Which Teams Are Likely to Have New Starting Quarterbacks in 2023?
The 2022 offseason and ensuing trade deadline brought high-profile player movement and fireworks but actually fewer starting quarterback changes across the NFL.
Despite trades involving Russell Wilson, Matt Ryan, Carson Wentz and Baker Mayfield, there were only 11 new Week 1 starters from the 2021 season to 2022. That was down from 16 new Week 1 starters from 2020 to 2021. There were 11 new Week 1 starters from 2019 to 2020, 12 from 2018 to 2019 and 14 from 2017 to 2018.
So that begs the question whether we’ll see a rise from 2022 to 2023, and it certainly looks possible given the NFL’s current landscape.
Let’s categorize teams by the likelihood they’ll have a new starting quarterback from Week 1 of this season to Week 1 of the 2023 campaign:
LOCKS OR NEAR-LOCKS
- 2022 Week 1 starter: Marcus Mariota
- Current starter: Desmond Ridder
Mariota has already been benched for Ridder, a 2022 third-round pick, which is obviously a very bad sign for not only his prospects of starting for Atlanta in 2023 but his standing on the Falcons’ roster next season. Atlanta signed Mariota to a two-year, $18.75-million contract as a free agent last offseason but can cut him this spring and save $12 million in salary cap space while taking on just $2.5 million in dead money.
Ridder has shown some promise since taking over the starting job in Week 15, but he still ranks 30th among 41 QBs who have at least 120 plays in expected passing situations in QB EVE (passing yards over expected in expected passing situations). But Atlanta should still look to add a veteran quarterback through a trade or free agency to lock down the starting role or provide some competition for Ridder. The Falcons currently are set to pick seventh in the 2023 NFL Draft. It’s possible that one of the top QBs in this year’s draft could fall to them or that they could use a second-round pick or future draft capital to move up for a Bryce Young, C.J. Stroud or Will Levis.
- 2022 Week 1 starter: Baker Mayfield
- Current starter: Sam Darnold
Well, it’s a stone-cold lock that Mayfield won’t be the Panthers’ Week 1 starting quarterback unless true craziness ensues this offseason. Mayfield isn’t even on the Panthers’ roster anymore after he was cut last month and signed with the Los Angeles Rams, with whom he’s currently starting.
Darnold has been surprisingly good since re-entering the starting mix in Week 12, ranking ninth in well-thrown percentage and sixth in pickable pass percentage among those with at least 100 attempts over that span. It seems unlikely, however, that Darnold would enter 2023 as Carolina’s starter for multiple reasons.
First, he’s a free agent after the season. Second, prior to this season, Darnold was perhaps the NFL’s worst regular starting quarterback. From 2018-21 among 31 QBs with at least 1,000 attempts, Darnold ranked 23rd in well-thrown percentage and 30th in pickable pass percentage. Third, Carolina will undergo a head coaching search this offseason.
While it’s possible that Steve Wilks could be back as head coach in 2023, it also wouldn’t be surprising if owner David Tepper had his sights set higher on a more high-profile candidate. And there’s no guarantee that Darnold would have similar success with a new head coach and offensive coordinator since he’s never had this same success before.
That being said, Carolina is currently set to pick ninth in the 2023 NFL Draft, so they’re not in an ideal position to take a rookie quarterback, though they do have a plethora of picks after trading Christian McCaffrey to the San Francisco 49ers. Carolina also could look to add a stop-gap veteran QB, and there should be plenty available via free agency and trades.
- 2022 Week 1 starter: Jacoby Brissett
- Current starter: Deshaun Watson
There’s not much to say here. Brissett started Week 1 because Watson was suspended 12 games for violating the NFL’s personal-conduct policy after being accused by 20 women of sexual misconduct. Watson will be the Week 1 starter, barring anything unforeseen. It’s at least worth noting that Brissett (19th) currently ranks significantly higher than Watson (38th) in QB EVE. Brissett is a free agent, and the Browns would be wise to bring him back if he can’t find a starting job this offseason.
- 2022 Week 1 starter: Davis Mills
- Current starter: Mills
Mills has already been benched for Kyle Allen and is now co-piloting an unprecedented quarterback platoon with Jeff Driskel.
When the answer to your quarterback quandary isn’t Mills and is instead Mills plus a quarterback who was briefly converted to tight end last season, then you truly don’t have a solution at the position.
