Latest 2023 NFL QB Carousel Predictions After Super Bowl LVII

There’s still a shred of confetti or two falling at State Farm Stadium as they clean up from Super Bowl LVII. But the NFL is a perpetual motion machine. It never stops moving. As soon as the Lombardi Trophy was awarded to the Kansas City Chiefs, the calendar turned to the 2023 offseason. And as we saw quite plainly in that game, if you want to win it all, you’d better have a high-end quarterback.

Some NFL teams are thankfully set in that regard. But for others, the position languishes under a cloud of uncertainty. Maybe their Hall of Fame signal-caller retired. Or they have been searching for one for years.

Whatever the reason, there is no bigger need for teams without a reliable starter. And while some will look to the draft as the answer, others will turn to this year’s quarterback carousel.

Last year saw the carousel spin at dizzying speed—with mostly disappointing results. Russell Wilson had the worst year of his career in Denver. Matt Ryan and Carson Wentz are both all but certainly one-and-done after miserable campaigns. But if you think that will stop teams from buying a ticket on this year’s merry-go-round, then you don’t know how bad the itch can be when teams need to upgrade at QB.

This year’s carousel includes a Super Bowl starter. A former No. 1 overall pick. The reigning Comeback Player of the Year. And the possibility of a trade that could be even bigger than the Wilson deal.

Here’s an early look at how the carousel could play out—beginning with that potential blockbuster of a trade.

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We might as well start things off with a bang.

Frankly, the most likely landing spot for Aaron Rodgers in 2023 could well be right where he’s at. For all the talk of the Packers being ready to potentially move on from Rodgers just as they did from Brett Favre in 2008, trading a four-time MVP who led the team to 13 wins and the NFC North title as recently as 2021 is still the kind of move that can cost a general manager his job.

But the drumbeats continue that the Packers are at least open to considering a Rodgers trade, and he told The Pat McAfee Show last month he’s keeping an open mind about his playing future.

“That’s No. 1—if I want to play,” Rodgers said. “No. 2, it’s got to be mutual on both sides. What does a team look like with me? What are the proposed direction of players they want to bring in and where I fit in and the prospects moving forward? You want to be part of a team that’s going to win a championship. … I don’t need all my guys to be there. … It’s kind of the feel of the team.”

However, as ESPN reported, the New York Jets have already made inquiries with the Packers about Rodgers’ availability. Team owner Woody Johnson called finding a veteran upgrade at quarterback the “missing piece” needed to get New York into the playoffs. And in offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett and passing game coordinator Todd Downing, the Jets have recently hired a pair of offensive coaches who have history with Rodgers.

The Packers would receive a boatload of draft picks to use to build around Jordan Love. The Jets would get the veteran quarterback they so desperately seek. And Rodgers would get the opportunity to ply his trade in America’s largest media market.

After his darkness retreat, Rodgers is headed for the bright lights of the Big Apple.

That should give Mike Francesa something to talk about.

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And just like that, the quarterback carousel grinds to a halt.

Sure, there has been speculation that the Baltimore Ravens could use the exclusive franchise tag on Jackson and then trade him. Or that the Ravens could use the non-exclusive franchise tag, refuse to match an offer sheet for Jackson and then net two first-round picks in return. It has been reported that there’s a wide gap in guaranteed money on the table and what Jackson (who serves as his own agent) is seeking.

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Neither of those things is going to happen. Jackson isn’t going anywhere. And head coach John Harbaugh made that clear while speaking to reporters.

“One hundred percent, 200 percent. There’s no question about it,” Harbaugh said Thursday. “Lamar Jackson is our quarterback. He’s been our quarterback. Everything that we’ve done in terms of building our offense and building our team, how we think in terms of putting people around him is based on this incredible young man, his talent, his ability and his competitiveness.”

The exclusive rights tag isn’t cheap—close to $45 million. That whole knot would also hit Baltimore’s cap all at once. But it would also buy the Ravens some time to work out an extension, as the exclusive rights tag is just that. Once applied, it’s play for the Ravens or don’t play at all.

Yes, Jackson has missed significant time each of the past two seasons. But he’s also a 26-year-old former NFL MVP who may be the single hardest player in the entire NFL to defend.

Teams don’t let players like that walk out the door. And they certainly don’t push them through it.

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If you enjoy rampant speculation involving more teams than you can count on one hand, then Derek Carr is your guy this offseason.

