Zach Wilson

QB Bo Nix On Track To Start For Broncos?

To little surprise, the Broncos were one of six teams who used a first-round pick on a quarterback during this year’s draft. Bo Nix – head coach Sean Payton‘s target throughout the pre-draft process – is in line to serve as Denver’s starter at some point in the near future.

The Oregon alum is one of three signal-callers who has spent time with the first-team offense during offseason practices to date. Nix is competing with trade acquisition Zach Wilson and returnee Jarrett StidhamThe latter has familiarity with Payton’s scheme dating back to his two starts at the end of the 2023 campaign, and he opened OTAs tentatively atop the depth chart.

Nix has impressed so far, though, as ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler notes (video link). The 24-year-old made a record-breaking 61 starts in college, and that experience should allow him to transition to the pro game fairly quickly. Nix’s accuracy was a central aspect of his success with the Ducks, and his ability to translate that at the NFL level will be a key talking point for the Broncos if he sees playing time as a rookie. Mike Klis of 9News confirms the QB1 job is Nix’s to lose at this point, adding he is on pace to start Week 1.

Of course, this week’s minicamp – and, more importantly, training camp this summer – will more clearly define the pecking order at the position. Denver took on an historic dead money charge by releasing Russell Wilson, clearing the way for Payton to move forward in his Broncos tenure with his preference under center. If that proves to be Nix right away, he will be expected to elevate an offense which put up middling numbers in several categories last year.

Klis adds that the battle for QB2 between Stidham and Wilson will be worth monitoring. The former is due $6MM in 2024, but only $1MM of his salary is guaranteed. The latter, by contrast, is owed the guaranteed $2.75MM Denver agreed to take on as part of the trade agreement with the Jets. Klis notes the financial element of the situation could come into play, and that will especially be true if Wilson can demonstrate why he was a recent No. 2 pick.

Like all teams, nothing is truly settled at this point of the offseason. Still, signs still point to Nix holding down starting duties right away as the Broncos continue to sort out their quarterback pecking order over the course of the offseason.

Latest On Broncos’ QB Competition

The Broncos added their preferred Russell Wilson successor in the first round of the 2024 draft. Bo Nix is positioned to see plenty of time at the helm of Denver’s offense over the course of his rookie contract, but that may not mean he sees the field right away this year.

The decision to move on from Wilson (along with more recent one to waive Ben DiNucci) has left Denver with three signal-callers. Nix is joined by offseason trade acquisition Zach Wilson and returnee Jarrett StidhamThe latter is the only one with experience working under head coach Sean Payton.

A report from earlier this month confirmed, to no surprise, that Stidham is expected to open OTAs with the Broncos’ first-team offense. The 27-year-old started two games last year after Wilson’s benching, and he will have the opportunity to earn the Week 1 starting gig depending on how Nix and Wilson are evaluated over the course of the summer. Payton recently confirmed those two passers will receive plenty of looks as well, though.

“We’ll figure it out,” the former Saints Super Bowl winner said during minicamp about a QB rotation once training camp begins in July (via ESPN’s Jeff Legwold). “With young guys, the reps are important. But we’ll have a rotation, and we’ll go from there.”

Wilson struggled mightily during his time with the Jets. The 2021 second overall pick was slated for backup duties in 2023, but Aaron RodgersAchilles tear thrust him back into starting action. Wilson did not progress compared to his previous campaigns, and New York dealt him to Denver as part of a Day 3 pick swap. One year remains on his rookie contract, with the Broncos footing half of the bill per the terms of the trade.

Of course, most of the attention at Broncos’ camp will be aimed at Nix. The Auburn and Oregon product made a record-breaking 61 starts during his time in college, and he is likely much closer to his NFL ceiling than many of the five other passers selected within the draft’s opening 12 picks. Payton and Co. were frequently connected to Nix in the pre-draft process, and the Broncos had him ranked as their third-best QB prospect.

Given the team’s struggles in finding a true Peyton Manning replacement, the Broncos will be satisfied with any of their in-house options taking charge in the upcoming quarterback competition over the short term. It will be interesting to see how Nix stacks up against Stidham and Wilson, and how quickly he is handed the reins depending on their respective performances.

