NFC South QB roundup: Starting choices for all 4 groups in ’23
NFC South Reporter
In consecutive offseasons, the NFC South has bid farewell to Drew Brees, Matt Ryan and Tom Brady, three veterans who’ve mixed for 1,601 landing passes and 232,364 passing yards of their prolific NFL careers.
The Saints, Falcons and Buccaneers are nonetheless trying to find their worthy successors, and the Panthers have virtually much less below contract at quarterback.
So when Bucs common supervisor Jason Licht advised ESPN “we’ve got the best quarterback in the division in the very least” in third-year quarterback Kyle Trask, that could be true — not counting free brokers or presumed cuts — however it says extra in regards to the division than it does his quarterback.
Trask, you see, has 23 profession passing yards, his solely NFL motion coming within the closing eight minutes of the 2022 season finale, after the Bucs had pulled their starters with nothing to realize in playoff place. The 2021 second-round decide from Florida might be the Bucs’ beginning quarterback this fall, sure, however they will definitely usher in a veteran to compete with him.
In free company in March, and much more so on this yr’s draft in April, the NFC South shall be actively in search of its subsequent era of quarterbacks, hoping to carry the division up from a disappointing 2022 the place no crew boasted a profitable report. There are swing-for-the-fences alternatives — the Saints may signal Derek Carr, and the Falcons have the cap area to go after Lamar Jackson if the Ravens resolve to maneuver on — however the 4 groups may and even ought to all have new starters this season.
Trask has proven he can patiently wait on the sidelines — he did that in highschool and in school, barely taking part in for the Gators in his first three years, then throwing for 68 touchdowns in two seasons as a starter. Given their salary-cap constraints, the query is how a lot they will be capable of spend on a veteran quarterback to compete with him in camp.
Brady has retired, and longtime backup Blaine Gabbert is a free agent, however his greatest asset was a familiarity with the Bruce Arians/Byron Leftwich offense, which is gone with the hiring of Seahawks assistant Dave Canales this month. If you are in search of a quarterback who’s labored with Canales — and no, Geno Smith is not coming by that door — then an affordable choice is Drew Lock, the previous Broncos starter who was Smith’s backup final yr and did not take a single snap.
Lock, 26, was drafted greater than Trask (forty second general in 2019) and has 4,740 passing yards in 21 profession begins. In passer ranking, he ranks forty seventh out of 52 energetic quarterbacks with a minimum of 500 passes, however he’d be a reasonable choice who may assist Canales introduce the offense to newcomers, and he’d have a greater probability to play than he would staying in Seattle.
Another modest veteran choice can be Jacoby Brissett, 30, who performed on a one-year, $4.65 million contract final yr as a stopgap for Cleveland whereas Deshaun Watson served his 11-game suspension. An identical deal would assist the Bucs’ monetary limitations, and he has a profession TD/INT ratio of 48 to 23, so he’d be a strong different in the event that they determined Trask wasn’t the reply. The Bucs might be extra bold and go after a much bigger quarterback than Brissett, however it will be on the expense of his supporting forged with a ton of free brokers and restricted finances to maintain them.
Brady displays on profession
After 23 seasons within the NFL, Tom Brady has a variety of experiences and reminiscences to look again to now that he is introduced his retirement.
There’s pleasure in Charlotte across the hiring of Frank Reich and a powerful new teaching employees, however the Panthers have a evident gap at quarterback. They’re selecting at No. 9 general, with sufficient further draft picks they might simply transfer as much as have a greater say during which of the draft’s prime 4 quarterbacks — in some order, Alabama’s Bryce Young, Ohio State’s C.J. Stroud, Florida’s Anthony Richardson and Kentucky’s Will Levis — they will land in April.
The Panthers have further picks within the second and fourth rounds from buying and selling operating again Christian McCaffrey to the 49ers final fall, however they doubtless will not be capable of transfer up greater than No. 5 general with out giving up a future first-round decide. If they’re content material with the third or fourth quarterback on this draft class, they may not want to maneuver up in any respect.
