I don’t know how all this started yesterday after I posted the daily rant, but I wound up sitting at my desk with a cup of coffee making notes about NFL teams with new starting QBs for the upcoming season. And as is often the case, I focused on the changes that had not made the big splashy headlines like Russell Wilson going to Denver or Deshaun Watson going to Cleveland. At the end of my ruminations, I had a list that comprises 25% of the NFL where the teams are in the following situation:
- Those teams are going to start young QBs who were early first round draft picks that have not lived up to their billing and this might be their final chance to establish themselves as something more than an itinerant backup for the rest of their careers.
There are 8 teams/young QBs in this circumstance. Keeping an eye on their achievements or failures during the course of the 2022 season could be interesting. Let me present you my list of guys to keep an eye out for in alphabetical order:
Sam Darnold – Panthers: The Jets took Darnold with the third overall pick in the 2018 draft; he played college football at USC. The combination of injuries and a bad team around him contributed to a major level of disappointment in his days with the Jets. He started 38 games for NY and the team record in those 38 games was 13-25-0. Darnold was traded to the Panthers last year; he started 11 games in Carolina and the team went 4-7 in those games. His contract is up at the end of the 2022 season, and he will be an unrestricted free agent at that point unless of course the Panthers apply a franchise tag or a transition tag to him. Unless Darnold lights it up this season, he is not likely to get either tag. I think his outlook is bleak because the Panthers’ roster looks more “woebegone” than “robust”.
Justin Fields – Bears: He is sort of an outlier on this list because he has only had a single partial season in the NFL. Nonetheless, he was taken by the Bears with the 11th pick in the 2021 draft – and the Bears traded up to make that selection; he played college football at Ohio State. Fields started 10 games for the Bears last season and the team was 2-8-0 in those games. Moreover, his stats for 2021 are much better described as “marginal” than they are “acceptable”. Fields’ contract is very team friendly at this point and does not expire until the end of the 2024 season. This is not a “make-or-break” year for Fields – unless he figuratively throws up on his shoes – but the Bears and Bears’ fans will want to see significant progress from him. That may be difficult because the Bears’ roster – particularly on offense – looks to be sad.
Jared Goff – Lions: The Rams took Goff with the overall #1 pick in the 2016 draft; he played college football at Cal. Despite having a winning record of 42-27-0 with the Rams, the team traded him to Detroit to acquire Matthew Stafford – – and then proceeded to win the Super Bowl with Stafford at the helm. Goff’s year with the Lions was a less-than-wonderful one where the team went 3-10-1 in his 14 starts. Goff has made the Pro Bowl twice in his career; his contract runs through the end of the 2024 season and the contract calls for him to make about $25M per year over the next three seasons. The guaranteed portions of Goff’s contract appear to be over at the end of the 2022 season, so the Lions could “move on” at the end of 2022 with a minimal dead cap hit. We shall see…
Daniel Jones – Giants: The Giants took Jones with the overall sixth pick in the 2019 draft; he played college football at Duke. He has started 37 games for the Giants over 3 seasons and the team record in those games is 12-25-0. A disturbing stat here is that in those 37 games, Jones has fumbled 36 times. That disturbing stat might be mitigated to some extent by noting that the Giants’ OL has allowed Jones to be sacked 105 times in those 37 starts. The Giants did not exercise the fifth-year option for Jones meaning that his contract expires at the end of the 2022 season, and he will be an unrestricted free agent then – – absent getting one of those “tags”. This is a big year for Daniel Jones.
Drew Lock – Seahawks: The Broncos took Lock in the second round of the 2019 draft; he played college football at Missouri. Back in March of this year, Lock was traded to the Seahawks – along with 5 draft picks and two NFL starters at other positions – for Russell Wilson. Lock’s time with the Broncos was mediocre; he started 21 games; the team was 8-13-0 in those starts; also in those 21 starts, he threw 20 INTs – – including a league leading 15 INTs in the 2020 season. The first thing on Lock’s agenda for 2022 is to beat out Geno Smith for the starting job in Seattle; from there he will have the chance to show that he can be a reliable starter in the NFL. If he does not/can not beat out Geno Smith for the job, he has pretty much defined his status for the league to see. Lock’s contract is up at the end of the 2022 season, and he will be an unrestricted free agent – – absent any of those pesky “tags”. Purely a hunch, but I see time in the Canadian Football League in Drew Lock’s future.
Marcus Mariota – Falcons: The Titans took Mariota with the #2 pick in the 2015 draft; he played college football at Oregon. He was with the Titans for 5 years starting 61 games for the Titans and posting a record of 29-32-0 in those starts. He was released by the Titans at the end of the 2019 season when the Titans signed Ryan Tannehill to be their starter. Mariota was the backup in Las Vegas for the last two seasons seeing extremely limited action. He signed a 2-year contract with the Falcons in March of this year but there is no guaranteed money in that contract after the 2022 season. This looks to me to be a “show-me season” for Mariota and he might only have a knife in a gun fight. The Falcons’ look like a team that will take its lumps in 2022.
Mitchell Trubisky – Steelers: The Bears took Trubisky with the #2 pick in the 2017 draft – and they traded up to take him there. He played college football at UNC. In 4 years with the Bears, Trubisky started 50 games and posted a 29-21-0 record in those starts. He made the Pro Bowl once; and in 2018, the Bears went 11-3 in Trubisky’s 14 starts. Nevertheless, Bears’ fans never let him – or the team – forget that the Bears traded up to take Trubisky ahead of both Patrick Mahomes and Deshaun Watson. At the end of his rookie contract, the Bears let him walk and he was with the Bills as their backup QB last year. He signed a 2-year deal with the Steelers worth $14M and projects to be the starter in Pittsburgh this year. His contract, however, has no guaranteed money in it other than his signing bonus, so the 2-year designation is more gossamer-like than iron-clad. This is indeed a big year for Trubisky, and he has plenty of obstacles to overcome including:
- He is following a Hall of Fame hero who had been in Pittsburgh for 18 years.
- The AFC North looks like a very tough division for 2022.
- His WR corps is very young.
Carson Wentz – Commanders: The Eagles took Wentz with the #2 pick in the 2016 draft; he played college football at North Dakota State. His career with the Eagles started out brilliantly; in his second season (2017) he was playing near MVP level until he was injured in the 13th game of the year. Even though he did not play a full season, he finished third in the voting for MVP and was second to Tom Brady in voting as the All-Pro QB for that season. Since that year, however, things have not gone nearly as well for Wentz; his record as a starter – – with the Eagles and the Colts – – has been 26-29-1. Wentz’ final time with the Eagles was not harmonious; rumors of refusing to talk to coaches and pouting after he was benched were rampant; nonetheless, the Colts acquired Wentz via a trade last year and the Colts missed the playoffs when they lost to the sorry-assed Jaguars in the final game of the regular season and Wentz played terribly. The Colts traded him to the Commanders in the last offseason and more “poor locker-room presence rumors” emanated from folks who follow the Colts. Wentz’ contract runs through the end of the 2024 season but most of the guarantees in that contract are gone at the end of the 2022 season. This is an important year for Carson Wentz on two fronts:
- Is he the “MVP-contender” sort of player or is he a QB who wins half his games?
- His new coach – Ron Rivera – is as big a “no nonsense” guy as there is in the NFL. “Locker room problems” do not fare well on Rivera’s teams.
Finally, let me close today with a comment by Groucho Marx that seems most appropriate for the US in 2022:
“In America you can go on the air and kid the politicians, and the politicians can go on the air and kid the people.”
But don’t get me wrong, I love sports………