The Seahawks may be having an open competition for their starting QB spot. However, veteran Geno Smith‘s familiarity with the offense gives him the early lead over newcomer Drew Lock. During a recent radio appearance, Seahawks offensive coordinator Shane Waldron admitted that Smith is the current front runner for the starting gig.
“Right now, Geno has done such a good job of carrying over (the offensive principles from 2021). He already had a head start over Drew right there,” Waldron (h/t to Charean Williams of ProFootballTalk.com). “We have a long time to go. We are just in T-shirts and shorts right now, going against air. We have a long way to go to see where this competition (goes).”
The Seahawks were apart of the quarterback carousel when they dealt Russell Wilson to Denver, but they surprisingly haven’t been on the receiving end of the continuous turnover. The team has seemingly distanced themselves from available QBs like Baker Mayfield and Jimmy Garoppolo, and they’re prepared to navigate this post-Wilson era with either Smith, who spent the last three seasons as Seattle’s backup, or Lock, a former second-round pick acquired in the Broncos trade.
It’s obviously in the organization’s best interest to develop the 25-year-old Lock vs. the 31-year-old Smith, although Lock’s impending free agency certainly adds some uncertainty to the situation. Lock has largely struggled as a starter, and while the ex-Mizzou prospect did play in two offensive systems in his first two years, Teddy Bridgewater beat him out for Denver’s QB1 job last year and held him off throughout the Broncos’ time in playoff contention. This came after the strong-armed passer tied for the 2020 interception lead, with 15, despite missing three-plus games. Smith has made five starts over the past seven seasons. Three of those came last season, with the former second-round pick did show some promise, completing 68% of his passes on 7.4 yards per attempt — numbers superior to his Jets-era work, albeit in a small sample size — and finishing with a 5-to-1 TD-INT ratio.
To the surprise of most, the Seahawks have stood pat at quarterback since trading Russell Wilson. They did re-sign Geno Smith, who has been a backup for seven years, and are prepared to give him a legitimate shot to succeed Wilson.
Lock, who went 42nd overall to the Broncos in 2019, is entering a contract year. He has largely struggled as a starter, and while the ex-Mizzou prospect did play in two offensive systems in his first two years, Teddy Bridgewater beat him out for Denver’s QB1 job last year and held him off throughout the Broncos’ time in playoff contention. Lock replaced an injured Bridgewater in a close Week 15 game against the Bengals; the Broncos lost that game and their final three to finish 7-10. This came after the strong-armed passer tied for the 2020 interception lead, with 15, despite missing three-plus games.
Seattle also has ex-Indianapolis draftee Jacob Eason on its roster, but Lock-Smith appears to be the battle. Refusing to capitalize on the non-Kenny PickettQB prospects’ collective freefall, the Seahawks did not select a QB with their nine draft picks. A player they were connected to, Malik Willis, did not appeal to them. Seattle did not view the Liberty prospect as close to NFL-ready, Henderson adds. Seattle passed on Willis, Desmond Ridder and Matt Corral three times on Day 2.
Smith, 31, has made five starts over the past seven seasons. Three of those came last season, his third with the Seahawks. The former second-round pick did show some promise, completing 68% of his passes on 7.4 yards per attempt — numbers superior to his Jets-era work, albeit in a small sample size — and finishing with a 5-to-1 TD-INT ratio. But he has been a backup on four teams since 2015.
If the Browns end up releasingBaker Mayfield, the Seahawks will surely look into adding him to this mix. They were connected to the four-year starter earlier this offseason, and he would seemingly give the team a better chance to win this season. For now, however, Lock has a legitimate opportunity to snag another starting gig.
The Seahawks continue to be mentioned as a suitor for one of the several available veteran QBs. However, coach PeteCarroll doesn’t envision the organization adding to the position, per ESPN’s Brady Henderson (on Twitter).
“I don’t see us making a trade for anybody at all,” Carroll told reporters. “I don’t see that happening.”