Reich’s tenure in Indianapolis noticed the Colts attempt one veteran quarterback after one other — Philip Rivers, Carson Wentz, Matt Ryan within the final three seasons — and which may push him towards a younger quarterback he can develop over time. And somewhat than lean on a rookie instantly, the Panthers may re-sign Sam Darnold, 25, who performed higher in his second season in Carolina, limiting his errors and going 4-2 as a starter down the stretch. Darnold additionally performed with new quarterbacks coach Josh McCown with the Jets, so there’s an current relationship in place there, and Darnold would not be costly as a bridge quarterback.
Marcus Mariota shall be reduce, and that may save $12 million in money and cap area, on prime of about $55 million in cap room — second-most amongst NFL groups. So in idea, the Falcons have the monetary flexibility and the general positional want to consider an enormous endeavor like buying and selling for Lamar Jackson, which might require a number of first-round picks (together with this yr’s, No. 8 general) and a monetary dedication of in all probability $200 million assured, if no more.
The full spectrum of choices is in play for Jackson and the Ravens — they might relent and pay what’s wanted to signal him to a long-term deal now, they might train the franchise tag and use the subsequent yr to attempt to work one thing out, or they might resolve the hole between the 2 sides is an excessive amount of and commerce him now, even earlier than the draft so their return will help this yr’s crew.
Lamar, Ravens are heading to divorce?
Nick Wright believes Lamar Jackson shall be traded as a result of the Ravens don’t wish to give him $200M assured.
Atlanta, very similar to the Bucs, has a younger choice in-house in 2022 third-round decide Desmond Ridder, who obtained a four-game audition on the finish of his rookie yr. His numbers had been middling — 708 yards, or 177 per sport, and two touchdowns (each within the finale towards the Bucs as they pulled starters) and extra impressively, zero interceptions. It’s a small pattern dimension, in all probability not sufficient to place all their eggs in his basket, so that they’ll doubtless signal a Mariota-ish veteran to once more be obtainable if he does not present enchancment.
Like Mariota, Jameis Winston is below contract however more likely to be reduce. He could not beat out Andy Dalton (who’s now a free agent) final season and is because of make $12.8 million in non-guaranteed wage. Because the Saints needed to backload his contract for cap functions, slicing him ends in $11.2 million in useless cash, however it’s nonetheless a cap financial savings of $4.4 million, and the Saints want all of the cap assist they will get between now and March 15, when all groups should be below the cap.
Dalton was a steal final yr — 18 touchdowns and 9 picks for $3 million — however he is additionally 35 and doubtlessly shifting to his fifth crew in 5 years. For a crew with restricted cap area, New Orleans was the one suitor to usher in Carr for a possible commerce with the Raiders, however that situation doubtless required him making considerably much less, which is why he opted without cost company. That does not rule them out as a possible touchdown spot for Carr — Saints coach Dennis Allen was his first head coach with the Raiders in 2014, however take into account that was for less than 4 video games earlier than Allen was fired.
The reply in New Orleans might be someplace between Carr — making $30 million a yr if no more — and Dalton, who made a tenth of that. For all 4 groups, taking part in in a wide-open and underwhelming division shall be a draw without cost brokers searching for a simple path to the postseason, and other than holes created in getting below the cap, the Saints do not have a extra evident want than at quarterback.
Carr in excessive demand?
NFL reporter Albert Breer joins The Herd to debate whether or not Derek Carr ought to be probably the most sought-after quarterback this offseason.
If you are searching for connections among the many discount free brokers, how about Gardner Minshew, a backup in Philadelphia the previous two years and nonetheless with upside at age 26? He was a phenom as a sixth-round rookie in 2019, throwing for 21 touchdowns for the Jaguars, and his head coach that yr was Doug Marrone, now the Saints’ offensive line coach.
The Saints are actually again within the first spherical, due to the No. 29 decide acquired from Denver for head coach Sean Payton, and whereas New Orleans has proven a willingness to half with future draft picks to maneuver up, they’re unlikely to have the ability to get entangled with the highest tier of quarterbacks on this draft class. The second tier, together with Tennessee’s Hendon Hooker, coming off a torn ACL, can be a chance at No. 29 and even their second-round decide at No. 40.
Greg Auman is FOX Sports’ NFC South reporter, masking the Buccaneers, Falcons, Panthers and Saints. He is in his tenth season masking the Bucs and the NFL full-time, having hung out on the Tampa Bay Times and The Athletic. You can comply with him on Twitter at @gregauman.
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