Last offseason, I discussed the top 10 QBs in the NFL. One could make an argument that if your team is not represented on that list, then that team needs an upgrade. As we saw in the playoffs, unless a team’s situation was perfect, they needed an upper-echelon QB to compete for a championship. Now that the season is over, I thought we’d look at the most desperate teams for new signal callers. These rankings are in reverse order (#1 needs a QB the most). I’m not considering prospective trades from the perspective of the selling team (e.g., Green Bay isn’t included here). Here are the top 10 teams that need QBs the most this offseason!
10. New Orleans Saints
In fairness, Andy Dalton and Jameis Winston haven’t been BAD for New Orleans. They just haven’t been good enough to take a win-now roster to the next level. What puts NO here over a team like Denver in the “just missed” section below is that the Saints keep pushing cap charges into the future to compete now. Their roster is getting older, and their window seems to be closing more every season. Their bad cap situation seems to pose a problem as far as finding a veteran, but I doubt they want to wait for a rookie to develop either. They’re in a bit of a quandary unless the team can come to a creative agreement with someone like Derek Carr.
9. Arizona Cardinals
I actually think Arizona should be ranked higher than this based purely on how Kyler Murray has performed. I don’t just mean on the field either. Sean Payton reportedly did not want to coach him due to his attitude, and his size makes injuries like his current ACL issue a perennial concern. So why are the Cardinals only 9th? Simply put, they can’t do anything about their problem. They stupidly extended Murray (without the homework clause) with 2 years left on his rookie deal for $230.5M with $160M guaranteed. He basically cannot be cut until 2025, and I don’t think anyone wants to trade for that contract. Arizona needs to start looking at QBs in the 2024 class that they could groom until it’s financially palatable to part ways with Murray.
8. Chicago Bears
I imagine that this will be my most controversial ranking. If you listen to the media, you probably think that Justin Fields is already a star who will break out and become an MVP candidate if the Bears just surround him with talent. Have you actually watched him as a passer though? He might be the worst starting QB in the NFL through the air while also an elite RB. This team is in a full rebuild as it is, so they have to get more talent before they’re competitive no matter who plays at QB. That’s the only reason Chicago is merely 8th. The Bears have the worst QB in the NFC North, and that might even remain true if the Packers trade Aaron Rodgers.
7. Houston Texans
Another team that’s only ranked this far down the list due to the overall poor state of their roster, Houston has been clamoring for competent QB play since Deshaun Watson demanded to be traded. Davis Mills isn’t the answer, but I don’t think the team thought he was going to be anyway given his status as a 3rd-round pick. Mills showed a little promise as a rookie but was a train wreck this year. Lovie Smith saw enough and benched him for Kyle Allen. However, Allen was so disastrous that Mills returned to the starting lineup while rotating with Jeff Driskel. Clearly, this isn’t tenable. The Texans pick #2 overall, so they’re guaranteed at least their second-favorite QB in this draft class.
6. Tampa Bay Buccaneers
The Bucs fan base has gotten spoiled in just 3 years of Tom Brady. Before his arrival, Tampa Bay hadn’t been to the playoffs since 2007, and their best QB between then and 2020 was either Josh Freeman or Jameis Winston, who managed to throw 30 INTs in a season. Perhaps it’s not a shock then that in the wake of Brady’s retirement, Tampa has nothing left. The team doesn’t seem to love the development of former 2nd-round pick Kyle Trask, and we all know Blaine Gabbert isn’t the answer. Brady’s dead cap hit will make it tough for the Buccaneers to acquire a veteran, and the state of the roster suggests that this team needs a rebuild. However, Todd Bowles refuses to entertain that idea, and the NFC South is weak. It will be interesting to see what route they take.
5. Atlanta Falcons
Are you sensing a theme here? We’ve got yet another mediocre NFC South team that can easily claim the title if their QB is better than those of the other 3 teams. Last season, the Falcons used Marcus Mariota as a bridge to Desmond Ridder. Mariota was pretty good on the ground, but he constantly came up short through the air, losing several games with INTs on the final drive. Ridder is viewed by many (including me) as a backup prospect, as he doesn’t do anything super well other than avoid turnovers (0 INTs in his few starts, which is laudable). The dead money from the Matt Ryan trade is off the books, and the team isn’t as devoid of talent as they once were. Hitting on a draft pick or free agent at QB could grant the Falcons a home playoff game.
4. Indianapolis Colts
I can’t name a team that had a more disastrous QB situation last year. The Colts shipped Carson Wentz out after a decent 9-8 season and imported Matt Ryan. Their new QB fell off a cliff; his arm looked shot, and his lack of mobility was highlighted by a shockingly poor offensive line. That prompted coach Frank Reich to switch to Sam Ehlinger, who looked completely lost and caused Reich to be fired. Interim coach Jeff Saturday unsuccessfully reinstalled Ryan before switching to Nick Foles, who suffered from the same issues before getting hurt. New coach Shane Steichen has his work cut out for him, but drafting a QB at #4 or trading up would seem to be the most likely place to start.
3. Las Vegas Raiders
Las Vegas only needs a new QB because of their own actions. Owner Mark Davis should have retained interim coach Rich Bisaccia, but he wanted the big name in Josh McDaniels. The newest Patriot outpost in the NFL predictably took a major step backward, and Derek Carr has now been released as the scapegoat. Carr isn’t an elite QB, but he’s comfortably in the top 12, and he didn’t play much differently last year than he did before. With Carr gone and his associated cap hit gone with him, the Raiders can do whatever they want at QB, but insiders suggest that they want a veteran like Aaron Rodgers. The presence of Davante Adams makes that a great fit, and we’re talking about a veteran team that made some big signings last year to win now.
2. Carolina Panthers
The entirety of the NFC South made this list. Is it any wonder that an 8-9 team claimed the division crown in 2022? Carolina is ranked highest among those 4 squads because they have the most to gain from better play at QB. With Tampa’s defensive decline in 2022, Carolina has the clear-cut best defense in the division. In fact, that unit nearly stole the division in the season’s final weeks. The running game also caught fire despite the trade of Christian McCaffrey. Baker Mayfield and PJ Walker sunk that team. Coach Matt Rhule arguably made them worse, but those QBs were awful wearing light blue. Sam Darnold played decently after returning from a high ankle sprain, but the consistency is still missing with him. A top 10 QB selection seems probable.
1. New York Jets
You probably knew that there was no other choice for #1. The Jets currently have the longest playoff drought in the NFL, and it’s not due to a lack of talent elsewhere on the roster. Both rookies of the year this season were Jets, and the defense is becoming a high-end unit. New York has talent at the skill positions, and the offensive line should benefit from renewed health. Their missing piece is a QB. Zach Wilson has quickly become a bust in just two years, while Mike White can’t stay healthy and is a streaky player. Even average QB play would make the Jets a playoff team, so they’re clearly the ones with the most riding on what happens under center in the coming months.
Just missed: New England Patriots, Washington Commanders, Denver Broncos