Lock, who was acquired in the Wilson trade, struggled during his three seasons in Denver. Despite his second-round pedigree, the QB went 8-13 as a starter while tossing 25 touchdowns vs. 20 interceptions. Smith stepped in for the injured Wilson midway through the 2021 campaign. In four total appearances (including three starts), he threw for 702 yards and five touchdowns, completing over 68% of his passes.
The organization was expected to address the position at some point this offseason. They didn’t end up adding a QB in the draft, so no matter what Carroll says publicly, the team will likely be connected to any available quarterbacks until the trade deadline (or until they end up making a move).
As those who even casually follow the NFL predraft process know by now, this year’s collegiate class includes an intriguing but flawed set of quarterbacks, which has led to seemingly unprecedented variance in how executives throughout the league are evaluating the prospects who play the most important position in sports.
ESPN draftnik Todd McShay said, “[w]hat’s wild about this year’s class — more so than any previous year that I can remember — is the difference of opinions when I get off the phone with one guy in the league versus the next guy. And I’m not just talking about scouts, I’m talking general managers, guys who are making the decisions” (via Mike Triplett of ESPN.com).
Per McShay, one club has Ole Miss’ Matt Corral ranked as the top passer in the class, while several teams have Cincinnati’s Desmond Ridder at the top of their respective draft boards. Liberty’s Malik Willis has frequently been mentioned as the QB with the highest ceiling, and while McShay suggests some teams prefer Willis to his draftmates, other clubs have Willis as the fourth-best signal-caller. Pittsburgh’s Kenny Pickett, meanwhile, is generally viewed as either the best or second-best quarterback.
As one might expect in light of these differences in QB evaluations, there have been plenty of conflicting reports regarding how many passers might actually be selected in the first round. On Friday, Matt Miller of ESPN.com reported that it would not be a surprise to see Pickett as the only QB picked on Day 1, but Tony Pauline of Pro Football Network wrote on Saturday that the Saints and Steelers look like “sure bets” to nab a first-round quarterback, and that at least three QBs will hear their name called among the first 32 picks.
The Saints now have two first-round choices (Nos. 16 and 19 overall) by virtue of their trade with the Eagles earlier this month. McShay and others have opined that New Orleans did not make that move with the goal of selecting a quarterback, but it certainly puts the club in good position to do exactly that. Indeed, one thing that all evaluators do seem to agree on is that this year’s highest-profile QBs are not top-10 prospects, and are actually mid- to late-first-round talents. As such, even if the Saints do not want to package their two first-rounders in an effort to move into the top-10 and assure themselves of the opportunity to nab their preferred passer, they theoretically could still have their pick of the litter just by staying put (though the premium that teams place on the quarterback position suggests that such a strategy would be a risky one if New Orleans really does want to come away from the draft with its highest-rated quarterback in tow).
The Saints took top-30 visits with Corral, Pickett, Willis, and UNC passer Sam Howell, and that same quartet also met with the Steelers. Pittsburgh has heavily scouted this year’s quarterbacks and is said to prefer Pickett, though ESPN.com’s Jordan Reid (in the same Triplett piece linked above) reports that the Steelers are high on Ridder — with whom they also visited — and could be poised to pounce on the former Bearcat if he falls past the Saints.
Pauline writes that both Ridder and Corral are building first-round momentum, and he also hears that the Seahawks — who presently hold the No. 9 overall selection — could try to move into the back end of the first round to pick up a passer to groom behind Drew Lock. Earlier reports maintained that Seattle could use its top-10 choice on a QB, but Pauline’s piece implies that the club has other ideas for that pick. Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times reiterates that the ‘Hawks truly think Lock can be a legitimate NFL starter, which suggests that if team brass is targeting a quarterback in the draft, such a player would be acquired with the No. 40 or No. 41 pick or by packaging one or both of those picks to trade up 10 spots or so.
Before the Bills swooped in with an awe-inspiring contract, the Rams expected to re-sign Von Miller. According to Jourdan Rodrigue of The Athletic, the Rams were flexible with the AAV of Miller’s deal and were generally offering around $14MM to $16MM per season.