Jets Notes: Wilson, OL, Odunze, Hardman

The Jets brought an end to Zach Wilson‘s disappointing New York tenure when they traded their former No. 2 overall selection for a mere pick swap on Day 3 of last month’s draft. According to ESPN’s Rich Cimini, Wilson’s camp was, in the run-up to the 2021 draft, deeply worried about Gang Green’s history of failure to develop young quarterbacks and how that would impact Wilson’s own career, but the BYU product was convinced he would be the player to buck that trend.

Of course, that was not the case, and Wilson will now try to resurrect his career in Denver. Per Cimini, one of the lessons that the Jets learned from the Wilson experience is that, regardless of the round in which they draft a QB in the future, they will want to give that player legitimate competition for his role and, preferably, the opportunity to learn on the sidelines (benefits that were not afforded to Wilson).

GM Joe Douglas also said prior to the 2024 draft that, “I’d love to be a quarterback factory,” referencing the 1990s Packers that selected QBs in the later rounds of a draft, developed them, and flipped them for new draft capital down the road. To that end, the Jets selected Florida State passer Jordan Travis in the fifth round of the 2024 draft. Travis sustained an ankle injury in November that prematurely ended his final collegiate season, though he is expected to be healed by the start of training camp.

Travis will be learning behind newly-signed backup Tyrod Taylor and QB1 Aaron Rodgers, whose success will drive the Jets’ fortunes in 2024. Blocking for that group of passers will be rookie OT Olu Fashanu, whom New York selected with the No. 11 overall pick of the draft. As Cimini details in a separate piece, Fashanu is not expected to start right away thanks to the recent additions of Tyron Smith and Morgan Moses, but since both veterans will be on modified offseason programs, Fashanu will get plenty of reps at both left and right tackle during the spring and summer (Douglas suggested that Fashanu could even get looks on the interior, as Cimini relays).

The Jets did have the No. 10 pick in the 2024 draft, but they traded down one spot and selected Fashanu once Washington wide receiver Rome Odunze went off the board to the Bears, who held the No. 9 selection. That suggests that Odunze was New York’s preferred target, and though Douglas would not confirm as much, Cimini says that the Jets did try to trade up for the former Huskies pass catcher.

The club did eventually land a receiver when it nabbed Western Kentucky talent Malachi Corley in the third round. As Adam Caplan of Pro Football Network writes, some teams viewed Corley as a slot-only option, though the Jets plan to get him some reps outside the numbers as well. The club is clearly high on his ability, with Cimini reporting that Douglas started making calls about a possible trade-up to take Corley when the Packers were on the clock with the No. 45 selection. Ultimately, Douglas got his man with the No. 65 pick. Head coach Robert Saleh concedes that Corley will need to refine his route-running, but he is excited to find creative ways to use him (via Cimini).

Speaking of wide receivers, the Jets never levied tampering charges against the Chiefs for Kansas City’s pursuit of Mecole Hardman, as Cimini reported back in March. Hardman, a second-round pick of the Chiefs in 2019, signed with the Jets in the 2023 offseason. But after Rodgers was lost for the season four snaps into the 2023 opener, the Jets’ offense was in shambles, and Hardman later acknowledged during an appearance on Ryan Clark‘s The Pivot podcast that he begged Chiefs brass to “come get me” (via Cimini).

The Jets traded Hardman back to KC in October, and Douglas admitted that Hardman’s comments to Clark “resonated with us” (meaning, presumably, that the Jets may have considered tampering charges at some point).

Broncos To Decline Zach Wilson’s Fifth-Year Option

As expected, the Broncos won’t be committing to Zach Wilson for the 2025 campaign. According to ESPN’s Jeff Legwold, the Broncos have informed Wilson’s camp that they won’t be picking up the quarterback’s fifth-year option.

[RELATED: 2025 NFL Fifth-Year Option Tracker]

Considering the $22.41MM commitment that the option would have required, it’s not a surprise that the Broncos won’t lock themselves into that salary. Wilson will now hit free agency following the 2024 campaign, and he’s set to earn more than $5MM in what will be the final season of his rookie contract (the Jets are picking up a portion of that tab).

The Broncos acquired the former second-overall pick last week, swapping a sixth-round pick for a seventh-round pick along the way. Things have already changed since that acquisition, as the Broncos reached a bit for Bo Nix in the first round. The rookie could end up leading the depth chart in 2024, with only Wilson and Jarrett Stidham standing in the way.

