At this stage of the season, while there is plenty of focus on the playoffs, the majority of teams in the NFL are already starting to look ahead to next season.
While a lot of that focuses on the head coach situation, and especially for those teams who have fired their head coach, there is also a lot of questions to be answered regarding the key role in the team, that of the starting quarterback.
Now for some teams, it is a no-brainer who their quarterback will be next season. For others, there are some question marks, and for a few, there could be sweeping changes and dramatic moves in free agency or the NFL draft in order to bring in fresh talent and move on an under-performing or wantaway player.
In the first of our two-part series looking at the quarterback situation across the NFL, we will preview the quarterback situation at each of the 16 AFC Teams and give you our view on whether a team will stick with the player they have, bring in a fresh face through free agency or the draft or seek a trade for their main signal caller.
We will then repeat the process tomorrow for the 16 teams in the NFC, which has a number of intriguing situations to report on in its own right.
So let’s begin with a look at the situation in the AFC North
Cincinnati Bengals – QB – Joe Burrow – STICK!
After injuring his ACL last year, Burrow has come back and in tandem with Ja’Marr Chase has emerged as one of the top quarterbacks in the NFL. His play is a big reason the Bengals won the AFC North and the signing of Chase in last April’s draft was a masterstroke. Burrow will be the face of this franchise for many years to come. Brandon Allen and Jake Browning are solid back ups so I can’t see the Bengals making too many changes at QB this off-season.
Pittsburgh Steelers – QB – Ben Roethlisberger – REPLACE!
It’s an open secret in the NFL that this will likely be Ben Roethlisberger’s last season as a Steeler and that is going to leave Mike Tomlin with a crucial decision to make as to who to replace him with. Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins don’t really look up to the task and with quarterback talent thin on the ground in this year’s draft, I can see the Steelers trying to put a trade deal together. If DeShaun Watson’s legal situation was resolved, he could be a legitimate target, as could Russell Wilson if he pushes through a move from Seattle.
Baltimore Ravens – QB- Lamar Jackson – STICK!
The Ravens issues this season have not been down to their former NFL MVP. Injuries have stalled Jackson later on in this season and injuries to other players really ended the Ravens season over the last few weeks. John Harbaugh won’t have any worries about his star man, or indeed his back up, Tyler Huntley, and I think the QB situation in Baltimore is as settled as it is in any other part of the country.
Cleveland Browns – QB – Baker Mayfield – TRADE!
After another very mixed season, I wonder if the Browns are ready to move on from Baker Mayfield. The quarterback has had a real mix of stellar games and some downright miserable displays over the last couple of years. Reliability is the key at QB and Mayfield seems to lack that. I wouldn’t be surprised to see the Browns hawk him around for a trade, with a view to perhaps bringing in Kirk Cousins from the Vikings or Derek Carr from the Raiders.
Buffalo Bills – QB – Josh Allen – KEEP!
Another very easy decision for the Bills is that Josh Allen will be the man under center not just next season but moving forward for the foreseeable future. With Mitchell Trubisky as a back-up, the Bills look very well set at quarterback heading forward and I think they will be looking to address other areas of the team this off-season.
New England Patriots – QB – Mac Jones – KEEP!
Mac Jones has had a fantastic first season as the Patriots quarterback, making the decision to let Cam Newton go in the pre-season look all the better by the Patriots. Brian Hoyer is a solid back up option but is not getting any younger so I feel the Patriots may decide to make a move for an experienced back up if one is available in free agency.
Miami Dolphins – QB- Tua Tagavailoa – KEEP (On Condition)!
Many people feel the Dolphins are not sold on Tagavailoa going forward. I kind of agree with that but only on the proviso that the Dolphins can get a top notch replacement. For me that means DeShaun Jackson or Russell Wilson (I can’t see Aaron Rodgers following Tom Brady and swapping the icy north for the balmier Floridian climes). If the Dolphins can agree a trade for Tagavailoa for Wilson or Watson, presuming Watson’s issues are sorted, they may pull the trigger, if not I think Tua remains in Miami next season.
New York Jets – QB – Zach Wilson – KEEP!
Zach Wilson had an up and down season in his rookie year with the Jets but there has been enough promise shown for Robert Saleh to keep faith with his quarterback going into next season. They may look at the backup situation, an experienced head at the right price, perhaps someone like Teddy Bridgewater or Cam Newton could help Wilson’s development in Year two and provide experienced cover, but Wilson will be the number 1 QB next year.
Tennessee Titans – QB – Ryan Tannehill – KEEP!
Ryan Tannehill’s revival has had its ups and downs over the past season, but the quarterback has carried the team admirably over the second half of the season with Derrick Henry, AJ Brown and Julio Jones all absent for periods. With all three back and fit for the playoffs, Tannehill has now guided the Titans into the postseason three times in three years. He’s a lock in to be the starter for Tennessee next season.
Indianapolis Colts – QB – Carson Wentz – KEEP!
Wentz’s meltdown in the Colts final game of the year against the Jaguars isn’t really how this season should be remembered. All QB’s have a bad day, Wentz’s issue was that it came in a key game. That loss wasn’t all on the QB though and I think he has done enough for Frank Reich to keep faith in him, although the Colts may look at bringing in a back up option either through free agency or the draft.
Houston Texans – QB – Davis Mills – KEEP! – DeShaun Watson – TRADE!
The situation at the Texans is muddled up by the DeShaun Watson scandal, which is still ongoing, but even if it is resolved in the QB’s favor, his time in Houston looks to be over. Watson will be traded, but at a high price, but there will still be suitors if his issues are resolved. However, the Texans will be happy with Davis Mills record breaking rookie season for them and while they may look to pick up another option in the draft or free agency, I think there are plenty of other holes on the team that need addressing before another QB.
Jacksonville Jaguars – QB – Trevor Lawrence – KEEP!
There’s no way that the Jaguars will throw in the towel on their number one draft pick of last year, regardless of who the new head coach is. The Urban Meyer experiment didn’t work, but there’s still plenty of upside to Lawrence heading forward for the Jags. A better head coach and some better quality around him and he could still mature into a top calibre NFL quarterback.
Kansas City Chiefs – QB – Patrick Mahomes – KEEP!
Perhaps the least surprising decision. There is no way that the Chiefs will be letting Mahomes go and in truth, there probably aren’t many teams that could even put together a package to afford him. Mahomes is the future of the Chiefs and he is going to be their quarterback for many years to come.
Las Vegas Raiders – QB – Derek Carr – TRADE!
With the Raiders set to move on with a new head coach, there is every possibility that the new HC may decide to move on without Derek Carr. The Raiders would save $19.9 million in cap space with a trade and there will be plenty of teams interested in the quarterback if they were to tout him as available. With Mariota as a back up, that would give the Raiders leeway to perhaps being a player in through the Draft, or Free Agency, or seek draft picks for Carr as compensation. It all depends on what the new head coach’s plans are.
Los Angeles Chargers – QB – Justin Herbert – KEEP!
This is a no brainer for the Chargers as Herbert is a once-in-a-generational talent and he is the star around which this Chargers team will be based for the next few years. The Chargers may look to pick up a back up, either through Free Agency or with a later draft pick, but I think the QB position is pretty settled in LA.
Denver Broncos – QB – Teddy Bridgewater – RELEASE!
The Teddy Bridgewater experiment didn’t really work out and the Broncos offense once again struggled this season. They were strongly linked with a move for Aaron Rodgers last year before he re-signed with the Packers for one more year and while he may still be set for California, don’t rule out the Broncos making a strong play for Rodgers, Russell Wilson or if he can sort his legal issues, DeShaun Watson.