The Rams “reiterated their commitment” to the linebacker during negotiations, while Miller made it a priority to work things out with the Super Bowl-winning organization. Of course, the money had to be right, but Rodrigue writes that the Rams were confident in their offer. However, the Bills emerged with a big-money offer that was ultimately too good to refuse.
Rodrigue also notes that Miller’s departure will ultimately net the organization a compensation pick, but because of the player’s tenure in the NFL, the organization can’t expect higher than a fifth-round selection.
More notes out of the NFC West…
Rashaad Penny told the media that it was a “no brainer” to re-sign with the Seahawks (per Bob Condotta of The Seattle Times on Twitter). The running back also confirmed that he turned down offers for more money in order to stay in Seattle. The former first-round pick inked a one-year, $5.75MM deal to stick with the Seahawks. This past season, Penny totaled 797 scrimmage yards and six touchdowns.
PeteCarroll seems to have some optimism for quarterback Drew Lock, telling reporters that the Seahawks are “focused on the things Drew Lock did well in Denver and not the times he struggled,” with the coach adding that “we think we see something that could be really special” (per Condotta on Twitter).
While the organization isn’t necessarily counting on Lock, the organization has high hopes for the QB. “We’ll continue to explore options,” said GM John Schneider (via ESPN’s Brady Henderson), “but we have a ton of faith in Drew. We’re excited about it. We’re excited about a change of scenery for him. I know a couple of my buddies were trying to acquire him all last spring and into the fall. He’s a guy that, in my opinion, the media has beat down a little bit. We’re excited to get him into our culture with our coaching staff, and we’ll continue to look for guys to compete with him.”
Jimmy Garoppolo‘s shoulder surgery earlier this month went “as expected,” according to NFL Network’s Ian Rapoport (on Twitter). With the shoulder surgery taking place in early March, the 49ers are hoping the QB will be back on the field before training camp. Of course, the only question remaining is whether Garoppolo will be attending training camp with the 49ers or another team.
Though there were four finalists for QB Deshaun Watson before the Browns and Texans completed the blockbuster trade that sent Watson to Cleveland, as many as 10 teams were reportedly interested in Watson’s services. In remarks he made following the trade, Houston GM Nick Caserio would not say exactly how many teams made inquiries, but he did note that the interest went beyond the Browns, Saints, Panthers, and Falcons.
“I would say there was a fair amount of teams, but what we tried to do was bring the teams that had a legitimate interest, and that was based off the compensation that was presented,” Caserio said (via Mike Florio of Pro Football Talk). “I don’t want to get into the exact number, but there was a few more, however many teams than what everybody was reporting towards the end.”
Caserio’s comments confirm what had been reported all along: only clubs that were willing to meet the Texans’ steep asking price (three first-rounders and more) were granted permission to have an in-person meeting with Watson. While that seems like the only logical move in hindsight, it was quite a masterstroke by Caserio. Had he allowed Watson to meet with all interested clubs, regardless of proposed compensation, Watson may have decided to waive his no-trade clause for only one team, thereby undermining Caserio’s leverage. But as Florio observes, by having a “pre-qualifying” process, Caserio guaranteed that he would get what he wanted before Watson truly got a say in his next destination.
Per Florio, the Colts put feelers out to the Texans, but Caserio was not willing to deal Watson within his division. Aaron Wilson of Pro Football Network reports that the Eagles remained interested throughout the process, but Watson was unwilling to waive his no-trade clause for Philadelphia, largely because he is friends with Eagles QB Jalen Hurts and did not want to take away Hurts’ starting job. Wilson adds that the 49ers also placed a call to the Texans last year.
Caserio suggested that reports on the Texans’ being interested in players as well as picks in a Watson swap were at least somewhat overstated, saying, “I would say other than three first-round picks, I would say probably the rest of it was a little bit of speculation.” Still, Wilson reports that if Houston swung a deal with the Falcons, Atlanta CB AJ Terrell would have been intriguing to Caserio, and if the Saints had been able to acquire Watson, New Orleans OLs Erik McCoy and/or Cesar Ruiz might have been a part of the package heading back to the Texans.
