Sport: Ranking the Best QB Moves of the 2022 NFL Offseason

Steelers signing Mitchell Trubisky called ninth-best QB move of NFL offseason

  Steelers signing Mitchell Trubisky called ninth-best QB move of NFL offseason Trubisky is beginning training camp as the runaway favorite to win the Pittsburgh starting gig over first-round draft selection Kenny Pickett and career backup Mason Rudolph.A Pittsburgh Steelers side that lost future Hall of Famer Ben Roethlisberger to retirement this past winter acquired none of those individuals and instead signed former Chicago Bears castoff and 2021 Buffalo Bills backup Mitchell Trubisky. Trubisky is beginning training camp as the runaway favorite to win the Pittsburgh starting gig over first-round draft selection Kenny Pickett and career backup Mason Rudolph, and Rudolph may even be traded before Week 1 in September.

Tom Brady unretiring, plus the trades of Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan and Baker Mayfield, and the extensions of Aaron Rodgers and Kyler Murray top our list.

This could be the most important year for the QB position since 2017, when Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson were drafted, and '18, when Josh Allen and Lamar Jackson entered the NFL. Three tenured Pro Bowl players on at least their second NFL contract—Matt Ryan, Watson and Russell Wilson—will be starting the year in different uniforms. Two stalwarts long believed to have eyes for the open market—Tom Brady and Aaron Rodgers—will be returning to their former clubs.

Tyreek Hill: Defenses will be 'scared' of Dolphins' one-two punch at wideout

  Tyreek Hill: Defenses will be 'scared' of Dolphins' one-two punch at wideout Hill could be correct in assuming that opposing defenses will be fearful lining up against the two speedsters. Hill has been one of the best receivers in the NFL during his six-year career. A six-time Pro Bowler and three-time First-Team All-Pro, the 28-year-old caught a career-high 111 passes for 1,239 yards and nine touchdowns last season. Waddle had a solid rookie campaign for the Dolphins in 2021 with 104 receptions for 1,015 yards and six touchdowns.If Tagovailoa lives up to the praise that Hill has showered him with, Hill and Waddle could be a scary duo this season.

All of these moves inevitably make the players’ respective teams better from a talent perspective. There is a reason teams sacrifice heaps of draft capital, guaranteed money and, in one particular case, personal morality, for one position in particular and a handful of players within that elite subgroup.

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But which of these moves were the best of the best when considering all factors? What were the perceived risks and benefits? What were the ultimate costs versus the ultimate benefits? Which move gets a team that much closer to a Super Bowl, and which move edges the needle toward regime change?

We’re going to do our best to consider all of those factors in ranking the 2022 offseason quarterback movement. Let’s go!

2022 NFL Preview: We're about to find out if the Chiefs are a long-lasting dynasty

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1. BRADY UNRETIRES, RETURNS TO BUCS

Nowhere else on this list does a team get a quarterback for 75% off, who almost guarantees them a spot in the tournament’s final four. The greatest player in NFL history only takes up 5.78% of his team’s total salary cap space, which is less than 2% more space than Zach Wilson takes up on the Jets’ salary cap table. Brady has forever been the Kirkland Brand of elite quarterbacks, meaning he provides the same service at a fraction of the price. The only cost to the Buccaneers, it seems, was forcing the retirement of their head coach a year early, and handing the reins over to an obvious successor (Todd Bowles) who would have easily gotten a head coaching gig elsewhere. Bruce Arians also gets to remain in some capacity as a nebulous strategist. Minor organizational awkwardness aside (Arians said he was probably going to retire after the 2022 season, anyway), the Buccaneers are still title contenders. They have re-patched their offensive line, adding former Brady teammate Shaq Mason via trade, selecting Luke Goedeke out of Central Michigan in the second round of the draft, and replacing Ali Marpet (retired) and Alex Cappa, who joined the Bengals in free agency. There is no sound argument for anyone besides the Buccaneers to win the NFC South barring an unforeseen Brady injury and there is very little top-tier competition in the NFC other than the Super Bowl champion Rams and Packers.

Ezekiel Elliott to remain the 'focal point' of Cowboys' offense?