Wilson, of course, will be seeking a fresh start in Denver. Following two underwhelming seasons to begin his career, the Jets made a major pivot last offseason when they acquired Aaron Rodgers from the Packers. The veteran suffered a season-ending injury in his first drive with his new squad, forcing Wilson back into the limelight. The third-year quarterback ended up going 4-7 under center, completing 60.1 percent of his passes for eight touchdowns and seven interceptions.

The Jets allowed Wilson to seek a trade elsewhere this offseason, although the market was predictably light considering the player’s lack of production and $11MM cap charge. They eventually found a taker in the Broncos, but following today’s move, this could prove to be only a one-year stop in Denver for Wilson.

2025 NFL Fifth-Year Option Tracker

NFL teams have until May 2 to officially pick up fifth-year options on 2021 first-rounders. The 2020 CBA revamped the option structure and made them fully guaranteed, rather than guaranteed for injury only. Meanwhile, fifth-year option salaries are now determined by a blend of the player’s position, initial draft placement and performance- and usage-based benchmarks:

  • Two-time Pro Bowlers (excluding alternates) will earn the same as their position’s franchise tag
  • One-time Pro Bowlers will earn the equivalent of the transition tag
  • Players who achieve any of the following will receive the average of the third-20th-highest salaries at their position:
    • At least a 75% snap rate in two of their first three seasons
    • A 75% snap average across all three seasons
    • At least 50% in each of first three seasons
  • Players who do not hit any of those benchmarks will receive the average of the third-25th top salaries at their position

With the deadline looming, we will use the space below to track all the option decisions from around the league:

  1. QB Trevor Lawrence, Jaguars ($25.66MM): Exercised
  2. QB Zach Wilson, Broncos* ($22.41MM): Declined
  3. QB Trey Lance, Cowboys** ($22.41MM): Declined
  4. TE Kyle Pitts, Falcons ($10.88MM): Exercised
  5. WR Ja’Marr Chase, Bengals ($21.82MM): Exercised
  6. WR Jaylen Waddle, Dolphins ($15.59MM): Exercised
  7. T Penei Sewell, Lions ($19MM): Extended through 2029
  8. CB Jaycee Horn, Panthers ($12.47MM): Exercised
  9. CB Patrick Surtain, Broncos ($19.82MM): Exercised
  10. WR DeVonta Smith, Eagles ($15.59MM): Extended through 2028
  11. QB Justin Fields, Steelers*** ($25.66MM): Declined
  12. DE Micah Parsons, Cowboys ($21.32MM): Exercised
  13. T Rashawn Slater, Chargers ($19MM): Exercised
  14. OL Alijah Vera-Tucker, Jets ($13.31MM): Exercised
  15. QB Mac Jones, Jaguars**** ($25.66MM): Declined
  16. LB Zaven Collins, Cardinals ($13.25MM): Declined
  17. T Alex Leatherwood, Raiders: N/A
  18. LB Jaelan Phillips, Dolphins ($13.3MM): Exercised
  19. LB Jamin Davis, Commanders ($14.48MM): Declined
  20. WR Kadarius Toney, Chiefs***** ($14.35MM): Declined
  21. DE Kwity Paye, Colts ($13.4MM): Exercised
  22. CB Caleb Farley, Titans ($12.47MM): Declined
  23. T Christian Darrisaw, Vikings ($16MM): Exercised
  24. RB Najee Harris, Steelers ($6.79MM): Declined
  25. RB Travis Etienne, Jaguars ($6.14MM): Exercised
  26. CB Greg Newsome, Browns ($13.38MM): To be exercised
  27. WR Rashod Bateman, Ravens ($14.35MM): N/A; extended through 2026
  28. DE Payton Turner, Saints ($13.39MM): Declined
  29. CB Eric Stokes, Packers ($12.47MM): Declined
  30. DE Greg Rousseau, Bills ($13.39MM): Exercised
  31. LB Odafe Oweh, Ravens ($13.25MM): Exercised
  32. LB Joe Tryon-Shoyinka, Buccaneers ($13.25MM): Declined

* = Jets traded Wilson on April 22, 2024
** = 49ers traded Lance on August 25, 2023
*** = Bears traded Fields on March 16, 2024
**** = Patriots traded Jones on March 10, 2024
***** = Giants traded Toney on October 27, 2022

Jets To Trade QB Zach Wilson To Broncos

Zach Wilson‘s time in New York is set to come to an end. The Jets have found a trade partner for the former No. 2 pick in the form of the Broncos.