In the end, the Browns, who were initially believed to be out of the running for Watson, were able to acquire the three-time Pro Bowler because they were willing to give him a contract — five years for a fully-guaranteed $230MM, which Wilson reports includes a $45MM signing bonus — that other teams were not comfortable matching. We heard at the time the Cleveland-Houston deal was consummated that the financial side of the equation became untenable for the Falcons and Panthers, and Wilson confirmed in a separate piece that Carolina was resistant to a fully-guaranteed pact.
Cleveland may have felt compelled to make such a bold strike because of an unsalvageable situation with Baker Mayfield. Mayfield requested a trade while the Browns’ courtship of Watson was ongoing, and when it appeared that Watson would not waive his no-trade clause to facilitate a move to northeast Ohio, the Browns indicated they would not accommodate the request. However, as Mary Kay Cabot of Cleveland.com writes, Mayfield had no intentions of playing for the Browns in 2022 even if the club had not acquired Watson, and that reality could have forced Cleveland’s hand.
According to Cabot, the Browns had made it clear to Mayfield’s camp that they would pursue a top-flight QB this offseason, but that they were content to run it back with the No. 1 overall pick of the 2018 draft if such a pursuit were unsuccessful. Because it had been upfront with him about its intentions, the organization believed it could eventually smooth things over with Mayfield. As we heard last week, though, Mayfield declined owner Jimmy Haslam‘s offer to fly out to Mayfield’s home to discuss the situation, which was a clear indication that there was trouble in paradise.
Cabot further reports that the Watson situation and the team’s comments that it was looking for an “adult” at the quarterback position — thus implying that Mayfield is not, in fact, an adult — merely represented the final straw. Mayfield was said to have issues with HC Kevin Stefanski‘s play-calling and scheme, and as Stefanski will retain play-calling duties in 2022, Mayfield was prepared to skip the Browns’ offseason program and minicamp in an effort to force a trade to a team that has an offense more conducive to his skill-set. As Mayfield is eligible for free agency in 2023, the upcoming season is obviously critical for him, both from a financial and on-field perspective.
We recently learned that Mayfield would prefer to be traded to the Colts. Cabot suggests that, if Indianapolis GM Chris Ballard is interested, he may require the Browns to pay at least some of Mayfield’s $18.9MM salary, and since Cleveland has no choice but to deal Mayfield at this point, the team’s leverage in that regard and in terms of trade compensation is fairly limited.
Both Cabot and Bob Condotta of the Seattle Times confirm that the Seahawks may be interested in Mayfield but are genuinely excited by Drew Lock, who recently came to Seattle in the trade that sent Russell Wilson to the Broncos. As for the Texans, Caserio was non-committal when asked if Davis Mills, who started 11 games as a rookie in 2021 and who showed marked improvement down the stretch, would remain Houston’s QB1. Nonetheless, Mills is expected to open the 2022 campaign as the starting signal-caller, despite Caserio’s comments that the team is “starting from scratch” at the most important position in sports.
After the Browns ended Baker Mayfield‘s four-year tenure as their starter by trading forDeshaun Watson, the former No. 1 overall pick figures to be an option for another team in need of a QB1. Mayfield has his eye on another AFC team.
Mayfield would prefer to be traded to the Colts, Jeff Howe of The Athletic reports (on Twitter), and has informed the Browns of his ideal destination. One season remains on Mayfield’s contract, with the Browns having picked up his fully guaranteed fifth-year option — worth $18.9MM — last year. The Colts have shown interest in Mayfield, James Palmer of NFL.com tweets, but no notable discussions have occurred yet.
