Wednesday, November 29, 2023

NFL quarterback carousel: Ranking teams that still need a QB, and predicting who will land where

The most quarterback-crazed offseason in NFL history has a few more chapters to be written over the coming weeks. While many teams used free agency to solidify their quarterback position, there are still several teams that are trying to strengthen that position as the calendar prepares to turn to April. 

Free agency saw Tom Brady return to Tampa after a 40-day retirement, Russell Wilson move from Seattle to Denver, Matt Ryan go from Atlanta to Indianapolis, Carson Wentz move from Indianapolis to Washington, and Deshaun Watson traded from Houston to Cleveland. In free agency, former starters Mitchell Trubisky and Marcus Mariota found new homes where they hope to revitalize their careers, while James Winston came to terms on a deal that will keep him in New Orleans. 

With the first wave of free agency in the rearview mirror, let’s reset and take a look at the current landscape as it relates to ranking the teams that still need help at quarterback, along with predictions as to where some of the top-available quarterbacks will end up. 

1. Seattle Seahawks: Baker Mayfield 

Mayfield’s camp has reportedly had preliminary conversations with Seattle after the Browns granted Mayfield permission to seek a trade partner. Seattle, like many teams that might be interested in Mayfield, may decide to wait it out to see if the Browns ultimately decide to release Mayfield, who made over 60 starts in four years in Cleveland. 

Seattle could very well acquire Mayfield while also using a first-round pick on a quarterback. In this scenario, Mayfield would serve as a pseudo bridge for the team’s next longterm starter. Regardless, Mayfield would give the Seahawks an upgrade at the position. 

2. Carolina Panthers: Kenny Pickett 

The Sam Darnold experience in Carolina appears to be over after one season. Like Seattle, the Panthers have also reportedly had preliminary talks with Mayfield’s representatives, but the more realistic scenario is that the Panthers use the sixth overall pick to select a quarterback.

Matt Rhule was one of two head coaches (the other being Steelers coach Mike Tomlin) who was on hand Monday to check out Pickett’s pro day. In Pickett, the Panthers would be getting a 6-foot-3, 220-pound quarterback who put up prolific numbers during his final season in Pittsburgh. Pickett’s most notable college performance took place in Charlotte in the ACC title game, as Pickett led Pitt to a win over Wake Forest in the ACC Championship Game. 

3. Atlanta Falcons: Carson Strong 

Given their many roster needs, there’s a very strong chance that the Falcons ride the upcoming season out with Mariota, who comes to Atlanta having spent time with coach Arthur Smith in Nashville. Look for the Falcons to spend the 8th overall pick on another position (possibly receiver) while potentially adding to their quarterback room on the second or third day of the draft. In this scenario, they may decide to acquire Strong, who threw 63 touchdowns during his final two years at Nevada. 

In the event that Atlanta does decide to spend their first-round pick on a quarterback, they should be able to acquire one of the top-rated passers in the draft, especially if Seattle decides to and is able to acquire Mayfield. 

4. New Orleans Saints: Matt Corral 

New Orleans improved their situation by re-signing Winston, who helped lead the Saints to a 5-2 record last year before suffering a season-ending injury. Winton’s cap-friendly deal ($28 million over two years) suggests that the Saints may decide to add another quarterback to their roster in the form of a draft pick. 

With the 18th overall pick, the Saints should be in position to select one of the top quarterbacks in the draft. Corral, who put up impressive numbers during his final two seasons at Ole Miss, may very well be available when the Saints are on the clock on April 28. 

5. Pittsburgh Steelers: Malik Willis 

Trubisky’s extremely cap friendly deal (two years at just under $15 million) gives the Steelers the luxury to take a quarterback with the 20th overall pick. Pittsburgh won’t reach here, but if Willis is still on the board with the 20th pick, there’s a very good chance that the Steelers pull the trigger. Willis, who bonded over chicken wings with Steelers coach Mike Tomlin on the even of his pro day, has the athleticism and mobility the Steelers are coveting out of a quarterback. Trubisky’s presence would allow Willis to soak in his rookie season as a backup. 

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