  Ezekiel Elliott to remain the 'focal point' of Cowboys' offense? Owner Jerry Jones doubled down on Dallas’ reliance on Elliott Saturday, saying that he “has to be the focus” of the Cowboys’ run game via NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport. The 27-year-old has been a full-time starter since his rookie season, though he logged the lowest snap share of his career (66%) last season. Slowed for the latter stages of the campaign in particular by a knee injury, the former top-five pick still recorded 1,000 rushing yards and 12 total touchdowns. His efficiency (4.2 yards per carry) compared to Pollard (5.

2. MATT RYAN TRADED TO COLTS

While Ryan is six years removed from his MVP season, we have to consider how relatively well he’s played since. Last year may have been a late-career low, tying his worst Approximate Value rating, which he also posted during his second season in the NFL. However, his top target was a rookie tight end, Kyle Pitts. The last time a team was this dependent on a rookie tight end for target shares, it was 2002, and Kerry Collins was en route to a 19-touchdown, 14-interception campaign with the Giants, throwing the ball to Jeremy Shockey. Without a dynamic receiving core or a dominant running game, sometimes quarterbacks are hamstrung, which is how it felt for Ryan last year. Since ’16, Ryan has lost his offensive coordinator, Kyle Shanahan, who went on to spawn the hottest coaching tree since Bill Belichick. His top receiver, Julio Jones, began a steep decline, which we may have blamed more on Ryan initially before seeing a larger sample size of Jones’s statistics post ’16, and how he fared with the Titans. Last year, Jones was on pace for his lowest yards per game total and his lowest yards per reception total. Since ’17, his catch rate has also declined. So, for a third-round pick, the Colts got an experienced quarterback who looks to have more in the tank than Philip Rivers, who last brought the team to the playoffs in ’20 as a one-year rental. Ryan is also a more experienced and respected leader than Carson Wentz, who reportedly struggled in that role in ’21 as the Colts fell apart down the stretch. Ryan is versatile, and, as we’ve noted in the past, will find ways to get star running back Jonathan Taylor more involved in the passing game.

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  2022 NFL Preview: Tom Brady returns, maybe to win another Super Bowl with Buccaneers 2022 NFL Preview: Tom Brady returns, maybe to win another Super Bowl with BuccaneersMaybe it shouldn't be so surprising that Brady had a tough time walking away.

3. PACKERS EXTENDING AARON RODGERS

The Packers have dealt with the mercurial nature of Rodgers for more than a decade, which made the decision to ultimately commit to him without reservation a sensible one given all—the forced coaching and personnel changes, mostly—that preceded it. On the field, Rodgers is simply a magical presence. Playoff shortcomings aside, the four-time MVP seems to have successfully bridged Matt LaFleur’s offense and the West Coast vernacular that was a staple of his early career. I am particularly interested to see Rodgers in what I am guessing will be a breakout year for running back AJ Dillon. Last year, Dillon and Aaron Jones combined for a little more than 1,600 yards and nine touchdowns, which seems like a low end of the spectrum for what they are capable of. And, the more dynamic a running back tandem, the better the quarterback. We’ve seen the pair in Indianapolis buoy Wentz, we saw Nick Chubb and Kareem Hunt aid Baker Mayfield’s best season as a professional, and Ezekiel Elliott and Tony Pollard help Dak Prescott as he rebounded from a serious injury. While the cost is a difficult one to stomach in theory (it involved a market-setting $50 million per year deal and essentially giving up on first-round pick Jordan Love), it’s more irresponsible to let go of the final impactful years of a generational talent, so long as that player is not obviously in decline, such as Ben Roethlisberger was last year, or Eli Manning was during his final seasons with the Giants.

49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan reveals plan for Deebo Samuel after contract extension

  49ers head coach Kyle Shanahan reveals plan for Deebo Samuel after contract extension Deebo Samuel earned his money as a jack-of-all-trades for the San Francisco 49ers, and that's not meant to be a slight.Samuel can literally do everything as an offensive weapon for San Francisco. Whether he's running the ball, blocking, or being utilized as one of the more explosive wide receivers in football, there's little Samuel can't do.