He is not, however, the Raiders’ guy—months after signing him to a three-year extension that averaged just over $40 million a season, the Raiders benched Carr. And with the 31-year-old apparently not amenable to being traded and a fat chunk of that money set to become guaranteed on February 15, the clock is ticking on Carr’s release.

And he won’t even have to wait until free agency starts to find a new home—which potentially sets the stage for a feeding frenzy for his services.

The New York Jets could be interested as a Plan B if their pursuit of Aaron Rodgers hits a snag. The Indianapolis Colts have been swapping out one veteran quarterback for another seemingly since the Carter administration (that may be a slight exaggeration). Just about the entire NFC South has a need under center, and the New Orleans Saints already had Carr in for a visit.

But New York would be out if it can pull off a blockbuster for Rodgers. The Colts have the fourth overall pick and may finally look to add more than a stopgap quarterback. The Saints have the worst salary-cap situation in the entire NFL, and the Tampa Bay Buccaneers aren’t much better off.

That leaves the Washington Commanders.

Yes, the Commanders have publicly endorsed second-year pro Sam Howell as their 2023 starter. But that’s more the best of a bad set of choices than a ringing endorsement of Howell’s talents.

Carr isn’t an elite quarterback. But he’s a step above what Washington has now. And with skill position talent, a decent offensive line and a stout defense, the Commanders aren’t far off from competing for a playoff spot.

Sorry, Sam. It was fun while it lasted.

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Had you said at this point one year ago that the New York Giants would live to regret passing on the fifth-year option for quarterback Daniel Jones, you would have been scoffed at. Perhaps there would be a chortle and/or snort.

Funny how things work out.

To say that Jones had the best season of his career in 2022 is an understatement. His numbers weren’t eye-popping, but Jones shined in his first year under Brian Daboll, setting a career high in passing yards while ranking fifth in the league in rushing yards among quarterbacks.

Per Paul Schwartz of the New York Post, former teammate James Bradberry believes that Jones has earned a fat payday after leading the Giants to the playoffs.

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“I hope he gets it,” Bradberry said. “I hope he gets 35 [million]. I definitely think Daniel’s a franchise quarterback, and I think this season showed that and also gave him some confidence in himself to know that he is a franchise quarterback. And he’s definitely got the guys over there supporting him as far as the coaches and the offensive players. I feel like he’s the guy, and they should stick with him.”

It’s possible the Giants will indeed ink Jones to an extension—the team has other players to re-sign (including running back Saquon Barkley), and a multiyear deal wouldn’t hit the 2023 cap as hard as the franchise tag.

But whether it’s via a long-term deal or a non-exclusive franchise tag that would pay Jones $32.4 million, the Giants aren’t about to hit the reset button at quarterback after what the team accomplished a year ago.

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The Las Vegas Raiders are right at the center of this year’s quarterback carousel. After severing ties with Carr following a wildly disappointing season in Josh McDaniels’ first year as head coach, the Raiders are in the market for a new starter. The only question is who.

There has been no shortage of speculation that the Raiders could join the Jets in taking a run at Aaron Rodgers. But per Mike Sando of The Athletic, at least one NFL executive believes that Vegas could have its sights set on another veteran signal-caller—one who wouldn’t cost the team any draft picks.

“Vegas would be fine for [Rodgers],” the exec said. “It just seems like a weird fit, Rodgers’ personality and Josh McDaniels. I think Josh would probably rather develop his own guy than have Rodgers, and I think he’d rather have [Jimmy] Garoppolo than Rodgers.”

That groan you just heard came from Raiders fans. But the reality is unless McDaniels is ready to punt on 2023 as well, Garoppolo may be the best option available to the team If Rodgers lands elsewhere. The Raiders pick seventh in April’s draft, but it’s entirely possible the top three passers in this class (Bryce Young, Will Levis and C.J. Stroud) will all be gone by then.

Durability is a legitimate concern with Garoppolo, who has missed at least six games in two of the past three seasons. But Garoppolo is still relatively young at 31. He was 38-17 over 55 starts in San Francisco. Garoppolo knows McDaniels’ offense inside and out. And signing him would free up the Raiders’ draft picks to address a defense that needs its own share of help.

Garoppolo may not be the player Raiders fans want. But that doesn’t mean he wouldn’t make the team better.

