2022 NFL free agency preview: Quarterbacks

2022 NFL free agency preview: Quarterbacks

General Fantasy Football Analysis, Tips, Strategy and Advice

2022 NFL free agency preview: Quarterbacks


As of Monday, March 14, at noon ET, NFL clubs can legally negotiate with impending free agents ahead of the official opening to free agency on March 16 at 4 p.m. ET. Over the next six weeks, we’ll get a better idea of where some of these players may be headed, but that won’t stop us from trying to make a few guesses along the way.

We currently have a list of upcoming unrestricted free agents, which is where the focus will lie as opposed to addressing players with restricted movement. RFAs can change teams, but it’s rather rare in today’s NFL. Exclusive-rights free agents will not be addressed as they have no bargaining power or leverage.

Also see: RB | WR | TE

We’ll examine the four major skill positions in separate articles as part of this series. Some players will be included who aren’t technically free agents but figure to be on the move via trade or eventual release. It all begins with the most recognizable position in the game:


It’s a thin class of proven veterans, compounded by a weak rookie class of incoming quarterbacks.

Jameis Winston: This one could be far-fetched, but is there an appetite for bringing Winston (knee) back to Tampa Bay on a one-year deal? It’s looking like offensive coordinator Byron Leftwich may have to wait once again to become a head coach, and the retirement of Tom Brady leaves Kyle Trask as the presumed heir apparent. One has to imagine the Buccaneers wouldn’t be opposed to entertaining an open competition between the second-year QB and the former top pick. Winston showed last year he is capable of protecting the ball and playing within a system. Now that Sean Payton is out as New Orleans’ head man, the appetite for Jameis returning may not be as strong. Coming off a torn ACL really shouldn’t complicate his options in free agency, so the headliner of this year’s unspectacular class will have suitors.

Marcus Mariota: He hasn’t disappointed nearly every time we’ve seen Mariota step onto the field as a reserve. The coaching and personnel situation in Tennessee didn’t help his cause, but injuries are a notable concern with the slightly built quarterback. Las Vegas may make an offer for his return as a backup, but there should be a small market for his services as a starter. Teams that come to mind include Pittsburgh, Denver, Carolina, Indianapolis and Washington. More likely, he’ll get a shot to be a QB2 with San Francisco, Miami, Cleveland and Chicago. Expect him to stay in a warm-weather city or play in a dome, which suggests Chicago, Cleveland, Denver and Pittsburgh are out of the running, and Washington is on the fringe. At only 28, in a game that is increasingly reliant on zone-read play-calling tendencies, Mariota’s days as a QB1 may not have expired just yet.

Mitchell Trubisky: Does he earnestly get another shot to compete for a job? Hard to say, but it’s not outlandish to believe he deserves a chance to show what he can do away from Matt Nagy dragging him down. In the most optimistic sense, Trubisky could be a sneaky free-agent addition to a team with the right coaching staff around him. Don’t be surprised to see him follow Brian Daboll to the New York Giants for an open competition with Daniel Jones. If he loses out to Jones, the G-Men have a backup who knows the system and has real-world experience.

Cam Newton: Newton’s best days are long behind him, and while he may get a chance to compete for a starting job, we’ve see enough over the past several years to know he isn’t the answer. That established, in the right situation, perhaps he could surprise. This is the stage of his career in which all of the nuances of being a quarterback first and running back second have caught up to Newton. The primary reason why he was dangerous as a passer in his prime is due to his legs creating fear and taking a defender away from rushing or covering much of the time. His comparative lack of wheels means Cam no longer threatens defenses outside of their own 5-yard line.

Teddy Bridgewater: Have we finally seen enough to universally accept Bridgewater isn’t a starting-caliber quarterback? He had an impressive cast of talent in Denver and was among the least prolific passers in the game and missed the postseason. It’s time for the veteran to be relegated exclusively to warming a bench. To his credit, Bridgewater’s judicious ways and on-field experience make him among the best reserve options to install behind a young starter.

Andy Dalton: Dalton is another one of those quarterbacks who has experience and best profiles as one of the league’s top backups rather than a Week 1 starter. That’s not to say he won’t get a shot at being the latter, because veteran stopgaps are a value commodity in the NFL, but it far from guaranteed he’ll finish the year as a QB1.

Jacoby Brissett: Brissett makes for a capable option off the pine, and that’s the extent of his offerings. Don’t undersell the value of a tested NFL vet who can fit into many systems, though, and Brissett certainly belongs on a roster to battle for a QB2 gig.

Tyrod Taylor: Every year, a team pretends Taylor will magically develop into a starting-caliber quarterback. Injuries and high draft picks have displaced him several times. In a sane world, there’s no chance he’s a starter in 2022.