The Colts make sense as a Mayfield destination. They ditched Carson Wentz after one season and do not have a first-round pick, which the team sent to Philadelphia in the Wentz deal. Prior to Mayfield requesting a trade Thursday, the Browns were willing to work with their now-former starting quarterback in a trade. However, they were not prepared to accommodate his trade request Thursday. Of course, that was before Cleveland came in with a market-reshaping offer for Watson. Mayfield is now expected to be moved. His lack of a no-trade clause could prompt the Browns to move him to an NFC team, so it will be interesting to see how the team treats its longtime starter on the way out.
Indianapolis could easily fit Mayfield’s salary onto its payroll; the team created plenty of cap space by unloading Wentz. The Colts lead the NFL in cap space, at nearly $40MM, and have a glaring need at quarterback. Mayfield would obviously be an upgrade over anyone presently on the Colts. The Colts have a playoff-caliber roster, which features NFL rushing champion Jonathan Taylor. Though the team needs pass-catching help, Mayfield is undoubtedly intrigued by the talent in Indy.
The Seahawks lurk here as well. They emerged as a possibility for Mayfield earlier this week, and USA Today’s Josina Anderson tweets they have inquired on both Mayfield and Matt Ryan. Seattle would prefer an experienced QB, Anderson adds. While Pete Carroll indicated the Seahawks were fans of Drew Lock as a prospect, he bounced in and out of the Broncos’ starting lineup during a rocky three-year tenure. Ryan’s contract remains onerous for the Falcons to trade, and without Watson in the picture, Atlanta greenlighting a 15th season with Ryan would make sense financially.
The Giants’ new head coach, Brian Daboll, worked with free agent quarterback Mitchell Trubisky when they were both with the Bills last year (Daboll as offensive coordinator). Well, according to Dan Graziano of ESPN, Daboll has interest in luring Trubisky to join him in New York.
There’s been some interest in bringing Trubisky to Pittsburgh, as well, where a path to starting is much more clear. If Daboll’s familiarity with the sixth-year quarterback is able to attract him to the Giants, though, the head coach sees the potential for him to mirror the results of Ryan Tannehill in Tennessee. A quick refresher: Tannehill arrived in Nashville in 2019 in a trade with the Dolphins. Tannehill started the season in the role of back up quarterback to the incumbent starter Marcus Mariota. After a 2-4 start to the season, Mariota was benched in favor of Tannehill, who went 7-3 for the rest of the year and led the Titans to the AFC Championship Game.
Daboll holds hope that, while Daniel Jones may retain the starting job in New York, if the need presents itself, Trubisky could provide the same effect as Tannehill.
Some other notes concerning quarterbacks around the league:
Another option the Steelers could be looking into, Jameis Winston is looking like the most likely starting quarterback for the Saints in 2022, according to Graziano. With Teddy Bridgewater headed to free agency, a return to New Orleans could be possible, and Winston may see some opportunities in testing the free agent market, himself. But Winston is a locker room favorite that saw success on the Saints before tearing his ACL midseason last year.
Tyrod Taylor lost the starting job in Houston last year to rookie quarterback Davis Mills. With Mills expected to return to the starting position next year, the Texans do have interest in bringing Taylor back in the role of back up quarterback, according to ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler. Taylor has chased starting jobs throughout his career and has seen some success at times. He may search for a new opportunity to start, but, if not, Taylor has shown professionalism several times in back up roles mentoring young quarterbacks.
After receiving Drew Lock in the Russell Wilson-trade with the Broncos, Seattle is considering the elements to Lock’s lack of success in Denver, according to Fowler. Some believe that the revolving door of offensive coordinators contributed to his struggles. Seattle is analyzing whether they believe in Pete Carroll‘s ability to develop Lock, who showed glimpses of promise in his early appearances as a Bronco, or whether they need to make moves for Deshaun Watson to win now.
9:57pm: Wilson has signed his no-trade provision and passed his physical, making the deal official on his end, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter (via Twitter). The other players involved in the trade still have to take their physical.
