Earlier this month, ESPN’s Dan Graziano identified 19 teams with questions about their starting quarterback . . . for 2024.
And he made predictions about what those teams would do.
Interestingly, all four teams in the NFC West made his list - which really shouldn’t be a surprise . . . unless you think the Seahawks are golden with Geno Smith.
So that we can look at Seattle last, we’ll go through the division alphabetically.
And, because the article is behind ESPN’s paywall, I’ll pick-and-choose which parts to share - with a heavier emphasis on sharing what he says about the Seahawks than on what he says about our division rivals.
Kyler Murray is signed through 2028 and the 5-year, $230.5M contract that he signed last offseason carries a ton of dead money.
How much is a ton?
Per Graziano, it could be as much as $81.5M if he’s cut, or $46.2M if the Cardinals were somehow able to find a trade partner before mid-March.
That’s a stiff price to pay to move on, but with Murray starting the year on IR and no guarantee that he’ll be 100% when he returns, the Cardinals are probably going to have a decision to make.
And with two first round picks - both of which are currently projected to be in the Top 5, the allure of Caleb Williams (USC) or Drake Maye (UNC) could be enough to for Arizona to swallow the dead money.
In fact, Graziano thinks that is the most likely outcome for the Cardinals.
Long shot outcome: Murray returns in September, plays like gangbusters and convinces the Cardinals to use all of those high picks to build around him rather than replace him.
Los Angeles Rams
Matthew Stafford’s 2024 salary is already fully guaranteed.
With the Rams in rebuild mode, it’s likely that they will not be competitive this year, which could give them a high pick in next year’s draft . . .
And, yes, they actually have their first round pick next year (!!!).
One would think that the kid at USC would be of particular interest to them, but the combination of Cooper Kupp, Aaron Donald, and Sean McVay will probably keep that California marketing dream from coming true.
Graziano’s long shot outcome for the Rams is:
Stafford stays healthy all season, and the Rams surprise in a weak NFC to claim a playoff spot and even win a postseason game or two. Their young players show enough to convince them to run it back with Stafford in 2024.
The most likely outcome?
(The Rams) and Stafford have a decision to make after the season is over. If he stays healthy and plays well, maybe they can trade him next offseason, if he even wants to go anywhere else. He’ll be 36 years old in February and could decide to retire. . . . If they’re very bad in 2023, they could be in position to draft a very exciting rookie quarterback to take Stafford’s job.
San Francisco 49ers
Graziano points out that (a) Brock Purdy was very successful last season, (b) Brock Purdy is expected to be the Niners’ starter this season, (c) Brock Purdy is signed through 2025, and (d) at $985,000 per season, Brock Purdy is “the league’s biggest bargain by a wide margin”.
Graziano also points out that Kyle Shanahan has only had a 49ers quarterback start more than 10 games twice in six years.
Add all that up, and the most likely outcome for Santa Clara is:
. . . Purdy opens as the starter, but Lance gets some starts at some point and maybe even shows enough that they can get something for him in a trade. The Niners believe in Purdy, and I think the probable outcome is that the Niners end the season still believing in him, as long as he’s healthy.
Geno Smith is signed through 2025 and his contract is very team-friendly, especially given how well he performed last season: eighth in passing yards, fourth in touchdown passes, first in completion percentage, tied for sixth in QBR, et cetera.
His contract doesn’t have any guaranteed money past this season though which means it wouldn’t cost the Seahawks a penny to move on if last year was a fluke.
According to Graziano:
It’s a reasonable deal for Smith, who turns 33 in October and has really had only the one great campaign. The Seahawks believe he can do it again, and that they’ve surrounded him with a good enough cast to get the most out of him. And he certainly believes he can do it again, too.
Most likely outcome: I think the Seahawks have a chance to be a top-two or top-three team in the NFC, so the most likely outcome here is another strong season by Smith and another playoff berth for Seattle — maybe even a division title if the 49ers stumble. That would mean Smith goes into 2024 as the unquestioned starter.
Long shot outcome: Last season turns out to have been a mirage. Smith struggles, the Seahawks miss the playoffs, and they turn the page next spring to look for other options. If Smith is healthy, the Seahawks could release him without owing him another dime if they do it before his March 2024 roster bonus comes due. We’re probably looking at a draft pick as the solution for Seattle if this unlikely scenario were to come true. It’s doubtful they’d just turn things over to Lock.
I don’t agree with the last sentence, but the rest seems accurate.
As things stand right now, Graziano thinks that all four of the NFC West teams have “questions” at quarterback in 2024.
In Arizona and Los Angeles, the most likely outcome is a quarterback change next season - mainly because both teams are rebuilding and there will be some very tempting quarterbacks at the top of the 2024 NFL Draft.
In San Fran, the most likely outcome is a long run for Purdy . . . if he stays healthy (which is no sure thing for a Shanahan-led team).
In Seattle, Geno Smith is probably gonna “prove it” in 2023 and lock in his place as the QBotF for 2024 (and beyond).