Mills ranks second-to-last in QB EVE this season and hasn’t taken the Year-2 leap that would have ensured him the starting job in 2023. The Texans currently own the top pick in the 2023 NFL Draft and can take the quarterback of their choosing or spin the QB carousel with a veteran free-agent or trade option.
- 2022 Week 1 starter: Matt Ryan
- Current starter: Sam Ehlinger
The quarterback depth chart has been a wild ride in Indianapolis this season as Ehlinger has gone from third to second to first, back to second, back to third, back to second and back to first. Ryan will back up Ehlinger in Week 18 because the Colts have no other option after Nick Foles, who started last week, injured his ribs. It’s risky to even have Ryan serve as a backup since $7.2 million of his 2023 salary is guaranteed for injury.
Ryan has not been good this season, but he’s better than Ehlinger and that contract tweak is a big reason why he’s not currently starting. Among 57 quarterbacks to have at least 49 plays in expected passing situations, Ryan ranks 20th in QB EVE while Ehlinger is 55th and Foles is dead last.
Indianapolis has had one of the worst quarterback situations in the NFL this season and will almost certainly be starting fresh again in 2023. The Colts are currently set to pick fifth overall in the draft, where they could be in a position to take a quarterback of the future. Indianapolis hasn’t had the same Week 1 starting QB year over year since 2016.
Las Vegas Raiders
- 2022 Week 1 starter: Derek Carr
- Current starter: Jarrett Stidham
Carr is in a similar position as Ryan, though he has even more money tied up in injury guarantees.
Stidham actually looked pretty good in Week 17, but backup quarterbacks have been on a hot streak this season in their initial starts, so that might not be something to bank on in the future. If Carr is released or traded, which seems likely at this point, the Raiders could add a quarterback with experience in head coach Josh McDaniels’ offense like Tom Brady, Jimmy Garoppolo or Brissett. Las Vegas currently is set to pick eighth overall, so a rookie QB could still be in play. It’s perhaps not out of the realm of possibility that the Raiders could pry Mac Jones free from the New England Patriots, though that’s a less likely scenario.
New Orleans Saints
- 2022 Week 1 starter: Jameis Winston
- Current starter: Andy Dalton
Winston suffered back and foot injuries and then never regained his starting job from Dalton, which isn’t overly surprising. Dalton has been more than serviceable in a nonetheless disappointing season for the Saints, ranking first in well-thrown percentage with the sixth-lowest pickable pass percentage among those with 100 attempts.
The Saints don’t have a first-round pick, and they’re in salary cap hell for the umpteenth straight offseason, so it’s certainly possible they could bring back Dalton in 2023 as a stopgap starter if they’re left without a better option. That would still constitute a new Week 1 starter for New Orleans in 2023 since Winston began 2022 as the Saints’ QB1.
New York Jets
- 2022 Week 1 starter: Joe Flacco
- Current starter: Mike White
Zach Wilson missed the start of the 2022 season due to injury, so this timeline skips him over entirely, but don’t count on him starting Week 1 of the 2023 season either given how disastrous his Year 2 was in New York.
None of the Jets’ QBs have been great this season with Flacco ranking 21st and White 23rd in QB EVE among 57 QBs with at least 49 plays in expected pass situations. Wilson (40th) was far worse.
It’s rare to see one position hold back a team so completely, but that’s the situation New York finds itself in this season with solid offensive pieces and a young, ascending defense. The Jets need to find stability at worst and an elite option at best at quarterback to truly contend this upcoming season. They should be aiming for the stars with a player like Brady or Aaron Rodgers. Garoppolo or Carr would be decent consolation prizes and major upgrades over their current crop of QBs.
- 2022 Week 1 starter: Mitchell Trubisky
- Current starter: Kenny Pickett
The Steelers qualify because Trubisky started Week 1. Pickett is the future here as he’s come into his own over the back half of the season, ranking first in pickable pass percentage since Week 12.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
- 2022 Week 1 starter: Tom Brady
- Current starter: Brady
Brady is a free agent, and the Buccaneers are very clearly regressing this season. He gave the team a Super Bowl championship and doesn’t need to feel any remorse about moving on after the 2022 season. He should have some options too.
He went through a rough stretch of games from Week 14-16 (one of the worst three-game spans of his NFL career) but bounced back in Week 17. Now we’ll see how far Brady can carry the Bucs on his back in the postseason.