Ian Rapoport of NFL Network reports the Jets will send Wilson to Denver as part of a Day 3 pick swap. The teams will exchange sixth- and seventh-round picks, with New York acquiring No. 203 and the Broncos adding Wilson and No. 256. Both clubs will evenly split Wilson’s $5.45MM in 2024 compensation, per ESPN’s Adam Schefter.

Dianna Russini of The Athletic notes this agreement has been in the works “for weeks.” The Broncos have long been linked to a quarterback addition this offseason, with Russell Wilson unsurprisingly being released. That move left a vacancy under center, but in the lead-in to the draft Jarrett Stidham was in place atop the depth chart. That will remain the case for the time being, but Wilson represents a young depth option for Denver. One year remains on the latter’s rookie contract.

Having failed to secure a long-term answer under center with Sam Darnold, the Jets selected Wilson second overall in 2021. That made him one of five first-round QBs that year, but only one (Trevor Lawrence) is still with his original team. Wilson – who logged 33 starts in three seasons as a Jet – joins Trey Lance, Justin Fields and Mac Jones in having been dealt at a fraction of the cost relative to the draft capital used in their selection.

Following a rookie season in which Wilson struggled with accuracy and turnovers, he did not progress as hoped in Year 2. The 24-year-old was limited to nine contests in 2022 and saw Mike White take over as New York’s starter. That led to an aggressive pursuit of Aaron Rodgers last offseason, and while his Achilles tear prompted Wilson to once again see game action, things did not go as planned. Wilson in particular and the Jets’ offense as a whole struggled mightily.

As a result, it came as no surprise when the BYU alum was given permission to seek out a trade partner. Wilson’s cap charge ($11.1MM) and poor play hindered his value, and as expected the Jets have needed to attach draft capital to him to land a pick in return. Considering the gap between when New York began fielding offers and today’s agreement being reached, this marks a miniscule (but nevertheless expected) price from the Jets’ perspective.

New York has Rodgers and veteran backup Tyrod Taylor on the books, but the team could use the upcoming draft to add a developmental third option. Denver, meanwhile, will add Wilson to a depth chart featuring Stidham and Ben DiNucci. The lack of proven passers has led to considerable speculation tying the Broncos to an aggressive trade up the board for a first-round quarterback. Head coach Sean Payton himself is believed to be on board with such a move.

This deal has not tangibly taken away the draft capital which would be needed for Denver to move into the top five or top 10 in the first-round order. With Wilson in place, though, Payton has a depth signal-caller to work with for at least the 2024 campaign. Where Wilson slots on the Broncos’ depth chart following the draft – and as such the opportunities for playing time he receives in the Mile High City – will be interesting to watch.

Jets Still Aiming To Trade Zach Wilson; Team Targeting Day 2 Or Day 3 QB Pick

More than six weeks after Zach Wilson was known to be given permission to speak with teams about a trade, the contract-year QB remains on the Jets. Though, the team looks set to go further in the direction of the former No. 2 overall pick being elsewhere in 2024.

The Jets are highly unlikely to obtain much for Wilson, who has been one of the most disappointing QB draftees in modern NFL history. A rumor about the team needing to attach a draft pick to entice a team to take on Wilson’s 2024 guarantee emerged. But GM Joe Douglas confirmed the team is still trying to unload the fourth-year passer. Offers have come in, but Wilson remains a Jet.

[RELATED: Revisiting 2021 First-Round QB Picks]

Wilson is staying away from Jets offseason workouts, per ESPN.com’s Rich Cimini. These are voluntary, and given the team’s actions at QB and owner Woody Johnson‘s comments about Wilson, it makes sense for the BYU alum to avoid offseason work with his current team. The Jets have made it known for a while they are done with Wilson, having given Tyrod Taylor a two-year, $12MM deal to back up Aaron Rodgers.

