Denver, barring a complete inability of Broncos brass to secure an upgrade. He is who he is: a serviceable starter and better backup. Maybe Sean Payton campaigns for a cheap reunion in New Orleans.

Cam Newton | Panthers

Panthers’ savings: N/A (free agent)

Potential suitors: Bears, Seahawks, Washington

He proved in his Panthers reunion that his arm truly is mediocre, as it’s been for a half-decade. But his power-running skills, still intact, could get him a look or two as summer competition or for a situational role, if he’s willing to go there.

Sam Darnold | Panthers

Panthers’ savings if cut: $273,000

Potential suitors: Texans, Washington, Rams

If Carolina succeeds this offseason, memory of Darnold’s acquisition from the Jets will be erased by a bigger, smarter move at QB. Unfortunately, no one’s gonna trade for his contract. He could find work as a No. 2, a la Mitchell Trubisky.

Tyrod Taylor | Texans

Texans’ savings: N/A (free agent)

Potential suitors: Dolphins, Raiders, Jets, Washington

It’s possible he could stick as a backup to Davis Mills and/or whomever else the Texans add, but only at a reduced price. He had his day as a mid- and low-tier QB1. Backup jobs could be available, though.

Deshaun Watson | Texans

Texans’ savings if traded: $24.2 million

Potential suitors: Dolphins, Panthers, Broncos, Washington

Watson is obviously a bona fide talent, promising experience as a top 10 starter. But until his legal situation — 22 civil lawsuits alleging sexual assault or misconduct — is resolved, he can’t be considered a legitimate target. Houston has moved on, but the Texans also won’t sell him for nothing. But again, this is a total unknown until the off-field matters are wrapped up.

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