The Bucs are due for a hard reset next season. Brady is on the books for $35.1 million in dead money and 2021 second-round pick Kyle Trask is the only quarterback under contract. Without a high pick in the 2023 NFL Draft, Tampa Bay could look to add a stopgap starter through free agency unless a rookie the Bucs like drops to them.
- 2022 Week 1 starter: Carson Wentz
- Current starter: Sam Howell
The Commanders fumbled the bag with their quarterback situation starting in the offseason when they jumped the gun by trading for Carson Wentz. And it’s a continuation of mistakes Washington has made at the position over the years. They’ve had a different Week 1 starting quarterback every year since 2017. Barring a surprise, it appears that will continue in 2023 as well.
Wentz suffered an injury at midseason and lost his starting job to Taylor Heinicke. He regained it in Week 17 but struggled in a loss that helped knock Washington out of postseason contention and now will sit for rookie Sam Howell in Week 18. That set of circumstances and a contract that contains no guarantees in 2023 and 2024 do not bode well for his future standing with the organization.
The Commanders likely played themselves out of contention to take a top QB in the 2023 NFL Draft without a massive trade up.
DON’T RULE IT OUT
Just a note here, we were pretty lenient with this category. We only wanted to fully eliminate the Buffalo Bills and Josh Allen, the Chicago Bears and Justin Fields, the Cincinnati Bengals and Joe Burrow, the Dallas Cowboys and Dak Prescott, the Jacksonville Jaguars and Trevor Lawrence, the Kansas City Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes, the Los Angeles Chargers and Justin Herbert and the Philadelphia Eagles and Jalen Hurts.
- 2022 Week 1 starter: Kyler Murray
- Current starter: David Blough
The Cardinals are only on this list because Murray suffered a torn ACL late in the season. Depending on his recovery, that could push back the start of his 2023 campaign.
- 2022 Week 1 starter: Russell Wilson
- Current starter: Russell Wilson
We noted in a piece last week that it’s extremely difficult for the Broncos to get out of the five-year, $245 million contract extension they signed Wilson to before 2022, but it’s possible through trade or a post-June 1 designation without completely tanking the Broncos’ salary cap.
Still, it’s extremely unlikely, and the Broncos are likely to have their first quarterback start Week 1 in back-to-back seasons since Trevor Siemian did it in 2016 and 2017.
- 2022 Week 1 starter: Jared Goff
- Current starter: Jared Goff
The Lions have a lot at stake in Sunday’s Los Angeles Rams-Seattle Seahawks matchup. If the Rams win, then the Lions need to beat the Green Bay Packers on Sunday night to make the playoffs. If the Seahawks win, the Lions are eliminated from the playoffs, but the pick they acquired from the Rams by trading away Matthew Stafford has a chance to improve. The Lions are currently slated to pick sixth (from LAR) and 17th overall (their own pick), where they’d have a chance to stay put or move up for a top QB.
If the Lions can land Young, Stroud or Levis, then the possibility exists that Goff might not be the 2023 Week 1 starter despite the fact that he’s impressed this season.
Green Bay Packers
- 2022 Week 1 starter: Aaron Rodgers
- Current starter: Aaron Rodgers
The Packers can clinch a playoff spot with a win over the Lions. Green Bay has struggled this season, and Rodgers hasn’t been himself, but one would think a playoff run might convince the four-time MVP to return in 2023. But he hasn’t put retirement speculation to bed, and his contract is massive – but tradable.
Los Angeles Rams
- 2022 Week 1 starter: Matthew Stafford
- Current starter: Baker Mayfield
Stafford has said he doesn’t plan to retire despite landing on injured reserve with a spinal contusion after dealing with an elbow injury over the summer. The Rams can’t release Stafford and it seems out of the realm of possibility that a team would trade for a soon-to-be 35-year-old quarterback coming off of a neck injury who struggled for a solid chunk of the 2022 season.
So, the most likely scenario is that Stafford will be back starting Week 1 of the 2023 season. But just that descriptor “soon-to-be 35-year-old quarterback coming off of a neck injury” gives some pause.
- 2022 Week 1 starter: Tua Tagovailoa
- Current starter: Skylar Thompson
Given all that has transpired this season with Tagovailoa – from his early-season breakout to multiple concussion issues and late-season struggles – it would be wise for the Dolphins to at least have a prudent Plan B at quarterback next season.