The team is also eyeing a quarterback investment on Day 2 or Day 3, Cimini adds, calling the team “very interested” in adding to the position. Douglas said he wants the Jets to become a “QB factory” along the lines of the Ron Wolf– and Ted Thompson-era Packers. Green Bay made a habit of drafting QBs annually, even as Brett Favre‘s ironman streak persisted. The team drafted the likes of Mark Brunell, Matt Hasselback and Aaron Brooks (with Kurt Warner stopping through for a cup of coffee), each of whom becoming long-term starters elsewhere, before landing Rodgers in 2005.

Rodgers’ age (40) naturally makes this a need area for the Jets, though they are not expected to consider a passer in the first round. A Day 2 investment would be interesting as well, given how much is riding on this season for Douglas and HC Robert Saleh. Both are on hot seats, and the team only has one Day 2 pick thanks to trading their second-rounder for Rodgers last year. Drafting a player who would not factor into the team’s 2024 plans would bring some risk regarding the 2024 roster.

Rodgers, who famously said he was “90% retired” early in the 2023 offseason, has since said he expects to play at least two more Jets seasons. The increasingly outspoken QB has also said playing into his mid-40s is on the table. That marks a change from comments he made toward the end of his Packers run.

While many teams have filled their QB2 spot, some have not. The next several days loom as a key window for the Jets and Wilson, who is due $5.5MM guaranteed this year. If the Jets end up cutting Wilson, they would be tagged with $11.2MM in dead money. As of now, the team is not expected to release its three-year starter. Not trading Wilson by the draft would seemingly make a release more likely, as a second- or third-day QB draftee would be on track to be the Jets’ third-stringer this season. That would further leave Wilson without a conceivable place on the 2024 roster.

Draft Pick Likely Required For Team Absorb Zach Wilson’s Jets Contract

Not expected to be part of the 2024 Jets, Zach Wilson has been on the trade block for more than a month. The team made it known at the Combine the former No. 2 overall pick had permission to seek a trade partner. More than five weeks later, Wilson remains a Jet.

Although Wilson is attached to a rookie contract, it is the final year of a deal that involves a No. 2 salary slot. Wilson signed a four-year, $35.15MM contract in 2021. The remaining $5.45MM owed to the three-year starter has brought a sticking point in trade talks.

[RELATED: Revisiting 2021 First-Round QB Picks]

Offers are believed to have come in for Wilson, but those evidently have not satisfied the Jets. The delay may well stem from teams wanting the Jets to pay some of Wilson’s guarantee or seeking to make this a weighted pick-swap exchange. For a trade to be completed, ESPN.com’s Rich Cimini notes the sense around the NFL points to the Jets needing to send over a draft pick to convince a team to add all or most of Wilson’s money to their payroll.

In February, Cimini mentioned a sixth- or seventh-round pick being potential compensation for Wilson. Though, the notion of a mid-round swap came about in that piece as well. The Jets are unlikely to release Wilson, as the cut would tag them with $11.18MM in dead money. That amount would be halved for 2024 should the team designate Wilson as a post-June 1 cut.

The Jets have also seen many teams fill their QB2 posts. A few did so via trade, with the Steelers (Justin Fields), Eagles (Kenny Pickett), Jaguars (Mac Jones), Seahawks (Sam Howell) and Cardinals (Desmond Ridder) make deals to acquire recent starters and make them backups. A few other teams have signed backups. The Bills (Mitchell Trubisky), Browns (Jameis Winston), C0lts (Joe Flacco), Chiefs (Carson Wentz), Rams (Jimmy Garoppolo), Giants (Drew Lock), 49ers (Joshua Dobbs), Titans (Mason Rudolph) and Commanders (Marcus Mariota) have added clear-cut backup options. This will limit the Wilson market, and while it should be expected the BYU alum will have another chance somewhere, the Jets may need to sweeten the pot for that to happen.

The Steelers traded a fourth-round pick in a Pickett-centered deal that brought back a third from the Eagles. The Commanders attached fourth- and sixth-round picks to send Howell to the Seahawks, who supplied third- and fifth-rounders. The 49ers did not need to add any inducement in the Trey Lance swap, with that Cowboys deal being Lance for a fourth-rounder. Chosen one pick after Wilson, Lance remains on the Cowboys’ payroll at $5.31MM guaranteed.

Given Wilson’s performance and contract, the Jets should not be expected to upgrade in the middle rounds in any Wilson swap. With teams knowing the Jets would face that dead money penalty by cutting him, offers will not be particularly impressive.