Trevor Siemian: Despite multiple starting chances, Siemian has clearly established himself as a backup option — and a suspect one at that.

Ryan Fitzpatrick: At 39 years old, coming off a serious hip injury, Fitzpatrick’s options are play backup or retire.

Joe Flacco: At the twilight of his career, the journeyman backup could extend his pine-riding role one more year, but he’s largely irrelevant.

Brian Hoyer: A veteran backup, Hoyer’s likeliest landing spot is re-signing with the New England Patriots or following Josh McDaniels to Las Vegas to back up Derek Carr.

Under contract, but …

Aaron Rodgers, Green Bay Packers: The three most likely scenarios, in order, have Rodgers staying in Green Bay, heading elsewhere, or retiring. The latter is off the table now that Brady hung ’em up, because there’s zero chance Rodgers will want to be second fiddle to that Hall of Fame headliner. Green Bay will offer to extend him in all likelihood, which helps their cap situation (second-least money), and allows him to keep playing with impending free agent Davante Adams, who’ll likely get tagged. Should he go to a different franchise, Rodgers will steer the move to the best of his ability. Denver and Las Vegas make plenty of sense, and Indianapolis shouldn’t be counted out, either, despite trading for Carson Wentz just a year ago. Smart money keeps him in the green and gold uni.

Deshaun Watson, Houston Texans: No one should expect movement until his legal situation offers some clarity. Watson is a a franchise quarterback and can fit just about any system, but the PR fiasco associated with adding him, even if he’s innocent, will require a specific coaching staff and market to make it work … not to mention deep coffers and expendable draft capital.

Derek Carr, Las Vegas Raiders: While some of the appeal with McDaniels taking the head job in Vegas may have been Carr, don’t think for a second the team won’t entertain acquiring Rodgers. In such a scenario, the Packers may ask for Carr in return as a bridge to Jordan Love as the veteran’s contract will expire after 2022. However, there’s a strong chance Vegas will extend him, although one has to believe the Raiders will be only as loyal as their options.

Jimmy Garoppolo, San Francisco 49ers: Despite making some noise in the playoffs, the veteran faltered when it mattered most and is a sure bet to be playing elsewhere in 2022. Last year’s top pick, Trey Lance, didn’t look totally outmatched in limited 2021 play. Given the balance of salary cap commitments vs. the draft capital invested, it would take a miracle for Lance to not be the guy entering 2022’s opening day.

Carson Wentz, Indianapolis Colts: The remaining three years on his deal provide some flexibility for Indy, depending on the timing of his release or trade. At worst, the Colts would eat $15 million in dead money, but they can get away with saving $13 million if he’s traded this March prior to the second day of the new league year. Wentz’s deal has no guaranteed money beyond 2022, which makes him an appealing stopgap for a team in a transitory phase. For example, should Green Bay trade Rodgers to Indy, the Colts could include Wentz as a one-year option for the Pack if Love isn’t ready. A team, like the Carolina Panthers, could be in the mix to acquire him in what is a feeble rookie quarterback class to bide their time into 2023’s more promising crop of both rookies and UFAs.

Kirk Cousins, Minnesota Vikings: Now that the Vikes have a general manager in place and are inching closer to hiring a head coach, the elephant in the room will shift toward what to do with Cousins. He has just 2022 left on his contract, but the penalty for a release is the entirety of the $45 million cap hit in dead money, regardless of when it happens. That’s extremely prohibitive. If he were to be dealt, regardless of a pre/post-June 1 designation, we’re looking at the new team assuming $35 million without an extension and leaving Minnesota with $10 mill in dead cash. Very manageable. It all comes down to finding a team willing to gamble on Cousins being their missing piece. This is the one obvious scenario in which an NFL team may pull an NBA-style contract dump for sub-market value in return.

Jared Goff, Detroit Lions: It’s extremely unlikely we see any movement involving Goff. No one will trade for that contract, and if Detroit cuts him, the best-case scenario sees them absorbing $20 million in dead money this year. It’s doable, but the Lions would be better off building around him in an effort to see if he can get right in 2022 with a legitimate supporting cast.

Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans: The structure of his deal makes zero sense for a release or trade. Either move would cost between $28 and $57 million in dead money for 2022 if given a pre-June 1 designation. A post-6/1 trade would leave the Titans with a tolerable loss of cap space of just $9.6 million and a hearty $18.8M in ’23, but no team is likely to assume that contract without a guaranteed restructuring — something Tannehill will resist as he has all of the leverage in this one.

Russell Wilson, Seattle Seahawks: Word is it will take three first-rounders to pry RW3 away from the Pacific Northwest. Presuming that’s indeed accurate, don’t hold your breath waiting for Wilson to be on the move.


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