Hopefully, Tagovailoa can continue on with his career with full health and safety, but that seems like less of a certainty today than it did even last month when he suffered his second diagnosed concussion of the season, forcing him to miss Weeks 17 and 18 after he missed two weeks earlier this season with a separate concussion.
Over the first 12 weeks of the season, Tagovailoa had a 79.9 well-thrown percentage and a 4.01 pickable pass percentage. Since Week 13, he ranks last in the league with a 69.9 well-thrown percentage and a 9.01 pickable pass percentage.
There’s not really a clear-cut answer on how the Dolphins should move forward with Tua. Six weeks ago, it looked like he was set to earn a top-market contract extension as he enters the fourth year of his rookie deal. Now everything is less certain and it’s at least worth discussing whether the Dolphins could revisit their interest in Brady. They already lost a 2023 first-round pick for tampering with him. Why not make it worthwhile by bringing him aboard as a free agent? Brady has been willing to take less than market value in recent years.
- 2022 Week 1 starter: Kirk Cousins
- Current starter: Kirk Cousins
Cousins is entering the final year of his contract with the Vikings, and while it’s fully guaranteed, it’s also tradable. Cousins does have a no-trade clause, though, so any deal would have to be approved by the QB. The Vikings are 12-4, but analytics suggest they’re playing over their heads as they rank 26th in overall EVE.
Minnesota would have to be certain it could continue its current level of play with a new QB, and that seems difficult. Cousins might want assurances for 2024 and beyond if he’s kept for next season, however.
He ranks 19th in QB EVE this season as new head coach Kevin O’Connell has taken a relatively conservative approach to his offense.
New England Patriots
- 2022 Week 1 starter: Mac Jones
- Current starter: Mac Jones
Jones, unlike Lawrence and Fields, regressed this season. However, his struggles are forgiven by the fact that New England hamstrung him with Matt Patricia as an offensive coordinator.
Even if Jones is retained, as expected, for the 2023 season, there should be at least some level of competition expected from rookie backup Bailey Zappe, who was more efficient than Jones in a smaller sample size this season.
New York Giants
- 2022 Week 1 starter: Daniel Jones
- Current starter: Daniel Jones
Jones has certainly earned another season as the Giants’ starter with the NFL’s seventh-best well-thrown percentage, but he’s a free agent and New York can only franchise or transition tag one of Jones or running back Saquon Barkley.
- 2022 Week 1 starter: Geno Smith
- Current starter: Geno Smith
Smith is also a free agent, and the Seahawks currently own the third overall pick in the 2023 NFL Draft by way of the Wilson-Broncos trade. Do you think Pete Carroll wouldn’t want to flip Wilson for his quarterback of the future?
If the Seahawks land Young, Stroud or Levis, then Smith’s certainty as a Week 1 starter seemingly would be in question. Smith does rank third in well-thrown percentage this season.
San Francisco 49ers
- 2022 Week 1 starter: Trey Lance
- Current starter: Brock Purdy
There’s a lot going on here with the 49ers. Lance’s injury gave way to Jimmy Garoppolo starting. And then Garoppolo’s injury gave way to Purdy playing. Purdy has played so well in place of Garoppolo that it seems fairly unlikely that San Francisco would need the veteran back in 2023.
It’s not out of the realm of possibility that the 49ers could add another quarterback into the mix with Lance and Purdy, however, and Brady is a player who comes to mind. Brady grew up as a 49ers fan in the Bay Area, and it would be a fairytale ending for him to finish his career in the red and gold.
- 2022 Week 1 starter: Ryan Tannehill
- Current starter: Joshua Dobbs
Two things seem clear as the Titans stumble to the end of their 2022 campaign:
- While Tannehill is an efficient NFL starting quarterback, he has not been able to get Tennessee over the hump despite a quality head coach and roster.
- Malik Willis, the Titans’ 2022 third-round pick, seems unlikely to be Tennessee’s 2023 Week 1 starter since he’s not even closing out the season as QB1.
So the Titans have a few options. They can go back to the rookie QB well this offseason despite currently being slated to pick 11th in the 2023 NFL Draft and either bring back Tannehill or find another stopgap QB. Or they too could try to find an upgrade over Tannehill in the form of Brady, Rodgers, Carr or whoever else can come available.
It’s one of the most cloudy quarterback situations in the NFL, but it’s also clear that Tennessee needs to make significant changes this offseason to improve its standing.