Rodgers became the highest paid player in NFL history with a market-setting $50 million per year deal. Erick W. Rasco/Sports Illustrated © Provided by Sports Illustrated Rodgers became the highest paid player in NFL history with a market-setting $50 million per year deal. Erick W. Rasco/Sports Illustrated

4. RUSSELL WILSON TRADED TO BRONCOS

Our love of the Russell Wilson–Nathaniel Hackett pairing could be properly summarized through two deeper dives we did on the subjects individually. Here’s what we wrote about Hackett in September 2021, previewing him as the No. 1 coaching candidate on the market. Here’s what we wrote of Wilson’s brilliance in August ’20. It was also the correct time for the Broncos, as an organization, to move on a veteran passer. Last year, we were bullish on the Broncos’ roster and, upon Vic Fangio’s firing, discussed what could have been if the team had made such a move sooner. This does not excuse the Broncos for burying the head coaching careers of Fangio and Vance Joseph by forcing them through a slog of below-average passers. But, they should be complimented for realizing that their defense and running game are playoff-caliber. Without Wilson, this roster would not be able to stand up to a ruthless AFC West, even if they had drafted either Justin Fields or Mac Jones a year ago.

5. CARDINALS EXTENDING KYLER MURRAY

As we wrote last week, the decision was not a bad one within the world the Cardinals have already created for themselves. The poor decision making here was knowing full well that Murray was essential to their long-term future, but allowing so much time to pass before an extension. Murray and the Cardinals first reached a noticeable impasse in February when Murray scrubbed his social media account. From that point on, the Browns signed Deshaun Watson to a fully guaranteed contract and the Packers re-signed Rodgers. Any quarterback movement on the periphery is going to affect negotiations. Murray could ask, quite fairly, why the Cardinals would not offer him a fully guaranteed contract when the Browns gave Watson one, for example.

NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year betting odds and prediction

  NFL Defensive Rookie of the Year betting odds and prediction The top of the NFL Draft was loaded with defenders, making this an intriguing award to find a bet in. Here are the top 15 on the board, odds courtesy of DraftKings. Aidan Hutchinson (+550) Kayvon Thibodeaux (+550) Travon Walker (+750) Quay Walker (+800) Kyle Hamilton (+800) Derek Stingley Jr. (+1000) Ahmad Gardner (+1000) Jermaine Johnson II (+1000) Devin Lloyd (+1000) Nakobe Dean (+1200) Jordan Davis (+1400) Trent McDuffie (+1600) George Karlaftis (+1600) Kaiir Elam (+2000) Andrew Booth Jr. (+2200) The first five picks in this past NFL Draft were all defensive players, with 16 total selected in the first round.

So, why fourth place? Here are some minor nitpicks: The Cardinals are still somewhat RPO heavy. Murray is the most RPO reliant quarterback in the top five of average annual salary at the position, meaning the Cardinals might have to find other ways to win against teams with star cornerbacks. He is 2–4 down the stretch in each of the past two years, with both slides coinciding with Murray’s placement on the injury report.

6. BAKER MAYFIELD TRADED TO PANTHERS

The Panthers are in a similar spot as the Cardinals. Years of irresponsible QB maneuvers have led them to the point where trading for Mayfield was a sensible decision. Personally, I think a GM’s strength lies not in conviction but in admitting he’s wrong. We said as much about Ryan Pace back in 2021 when he pivoted to Justin Fields. Scott Fitterer was fleeced in the Sam Darnold trade. He got Mayfield for a fraction (’24 conditional draft pick, $4.85 million salary, a source told ESPN's Adam Schefter) of what he paid for Darnold (three draft picks) despite the fact that Mayfield is a better player. Mayfield’s incentives on his deal are impossibly out of reach. So in that regard, he’s a steal. Why are we bullish? This will sound like a broken record at some point, but couldn’t we reasonably believe that Mayfield has been discounted for how poorly he played last year amid a serious shoulder injury which, even in a non-throwing shoulder, is significant for a quarterback? His worst years—a 59% completion rate in ’19 with 22 touchdowns and 21 interceptions and a 60% completion rate with 17 touchdowns and 13 interceptions in ’21—were bad, but it’s fair to point out that we haven’t seen Freddie Kitchens hold on to a long-term playcalling gig since his time in Cleveland (he took over for Jason Garrett on the Giants last year, and the team scored more than 10 points twice in seven games), and that it took Matthew Stafford, Sean McVay and Cooper Kupp to revive the career of Odell Beckham Jr. Carolina may end up getting top-12 quarterback play out of Mayfield, which is why we like him at No. 6 on the list.

