With Aaron Rodgers returning to Green Bay and Russell Wilson headed to Denver, the QB Carousel is circulating more than ever before in the NFL. The question now is, where will it end?
Deshaun Watson is obviously the next major domino to fall. His decision will have ripple effects on each of the other remaining QB moves. If he goes New Orleans, Matt Ryan likely stays in Atlanta — Ryan agreeing to move back the deadline for his $7.5M Roster Bonus from today until Tuesday indicates that he would like to stay with the Falcons if they don’t land Watson. Had Ryan wanted out, he would have kept the bonus deadline as today, Friday March 18, forcing the Falcons to decide on his future.
The complication, however, is that reports indicate that Watson will indeed choose the Falcons, which will force Atlanta to move on from Ryan.
I'll be surprised if Watson doesn't go to Atlanta. Through the years, he's spoken fondly of Atlanta and how much that city and home state mean to him. Family, friends, fans. Good friend and QB coach Quincy Avery. I believe Watson has a home there. It would be an ideal fit.
— John McClain (@McClain_on_NFL) March 18, 2022
With that in mind, here are our predictions for where each of the QBs in limbo will end up…
Deshaun Watson: Atlanta Falcons
From a football perspective, New Orleans’ roster is much stronger than Atlanta’s, but Watson returning home to Georgia to play for the Falcons appears likely at the moment. Acquiring Watson will immediately displace Matt Ryan, who has been with Atlanta since they picked him third overall in 2008. The Watson trade will cost Atlanta at least three first round picks and players. But they will get their next franchise QB, and they should recoup at least a day two pick for Ryan.
Matt Ryan: Cleveland Browns
In all likelihood, Andrew Berry will continue to aggressively pursue an upgrade at the QB position, making a divorce with Baker Mayfield inevitable. Although the Browns have indicated they will not grant Mayfield’s trade request, they will likely comply this offseason. Both Baker and Ryan struggled in 2021, but Ryan’s age makes him more suited to be a bridge QB until the Browns can find a top-tier option. There is no doubt that Berry will scour to find that guy.
Baker Mayfield: New Orleans Saints
If Watson goes to Atlanta and Ryan goes to Cleveland, it leaves Mayfield with a few potential suitors. Notably, the Saints, Panthers, and Colts would all have a need at the position. And the Saints represent the most intriguing fit. With the departure of Sean Payton, new HC Dennis Allen needs a QB that he can at least win with. Mayfield isn’t a player that you’ll win because of, but the Saints have a good enough defense to win with him if he’s healthy.
Jimmy Garoppolo: Indianapolis Colts
Jim Irsay has reportedly put pressure on GM Chris Ballard and HC Frank Reich to win this season after their collapse in the last two weeks of 2021. Though Jimmy Garoppolo has serious injury concerns, the Colts may view him as the best QB to lead them back to the postseason. They have a strong run game, and Garoppolo’s win/loss record (45-18, .714) is impressive (although the stat has little to no merit in QB evaluation). Garoppolo would represent a clear upgrade over Wentz and could lead a strong Colts roster to winning a weak AFC South. He just needs to stay healthy.
Jameis Winston: Carolina Panthers
Let’s face it, the Panthers made a mistake trading for Sam Darnold and then compounded it by picking up his Fifth-Year Option. The Saints are probably the most likely suitor for Winston coming of the ACL tear. But if the Saints land Mayfield, Winston will have few options. The Panthers could bring him in to compete with Darnold and become his third stop in the NFC South in the process. Also, watch out for Houston here as they will need to add a quarterback to compete with Davis Mills for the starting role.
Marcus Mariota: Seattle Seahawks
The former Heisman winner at Oregon returns to the Pacific Northwest on a one year, $7M deal to compete with Drew Lock. Mariota has shown flashes of strong play at times, and this would give him a real opportunity to compete to start.
Gardner Minshew: Philadelphia Eagles
As Joe Banner wrote during the season, Minshew is the best backup QB in the NFL. The Eagles, who value the QB position as much as anyone, won’t want to lose him unless for a significant price. We don’t see anyone luring him away from Philly.