Revisiting 2021 First-Round QB Picks

With the 2024 draft approaching, this year’s crop of quarterbacks will increasingly become the center of attention around the NFL. Acquiring rookie passers is viewed as the surest route to long-term success, and the urgency teams feel to generate quick rebuilds fuels aggressive moves aimed at acquiring signal-callers deemed to have high upside.

Each class is different, though, and past drafts can offer a cautionary tale about the downfalls of being overly optimistic regarding a young quarterback. In the case of the 2021 draft, five signal-callers were selected on Day 1, and to varying extents things have not gone according to plan in each case. Three quarterbacks (quite possibly four, depending on how the immediate future plays out) have been traded, while the other has not lived up to expectations.

Here is a breakdown of all five QBs taken in the first round three years ago:

Trevor Lawrence (No. 1 overall, Jaguars)

Lawrence entered the league with enormous expectations after his high school and college success, having been touted as a generational prospect. The Clemson product (like the rest of the Jaguars) endured a forgettable season under head coach Urban Meyer as a rookie, however. The latter’s firing paved the way for the arrival of Doug Pederson, known to be a QB-friendly coach. Lawrence improved in 2022, earning a Pro Bowl nod and helping guide the team to the divisional round of the postseason.

This past campaign saw the 24-year-old battle multiple nagging injuries, and he was forced to miss a game for the first time in his career. Jacksonville failed to find a rhythm on offense throughout the year, and a late-season slump left the team out of the playoffs altogether after a division title seemed to be in hand. In two seasons under Pederson, Lawrence has totaled 46 touchdown passes and 22 interceptions – figures which fall short of what the pair were thought to be capable of while working together. Nonetheless, no changes under center will be forthcoming.

Following in line with his previous stance on the matter, general manager Trent Baalke confirmed last month extension talks with Lawrence have begun. The former college national champion will be on his rookie contract through 2025 once the Jaguars exercise his fifth-year option, but megadeals finalized in a QB’s first year of extension eligibility have become commonplace around the NFL. Lawrence profiles as Jacksonville’s answer under center for years to come, something of particular significance given the team’s past struggles to find a long-term producer at the position.

Four young passers inked second contracts averaging between $51MM and $55MM per year last offseason. Lawrence is positioned to be the next in line for a similar deal, though his generally pedestrian stats could hinder his leverage to a degree. At a minimum, he will see an AAV much higher than that of his 2025 option ($25.66MM) once his next contract is in place.

Zach Wilson (No. 2, Jets)

The Jets’ decision to take Sam Darnold third overall in 2018 did not prove fruitful, and in short order the team was in need of another young passer. Wilson was immediately installed as the team’s starter, but in both his rookie campaign and his follow-up season he struggled in a number of categories. A lack of improvement regarding accuracy and interception rates made it clear a more proven commodity would be required for a team internally viewed as being a quarterback away from contention.

That drove the decision to trade for Aaron Rodgers last offseason, a move aimed at relying on the future Hall of Famer in the short term while allowing Wilson to develop as a backup. Four snaps into the season, though, Rodgers’ Achilles tear upended that plan and thrust Wilson back into a starting role. Playing behind a struggling (and injury-marred) offensive line, the BYU alum guided an offense which finished 29th in scoring and 31st in yardage. In the wake of the poor showing, owner Woody Johnson publicly disparaged Wilson in vowing to upgrade the QB2 spot.

With Tyrod Taylor now in place (and Rodgers aiming to continue playing into his 40s), Wilson’s New York days are believed to be numbered. The Jets have given him permission to seek a trade, which comes as little surprise given the team’s decision to bench him on a few occasions over the past two seasons. A fresh start for both parties could be beneficial, although value on a deal will come well short of the capital used to draft him. Offers for the 24-year-old have nevertheless been received, so a deal could be struck in relatively short order.

Once that takes place, New York will have once again cut bait with a failed QB project. Wilson could follow Darnold’s path in taking on a backup gig before receiving another starting opportunity with a new team. For the time being, though, he will aim to find the ideal supporting role in an attempt to rebuild his value.