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7. VIKINGS EXTENDING KIRK COUSINS

The Vikings’ new general manager, Kwesi Adofo-Mensah, comes from the Browns’ brain trust that planned their rebuild around the drafting of a quarterback after a certain number of developmental years. The Vikings’ roster is in a different place than the mid-2010s Browns, but they could use some time to age out of their skin from the Mike Zimmer and Rick Spielman era and may be viewing a similar runway before they’re ready to compete perennially with the Packers. I think the two-year length remaining on Cousins’s deal is perfect in that it gives him a trial year under new head coach Kevin O’Connell, a play-caller from the Sean McVay tree, and a year to bridge the Vikings to their next option, should ’23 or ’24 be the year they eye a first-round pick at the quarterback position for the first time since Teddy Bridgewater in ’14.

8. DESHAUN WATSON SIGNS WITH BROWNS

This is nearly impossible to caption or rank because, in a vacuum, the Browns aggressively pursued a quarterback who was besieged by more than 20 lawsuits alleging sexual harrassment or innapropriate conduct. Watson’s former employer, the Texans, saw his behavior as one that required the constant accompaniment of a non-disclosure agreement to massage appointments. Watson settled with a large percentage of these women and the Texans did as well, separately. And, yet, that has not stopped the Browns from handing Watson the most lucrative contract (five years and a fully guaranteed $230 million) in football history. We have brought up a few times in this piece the idea of organizational decision making that leads to more good or poor decisions. What do we say about a team that has alienated and discarded so many promising young players that its only solution was to grossly overpay a player facing civil lawsuits and a lengthy NFL suspension? Maybe it will work out on the field. The Browns had better hope it does. If Watson doesn’t deliver consistent, deep playoff appearances, this front office led by GM Andrew Berry will be tortured by this decision.

  Ranking the Best QB Moves of the 2022 NFL Offseason © Provided by Sports Illustrated

9. MITCH TRUBISKY SIGNS WITH STEELERS

The Steelers made the playoffs last year with Roethlisberger averaging the third-lowest completed air yards per pass in the NFL. The only quarterback who had a fewer CAY per pass was Jared Goff on a four-win Lions team, according to Pro Football Reference. Trubisky, during his rookie year, was averaging 6.3 CAY, which was about 50% better than Roethlisberger during each of the veteran’s final three years in the NFL. Could Trubisky’s mobility (he has rushed for 1,081 yards compared to Roethlisberger’s 1,373 yards despite Roethlisberger playing nearly two decades in the NFL) bolster a promising young playmaking core and give them the ability to stretch the field more? It’s worth finding out for $7 million per season.

10. MARCUS MARIOTA SIGNS WITH FALCONS

If you are a head coach who missed out on Watson and was forced to trade your franchise stalwart, the next best option is getting a player who has enough tools to survive an undoubtedly rocky season. Mariota can make a 4–13 season more palatable for Arthur Smith with his ability to leave the pocket. During the height of his Titans years, Mariota could pick up an additional 25 first downs on the ground, which is 10 better than Ryan picked up via rushing during his absolute best rushing season in the league (15). Mariota was never Michael Vick or Lamar Jackson, but the Falcons were going to struggle this year anyway and Mariota is an improvement over other hold-the-fort types such as Andy Dalton or Mike Glennon, who is not a running threat.

