Projecting 2022 QB moves if Aaron Rodgers, Russell Wilson stay: Kirk Cousins to Broncos, Derek Carr to Colts

Every NFL offseason, the hottest topic is the quarterbacks. This year is no exception, with big names like Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson consistently rumored as potential trade targets. To date, however, all signs point toward Rodgers and Wilson — among the NFL’s select few elite passers — remaining with the Packers and Seahawks, respectively.

Where does that leave the QB market, which tends to be more heavy on talk than action, even with guys like Tom Brady and Matthew Stafford recently relocating? Where will all the QB-needy teams find new signal-callers? We decided to play out one scenario where Rodgers and Wilson stay put. It was apparent pretty early in the exercise that the demand outweighs the supply, forcing teams arguably in QB purgatory (like the Browns and Dolphins) to stick with their current starters.

But here are 13 QB moves we did project:

Denver is ready to compete now. They have a run game, offensive line, receiving corps and defense built to make a playoff run. All they need is an established QB. With the pipe dream of a Rodgers relocation put to rest, Cousins is the best alternative. General manager George Paton was the Vikings’ assistant GM when Minnesota signed and extended Cousins with big money. And the Vikings, despite new coach Kevin O’Connell’s enthusiasm, will be happy to dump at least a portion of his massive $45 million 2022 cap hit, perhaps eating some extra cash in exchange for a high draft pick.

It’s hard to replace Tom Brady. Just ask the Patriots, who spent a year riding a downtrodden Cam Newton before drafting Mac Jones. No doubt Bruce Arians will swing bigger in an attempt at a quick fix, but assuming they don’t go all in for Deshaun Watson and his legal issues, Bridgewater at least keeps the floor relatively high. He also doesn’t break the bank or prevent Tampa Bay from completely resetting at QB in 2023, perhaps after Arians joins Brady in retirement.

Probably the boldest of all the moves here, this one runs counter to public compliments from new Raiders coach Josh McDaniels, who may very well be exploring an extension for Carr. But is he really ready to sign a lucrative long-term commitment to a veteran he’s yet to coach? The Colts, on the other hand, have an owner overly eager to upgrade after years of stopgaps. Carr is one of the few actual upgrade possibilities outside of a blockbuster swing at Wilson, and he’d keep Indy squarely in the playoff hunt.

Washington badly needs a QB, and Ron Rivera has publicly admitted they need to do more than take another mid-tier flyer. Wentz isn’t necessarily a Matthew Stafford-level get, but he at least offers more upside than the middling free-agent leftovers. The Commanders know Wentz well, having witnessed his Eagles peak in the NFC East, and both Rivera and offensive coordinator Scott Turner have a history of coaching a big-bodied play-maker with a penchant for forced throws in Cam Newton.

Malik Willis to the Eagles

With Wilson off the table, GM Howie Roseman could roll into 2022 with second-year man Jalen Hurts under center. But he and owner Jeffrey Lurie are going to be itching to add passing upside to their QB room after watching most of the playoffs from home. Armed with three first-round picks, he has the ammo to move up for maybe the most athletically gifted QB of the class, then let Willis and Hurts compete in camp, giving Philly two mobile options for their run-heavy offense.

Carson Strong to the Falcons

Matt Ryan should at least be shopped, even with a massive 2022 cap hit, but assuming Atlanta keeps him and gives stronger consideration to a QB reset in 2023, Strong would give them a developmental backup. His pocket presence and touch would likely appeal to coach Arthur Smith, who’s preferred more “point-guard” QBs like Ryan and Ryan Tannehill.

New GM Joe Schoen can talk highly of former first-rounder Daniel Jones, but no one in that building should be counting on Jones to emerge as a durable, reliable top-15 starter in 2022. If he does, great. But some competition and added insurance wouldn’t hurt, and Trubisky is the perfect man in that regard, sharing some of Jones’ mobile tendencies and coming off a year under new coach Brian Daboll in Buffalo, where he sat behind Josh Allen after a run as the Bears’ starter.

Desmond Ridder to the Lions

Unless the Lions plan to eat $20 million to save a few million by designating Jared Goff as a post-June 1 cut, the ex-Rams starter will probably stick around for one more year as a placeholder. But they could afford to get somebody into the QB room as a longer-term option, and Ridder makes sense as a late Day One or Day Two target.

Kenny Pickett to the Panthers

Matt Rhule has failed in every attempt to address the QB spot since taking over, churning through Teddy Bridgewater, Sam Darnold and Cam Newton in two years on the job. If they’re not going to net a perennial All-Pro like Rodgers or Wilson, what’s the point of meddling with the middling market again? Pickett appears to be the most NFL-ready of the rookie class, and he’d at least buy the Rhule-Scott Fitterer regime some time to groom their own guy.

Is he an upgrade over Derek Carr? No. Does that matter to new coach Josh McDaniels? Not necessarily. For one, he’d be less expensive on a shorter commitment. Second, he knows McDaniels’ system, having worked under the ex-Patriots coordinator in New England. Garoppolo is all but confirmed to depart the 49ers as San Francisco turns the keys over to Trey Lance, and here, in Vegas, he’d give McDaniels an added level of comfort before a bigger QB evaluation in 2023.

Matt Corral to the Saints

Re-signing Jameis Winston or pursuing Teddy Bridgewater are both viable options for New Orleans in this post-Sean Payton venture, but what they really need is a developmental solution. Taysom Hill already offers serviceable veteran insurance, but Corral, whose mobility and quick release could help accentuate their run and short-area passing game, would likely be hard to pass up as a first-round pick, perhaps in a trade up.

Pittsburgh management has made it clear the Steelers will throw several darts at QB in the wake of Ben Roethlisberger’s retirement. And while Mason Rudolph remains in tow, Mariota offers more of the mobility they’d like to incorporate into an offense built around Najee Harris. Howell, meanwhile, would give them added competition as a Day One or Day Two investment.

Jameis Winston to the Vikings

New coach Kevin O’Connell would probably prefer Kirk Cousins, but the Vikings are under new management at an inflection point. By offloading Cousins’ massive deal rather than extending him, they could delay a real QB reset until 2023, when O’Connell will have a chance to choose his own guy. In the meantime, with second-year man Kellen Mond still developing, Winston could give O’Connell and new coordinator Wes Phillips some of the downfield action they got with the Rams — a big arm capable of feeding Justin Jefferson.

Christin Hakim

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