If today were a full-slate NFL Sunday, the starting quarterbacks around the league would include Blaine Gabbert and Mason Rudolph.
Count on those depth charts changing after trades, free agency and the draft take place.
The retirements of Tom Brady and Ben Roethlisberger left Gabbert and Rudolph as the starters for the ill-prepared Buccaneers and Steelers, respectively, and also kicked off what could be another wild offseason Quarterback Carousel.
Two years ago, Brady and Philip Rivers changed teams. Last year, Super Bowl-winner Matthew Stafford and Carson Wentz were traded. Now? More big names than ever could be on the move, including the reigning MVP, former No. 1-overall draft picks, former Super Bowl starters and more.
In addition to the Buccaneers and Steelers, the teams seeking quarterback upgrades include the Saints, Panthers, Broncos and Commanders. As their holes get plugged, others will open, especially given that the first round of a supposedly weak draft class might provide few solutions.
Here is a categorized look at who is riding the carousel in 2022:
Blockbuster trade market
Aaron Rodgers, Packers
Best fits: Packers, Broncos, 49ers
As the Packers hire assistant coaches to appease him and ruin their salary cap with contract restructures to build around him, Rodgers is writing cryptic “look at me” messages about gratitude. There seems to be a misunderstanding about whether the Packers promised to trade Rodgers, if that becomes his wish, just to lure him back last season. The reigning MVP is supposed to inform the team of his plans soon. The Broncos, who hired Packers offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett as head coach, are well-positioned if he demands a trade. He could dangle retirement, too.
Russell Wilson, Seahawks
Best fits: Seahawks, Eagles, Steelers
One of the differences between Rodgers and Wilson entering the second offseason of speculation around both is that the Seahawks finished with a losing record for the first time since 2011, Wilson missed games (three of them) for the first time in his career due to injury, and a stretch with one playoff win since 2017 continued. Wilson sounded unhappy when Seattle was winning, so now what? But he only would consider pulling his no-trade clause for certain markets, and 70-year-old coach Pete Carroll might not have the appetite to start over.
Deshaun Watson, Texans
Best fits: Texans, Commanders, Buccaneers, Saints
Watson’s attorney has said he believes prosecutors have set an April 1 deadline on whether to pursue criminal charges against the quarterback, who also faces 22 civil lawsuits filed for sexual misconduct. If that happens, teams would start free agency without answers on Watson’s status. One more legal delay could mean the draft would have passed before there are answers. With no way to assess fair trade value until justice runs its course and the Texans in no hurry to dump him for less, Watson’s career rots in roster purgatory unless one team owner takes a big gamble that he will be available and eligible to play.
Kyler Murray, Cardinals
Best fits: Cardinals, Eagles, Broncos, Colts
The best young quarterback in the NFC added himself to the carousel by airing grievances as only the under-25 crowd does — removing all social-media ties to the Cardinals. Team sources responded to ESPN by anonymously calling him “self-centered” and “immature.” This break-up makes no sense from a purely football standpoint, but the relationship that began with fawning across Big 12 enemy lines between Murray and head coach Kliff Kingsbury appears to be spiraling. This is Murray’s first season eligible for a contract extension. Could it be a money grab?
Trade, cut or keep
Carson Wentz, Colts
Best fits: Broncos, Panthers, Vikings
The usually smart Colts made an all-time bad trade giving up a third-round draft pick in 2021 and the No. 16 pick in 2022 for Wentz, who might be cut before the Eagles even finalize their return. If there are no trade takers, the Colts’ reported willingness to eat $15 million dead cap to free up $13.3 million (by cutting Wentz before March 18) and leave Jacob Eason as the top in-house quarterback shows how quickly Wentz’s attitude wore out its welcome in a second city.
Jimmy Garoppolo, 49ers
Best fits: 49ers, Raiders, Texans, Colts
Seeing the writing on the wall that it’s No. 3-overall draft pick Trey Lance’s time, Garoppolo said goodbye to fans after the season ended. But what if Lance isn’t ready to inherit a team with Super Bowl aspirations? Could the 49ers keep Garoppolo for one more season? Or is that idea just to rebuild a trade market after he was neutered by the game plans in the playoffs? His salary is $24.2 million. Is there a team willing to call the 49ers’ bluff and see if he is released (only $1.4 million dead cap) and can be had at a cheaper salary without trading assets?
Derek Carr, Raiders
Best fits: Raiders, Buccaneers, Steelers, Saints
Some things never change: The Raiders still seem hesitant to commit to Carr even after reaching the playoffs and replacing head coach Jon Gruden with Josh McDaniels. They could pay Carr $19.8 million to start or move on from him with no dead cap if he is traded or released. McDaniels infamously ruined a relationship with quarterback Jay Cutler, and it led to a quick firing in his last head-coach stint, so treading lightly is smart.
Kirk Cousins, Vikings
Best fits: Vikings, Panthers, Broncos
Cousins reportedly isn’t interested in a pay cut to bail out the Vikings from a bad contract. Why should he? His $35 million salary is owed whether he is cut or not. He is set to count $45 million against the cap, but just $10 million in dead cap if a trade partner is willing to take on his salary in the last year of a rare fully guaranteed deal. New head coach Kevin O’Connell has praised Cousins, but we’ve seen new marriages start with lies before.
2021 starters in free agency
Best fits: Saints, Steelers, Texans, Cowboys
After waiting a year behind Drew Brees and learning from Sean Payton, Winston got his chance to replace the future Hall of Famer, went 5-2 as the Saints starter and suffered a season-ending injury. Bad luck for the former king of all-or-nothing throws. If the Saints are still in win-now mode after Payton’s retirement, he could stick. If it’s the start of a rebuilding process to get a healthy salary cap, he is headed elsewhere.
Best fits: Jets, Saints, Dolphins, Bears, Packers
Bridgewater’s time in the NFL always will have a what-if attached to the career-threatening leg injury coming off his 2015 Pro Bowl season with the Vikings. And the Panthers made a mistake moving on from Bridgewater last offseason to trade for Sam Darnold. Those things said, as he searches for a sixth team, he probably is out of chances to start after going 7-7 for the Broncos last season.
Free-agent caretakers and challengers
Best fits: Browns, Texans, Patriots
The last time Dalton had a winning record as a starter was 2015. The three-time Pro Bowler was 3-3 as one of three starters for the messy Bears last season. He would fit with a team that doesn’t want to start a rookie too soon or wants to challenge a middling veteran.
Best fits: Panthers, Commanders
The former MVP’s midseason return to the Panthers in 2021 after being cut by the Patriots at the end of training camp was a nice story, but Newton was 0-5 as a starter. If he doesn’t want to be a backup — as he previously has stated — this might be the end.
Best fits: Giants, 49ers, Eagles
Mariota threw 30 passes over two years as a high-priced backup to Carr. A team with a dual-threat quarterback could sign Mariota to provide insurance without having to change the whole offense to fit him.
Best fits: Jaguars, Chargers, Jets
Signed to start for Washington, “Fitzmagic” suffered a season-ending hip injury Week 1. He will turn 40 in November, so the question is whether he wants to end a fascinating career on that note or return to a familiar caretaker role.
Best fits: Giants, Browns, Raiders
Saddled with high expectations after the Bears drafted him, ahead of Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson, Trubisky was doomed from the start. But he was 29-21 with two playoff berths as a starter. After a year as a backup with the Bills, the former Pro Bowler is better than some current starters.