11. JAMEIS WINSTON RE-SIGNS WITH SAINTS

Winston was 5–2 with a career-high quarterback rating before he was injured last year. He also has a happy, deep receiving core punctuated by a healthy Michael Thomas and top draft pick Chris Olave, who could very well end up as the prize of the 2022 receiver draft class. Absent any other available quarterbacks, this seems like a level-headed experiment for new coach Dennis Allen, who has an offensive backfield, led during Alvin Kamara’s theoretical suspension by Taysom Hill and Mark Ingram, capable of creating mismatches that will make life easier for Winston.

Winston is coming off a torn ACL but he has the pieces on offense to lead the Saints to the playoffs. Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports © Provided by Sports Illustrated Winston is coming off a torn ACL but he has the pieces on offense to lead the Saints to the playoffs. Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports

12. CASE KEENUM SIGNS WITH BILLS

This year is a serious one for the franchise, which is overdue for a Super Bowl berth and totally capable of reaching that goal. While losing Josh Allen for any period of time would obviously hamper that goal, having both Keenum and Matt Barkley on the roster is imperative for maintaining some semblance of competitiveness. Let’s say, for example, that Allen misses a few games with some kind of broken finger or high ankle sprain. Keenum could hold the fort, go .500 and keep the Bills in contention.

13. JACOBY BRISSETT SIGNS WITH BROWNS

With Watson’s suspension looking more and more like it will land south of a full year, and perhaps even south of a half season, Brissett’s importance dwindles a little bit. Brissett will be playing for a team that had the sixth-highest rushing percentage in the NFL last season, which may only increase during the waiting period before Watson’s debut. The Browns had their most success positioning Mayfield as a play-action passer in 2020 and could treat Brissett similarly.

14. TYROD TAYLOR SIGNS WITH GIANTS

This was a fine move by the Giants, who struggled at the quarterback position after Daniel Jones was lost for the season last year. Taylor makes the Giants less likely to surrender a punt on third downs. I have long been an advocate for Taylor as a fringe starter in the NFL, even now at age 32 (soon to be 33). If Jones proves early on that he cannot be saved by new coach Brian Daboll’s offense, perhaps Taylor will get a chance to work himself into a bridge role.

15. TEDDY BRIDGEWATERS SIGNS WITH DOLPHINS

For a quarterback who bounced from New Orleans (where he excelled), to Carolina (where he made the most out of an offense that barely practiced its two-minute drill or red zone situations), to Denver, where he worked with Pat Shurmur (who, in 14 years as a head coach or offensive coordinator, had just two top-10 seasons in total passing yards, both of which were during the Chip Kelly era in Philadelphia), it’s still difficult to stomach the idea that he is a full-time backup now. Alas, at the combine, new coach Mike McDaniel set that role in stone amid a full-out blitz to support Tua Tagovailoa. A team could do much worse at the backup QB spot.

16. CARSON WENTZ TRADED TO COMMANDERS

Wentz’s low ranking on this list is not a reflection of his raw skills. It’s a reflection of how bad the Commanders organization got before their recent turnaround efforts, which we wrote about earlier this offseason. Working in Wentz’s favor is a young, talented receiving core, which added Jahan Dotson out of Penn State in the first round of this year’s draft. If Wentz is put into a highly structured offense, maybe the Commanders can get the best out of him. In half of his seasons, Wentz has been the quarterback of a team posting a winning record and he has only thrown more than 10 interceptions twice in his career.

Wentz has a talented receiving group but will that be enough for him to turn around his career? Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports © Provided by Sports Illustrated Wentz has a talented receiving group but will that be enough for him to turn around his career? Geoff Burke/USA TODAY Sports

17. DREW LOCK TRADED TO SEAHAWKS

We may never know the inner details of Wilson’s divorce from Seattle. However, at a time when teams are surrendering serious draft capital for veteran QB play, letting go of a 33-year-old who has missed the Pro Bowl just once in his career and has finished in the top five of Offensive Player of the Year voting is difficult to understand. Although, as we wrote on the day of the trade, Seahawks GM John Schneider has earned the right to shape the team in his image. It’s hard to imagine Drew Lock is that image, though, which is why we’ve ranked him alongside Wentz, as players who, at least right now, look to be one-year options patching over a longer-term solution.

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