Details are still emerging, but when all is said and done, the deal will see three players (Lock, Harris, and Fant) go to Seattle along with two first-round picks, two second-round picks, and a fifth-round pick. The Broncos, meanwhile, get Wilson plus a Round 4 choice (Twitter link via Jay Glazer of FOX Sports). Even when accounting for Wilson’s talent and accomplishments, it all adds up to a solid haul for the Seahawks.
The Seahawks have been at odds with their star quarterback for quite some time. Now, after years of speculation, they’ve finally turned the page. The Broncos, meanwhile, have a Hall of Fame worthy quarterback for the first time since Peyton Manning‘s retirement.
Previously, head coach Pete Carroll said that the Seahawks had “no intention” of moving Wilson. Ultimately, however, Wilson wanted a new start. The Seahawks also get an opportunity at something of a clean slate. Wilson’s $35MM-per-year contract wasn’t necessarily outsized, but it was a blocker on their books. Now, Carroll & Co. can reshape the team as they see fit — perhaps with a QB with less gripes about the rest of the roster.
“At this time of year, there’s conversations about everybody, and it’s commonplace for us to have conversations with teams about all of the players, particularly marquee players,” Carroll said recently. “That’s not changed. It’s been the same every year. It’s the same…We have no intention of making any move there. But the conversations, [GM] John [Schneider] has to field those, he always has. But nothing specific.”
Wilson has had his eyes on the Broncos for a while, dating back to his four-team list of acceptable trade destinations. Still, in interviews, the 33-year-old tried to slow the rumor mill down.
“I’ve been fortunate to be able to play ten amazing years in Seattle,” Wilson said roughly three weeks ago. “My hope and goal is to be back there and keep winning there. That’s the vision, that’s the goal. That’s always been it, never been anything different.”
Wilson has been connected to a number of teams this year, including the newly-crowned Washington Commanders. They were said to have sent a “strong offer,” though it’s unclear if they approached the Broncos’ mega-package. Wilson, of course, holds a no-trade clause, so it’s possible that the Broncos had the second-best offer en route to the winning bid.
The Broncos also had the cap room to accommodate the deal, unlike some of the other teams tied to Wilson. Heading into today, they had $41.999M in cap space. So, even before factoring in Lock and Harris, Denver had the room necessary to take on the deal.
The Broncos may agree to give Wilson a brand-new deal as a part of the trade. So far, we’ve yet to hear any word on that front. For now, they’ve got the superstar under contract for two more non-guaranteed years.
It’s no secret that the Broncos will be in the market for a new quarterback. In his media availability Tuesday, general manager George Paton confirmed that the team will be active in adding a signal caller (video link via Denver7’s Troy Renck).
Paton made it clear how open the team is to exploring all options, something which could be made easier by the fact they have 11 picks in the upcoming draft, starting with the ninth selection. When specifically asked about the current QB situation the team is facing, he reiterated that change could soon be coming.
“It’s the most important position in sports, so we’re always looking”, he said, noting the presence of 2019 second rounder Drew Lockon the roster. “But we’re always looking. And we’re [going to leave] no stone unturned to find that guy. We know we need better play out of the quarterback position, so we’re going to be aggressive”.
Pending free agent Teddy Bridgewaterwas the team’s starter in 2021 (after winning a training camp competition with Lock), making him the latest in a long line of attempts to find a permanent successor to Peyton Manning. His play, while on par with what the team would’ve expected given his prior stops in the NFL, wasn’t enough to end the team’s playoff drought.
New head coach Nathaniel Hackett is among the reasons Denver has been listed as a potential trade destination for Aaron Rodgers, though Green Bay could still end up being where the reigning MVP plays next year. If not Rodgers, the team could look to acquire a veteran such as Jimmy Garoppolo, or turn to the upcoming draft. On that point, 9News’ Mike Klis tweeted that the team had formal interviews with this year’s QBs on Monday night at the Combine. Given their position in the draft order, Denver could have its pick of the class, which is headlined by the likes of Kenny Pickett, Sam Howelland Malik Willis.
As one of the biggest players in the QB market, the route Denver takes to find someone new under center will dictate much of the rest of the offseason, both in the Mile High City and beyond.