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There wasn’t a more surprising performance under center in 2022 than the season turned in by Geno Smith of the Seattle Seahawks. Smith was supposed to be a “bridge” starter—a fill-in who would tide the team over until they could draft a long-term solution. Instead, Smith led the league in completion percentage, ranked eighth in passing yards, was fourth in touchdown passes and won Comeback Player of the Year honors.

Now, Smith heads into free agency with exponentially more leverage than he had a year ago. While appearing at the Pro Bowl, Smith told reporters he is confident he and the Seahawks will agree on an extension.

“We’ve had talks, and we’re in the process of getting all that settled right now,” Smith said. “It’s looking very good. We think we can get some things done, but obviously those things take time. This is the process that I hate about the NFL because I just want to play football, but it’s a business as well, so we’ve got to take care of business and then we’ll get back to the football.”

In fairness, it wouldn’t be unreasonable for the Seahawks to have some reservations about pulling a Brink’s truck full of cash up to Smith’s crib. Calling his 2022 numbers an outlier is an understatement. Prior to last year, he had made five starts over the preceding seven seasons combined. With the fifth pick in April’s draft (courtesy of Denver), the Seahawks are well-positioned to consider a top-three quarterback in the 2023 draft.

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But from all indications, Smith and the Seahawks are already well on the way toward agreeing to a new deal.

Call it a case of not fixing that which is not broken.

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The Tampa Bay Buccaneers are in the most unenviable of positions this year—attempting to replace the greatest quarterback to ever play the game.

As if that isn’t enough, Brady’s retirement also leaves the Buccaneers with a dead cap hit of upward of $35 million in 2023. Due in part to that, the Buccaneers are over $50 million in the red against the cap.

There won’t be any megadeal for Aaron Rodgers. Or signing higher-end free agents like Carr or Garoppolo. The choices are essentially stick with what they have in journeyman backup Blaine Gabbert and youngster Kyle Trask or go the veteran journeyman route. At least one veteran Tampa beat writer believes that the Bucs could choose Door No. 2—and a former No. 1 overall pick.

While appearing on The Dan Patrick Show, Rick Stroud of The Tampa Bay Times pointed out that the Buccaneers kicked the tires on Baker Mayfield last year—and could do so again in 2023.

“I think a lot of it depends on who the [offensive] coordinator is,” Stroud said, “but listen, they were looking last year for quarterbacks when Brady was out for those 40 days, and Baker was on that list.”

The Buccaneers have already interviewed a pair of coaches in Georgia offensive coordinator Todd Monken and Rams assistant head coach Thomas Brown who have a history with Mayfield. Mayfield was admittedly awful in Carolina last year, but he played his best football of the season in Los Angeles.

Mayfield isn’t going to make Buccaneers fans forget about Brady—at best, he’s likely a bridge to the rookie Tampa will probably be using a high pick on in 2024.

But the rebuild has to start somewhere. And for all his faults, Mayfield is a better option than Gabbert or Trask.

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Mike White is hardly the biggest name on this list. Over five NFL seasons spent in Dallas and New York, White has started all of seven games—and four of those starts came in 2022 with the Jets. However, despite a lack of playing time, the soon-to-be 28-year-old White told reporters that he still believes he has what it takes to start in the NFL.

“Anytime you’re named the starter, you wear that badge with honor. To be able to go out and lead these guys and just to know how hard these guys work and how important it is to them, you get that chance to lead them because every quarterback is the leader. I take that with a lot of pride and seriousness and professionalism. That’s the coolest part about it for me, not so much the longevity of it, it’s just the opportunity itself.”

To his credit, there were times when White looked the part of a starter as well. In two of his four starts for the Jets in 2022, White surpassed 300 passing yards.

Mind you, this isn’t to say that White is anyone’s first choice at quarterback. Or even second. But the New Orleans Saints don’t exactly enter the offseason negotiating from a position of strength. At $55.9 million in the red, the Saints have the worst cap situation in the league. Releasing Jameis Winston will clear a chunk, but it also leaves the Saints without a quarterback.

Oh, and the Saints don’t have a first-round pick in 2023, either.

Is White as proven an option as Mayfield or even Jacoby Brissett? No.

But we know what those quarterbacks are—or at least have a pretty good idea.

White is more of a gamble—but it’s just the kind of low-risk gamble the Saints need given their salary mess.


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