The NFL offseason has seen plenty of headlines from the quarterback position. The San Francisco 49ers continue to explore trades for Jimmy Garoppolo, while the Cleveland Browns have seemingly abandoned ship on Baker Mayfield. For the projected starting quarterbacks in 2022, some names will begin Week 1 on the hot seat. Here, we discuss which household names may be in jeopardy of being replaced:
Sam Darnold, Carolina Panthers
After trading for Sam Darnold in April of 2021, the Carolina Panthers left a lot on the table last season. Across 11 games under center, Darnold only won four games; all of which were against non-playoff teams. Among qualified starters last season, the 33.2 QBR of Darnold was only higher than Zach Wilson (28.2) and Justin Fields (26.4).
The offense was without their centerpiece in Christian McCaffrey for most of the season, but with Darnold entering a contract season in which he is scheduled to earn $18.8 million, there is immense pressure for Darnold to perform well if he wishes to remain a starting quarterback in the NFL. Carolina spent a third-round selection on Ole Miss QB Matt Corral in the 2022 NFL Draft, leading us to believe he could take over as the starter at some point.
Jared Goff, Detroit Lions
As part of a blockbuster trade that surrounded Matthew Stafford, the 2021 season quickly became one to forget for Jared Goff and the Detroit Lions. He didn’t capture his first victory with the Lions until December of 2021 during a 29-27 win over the Minnesota Vikings. While Goff’s completion percentage of 67.2% ranked 12th among qualified starters last season, that figure is deceiving considering his 6.6 yards per pass attempt ranked 27th in the NFL. Goff only started 14 games last season, but the Lions appeared prepared at certain points in the offseason to explore upgrading at the quarterback position.
Detroit will not look to backup options in Tim Boyle or David Blough to replace Goff, but without an efficient 2022 campaign, there will be conversations about whether Goff is the answer under center moving forward. The Lions offense added Jameson Williams through the NFL Draft while also signing DJ Chark Jr. in free agency.
Jalen Hurts, Philadelphia Eagles
Despite leading the Philadelphia Eagles to the playoffs for the first time since the 2019 season, there are still questions surrounding the future of Jalen Hurts. After winning five of his final six regular season starts last season, Hurts received reassurance from the Eagles front office this offseason. Still, being below the league average in a variety of passing categories such as QBR (48.5) and passing yards per game (209.6) will raise some eyebrows.
Hurts is still under contract with Philadelphia through the next two seasons and the offense has been bolstered with the addition of A.J. Brown. With the 30th-ranked strength of schedule coming into next season, Hurts has the opportunity to establish himself as the future of the Eagles offense with another winning season.
Drew Lock, Seattle Seahawks
After departing from Russell Wilson in a blockbuster trade in March, the Seattle Seahawks have seemingly turned to the newly-acquired Drew Lock as their Week 1 starter. Even in the NFL Draft, Seattle continuously passed on opportunities to add a quarterback prospect. Lock appeared in six games with the Denver Broncos last season, going 0-3 in his official starts. He finished last season with 787 passing yards to go with two touchdowns and two interceptions, but failed to throw a touchdown in four of six games.
Assuming Lock will beat out Geno Smith for the starting job, a lot of eyes will be on the quarterback to win games in the competitive NFC West. Through his career, Lock has compiled an 8-13 record across three seasons with the Broncos.
Marcus Mariota, Atlanta Falcons
For the first time since the 2007 season, the Atlanta Falcons will rely on a quarterback not named Matt Ryan. Hours after dealing Ryan to the Indianapolis Colts, the Falcons signed Marcus Mariota. The 28-year old last started an NFL game in 2019, back when he was with the Tennessee Titans. Across his seven-year career, Mariota has compiled a 29-32 starting record. The most recent game sample of Mariota came in 2020, where he appeared under center for the Las Vegas Raiders against the Los Angeles Chargers. Despite a loss, he finished 17-of-28 to go with 226 passing yards, one touchdown, and one interception.
Atlanta inked Mariota to a two-year, $18.75 million contract this offseason. The team also added Desmond Ridder in the third round of the 2022 NFL Draft. With young offensive weapons in rookie Drake London and second-year Kyle Pitts, there will be a short leash on Mariota coming into the new season.
Davis Mills, Houston Texans
Following the Deshaun Watson controversy, the Houston Texans were fortunate enough to see efficient play from their third-round selection in Davis Mills last season. He finished with 2,664 passing yards to go with 16 touchdowns and 10 interceptions, despite only winning two games in 11 starts. Still, he was sacked 31 times (11th-highest rate) with four less games under center. The expectations were low, but how long will Houston remain in their rebuild phase?
Mills continues to be an affordable option for Houston, but without wins, it may be difficult to expect him to be a guaranteed starter past this season. The offense added Marlon Mack in free agency while drafting John Metchie III this offseason.
Ryan Tannehill, Tennessee Titans
Despite leading the Tennessee Titans to the AFC Championship in 2019, Ryan Tannehill sits in one of the hottest seats entering the 2022 season. Through his brief tenure with Tennessee, Tannehill has also received Pro Bowl and Comeback Player of the Year honors. As the second-most sacked quarterback last season, Tannehill also struggled with a regression in a variety of passing categories.
The offense for the Titans is still centered around Derrick Henry in the backfield, but trading away A.J. Brown doesn’t do any favors for Tannehill. At the age of 33, the team may ultimately give an opportunity to rookie Malik Willis when the timing is right.
Jameis Winston, New Orleans Saints
Playing under a two-year, $28 million contract, this could be the last opportunity for Jameis Winston to prove he is a reliable starter in the NFL. Across seven starts last season, Winston finished with a 5-2 record while totaling 14 touchdowns to three interceptions. Despite the new contract, there were brief rumors regarding the New Orleans Saints being interested in luring Drew Brees out of retirement.
The Saints have one of the most promising offenses in the league after adding Jarvis Landry in free agency while also drafting Chris Olave through the NFL Draft. Thomas will likely seek out a long-term contract in the near future, meaning there is immense pressure for New Orleans to find success early on.