Trey Lance (No. 3, 49ers)

Aggressively pursuing a Jimmy Garoppolo upgrade, San Francisco moved up the board at a substantial cost. The 49ers sent the Dolphins a package including three first-round picks and a third-rounder, banking on Lance’s athletic upside. After a year sitting behind Garoppolo, the North Dakota State product was positioned to take over in 2022.

However, a Week 2 ankle fracture cut Lance’s season was cut short; this proved to mark an end to his San Francisco tenure. In all, Lance made just four regular-season starts with the 49ers, as the 2022 season unintentionally resulted in Brock Purdy taking over the starter’s role. The emergence of the former Mr. Irrelevant paved the way for Lance to be traded, but his injury history and inconsistent play when on the field limited his trade market. The Cowboys won a brief bidding war, acquiring Lance for a fourth-round pick.

Lance did not see the field in his first season as a Cowboy, but Dallas will keep him in the fold for the 2024 campaign. He will thus be in line to serve as Dak Prescott’s backup for a year; the latter is not under contract for 2025, but he remains firmly in the team’s plans. Unless Prescott were to depart in free agency next offseason, a path to a No. 1 role does not currently exist for Lance.

The 23-year-old could nevertheless still be viewed as a worthwhile developmental prospect given his age and athletic traits. The Lance acquisition has clearly proven to be a mistake on the 49ers’ part, though, especially given the success the team has had without him. What-ifs will remain a part of this 49ers chapter’s legacy (particularly if the current core cannot get over the Super Bowl hump) considering the substantial price paid to move up the board and the draft picks not available in subsequent years as a result.

Justin Fields (No. 11, Bears)

Like San Francisco, Chicago did not wait on the chance of having a top QB prospect fall down the draft board. The Bears moved two first-round picks, along fourth- and fifth-rounders, to move ahead of the Patriots and add a presumed long-term answer under center. Fields saw playing time early enough (10 starts as a rookie), but his performance that year left plenty of room for improvement.

A head coaching change from Matt Nagy to Matt Eberflus also brought about the arrival of a new offensive coordinator (Luke Getsy). Fields did not make the expected jump as a passer in the new system, averaging less than 150 yards per game through the air and taking 55 sacks. He became only the third quarterback to record over 1,000 yards on the ground in a season, though, showcasing his rushing ability. The Ohio State product made only incremental progress in 2023, despite an improved offensive line and the trade acquisition of wideout D.J. Moore.

As a result, speculation steadily intensified that general manager Ryan Poles – who was not a member of the regime which drafted Fields – would move on from the 25-year-old. Fields received endorsements from Eberflus, Poles and others in the building, but the team decided to move on and pave the way for (in all likelihood) Caleb Williams being drafted first overall. A conditional sixth-round pick sent Fields to the Steelers, his preferred destination.

In Pittsburgh, Fields is slated to begin as the backup Russell Wilson. Both passers face uncertain futures beyond 2024, especially with the former not on track to have his fifth-year option exercised. Fields could play his way into the starter’s role in relatively short order given the 10-year age gap between he and Wilson, who flamed out in Denver. That, in turn, could see his market value jump higher than that of the other non-Lawrence members of this class given their respective situations.

Mac Jones (No. 15, Patriots)

Drafted to become the Tom Brady successor of both the short- and long-term future, Jones was immediately installed as New England’s starter. Coming off a national title with Alabama, he appeared to set the stage for a long Patriots tenure by earning a Pro Bowl nod and finishing second in Offensive Rookie of the Year voting. Nothing went according to plan for team or player beyond that point, however.

Jones saw Josh McDaniels depart in the 2022 offseason, leaving head coach Bill Belichick to hand the offensive reins over to Matt Patricia and Joe Judge. That move resulted in widespread struggles on offense, and Jones regressed. Following a 2021 playoff berth, the inability to venture back to the postseason the following year led to increased speculation about the team’s future under center. That became particularly true amid reports of tension between Jones and Belichick.

With both coach and quarterback under pressure to rebound, optimism emerged when the Patriots hired Bill O’Brien as OC. That move did not produce the desired results, though, and by the end of the year Jones was benched in favor of Bailey Zappe. With a Belichick-less regime set to start over at the quarterback spot, the former was dealt to the Jaguars for a sixth-round pick.

Jones has publicly stated the deal (which sent him to his hometown team) was a mutual parting of ways. A backup gig behind Lawrence could allow the pocket passer to regain some of his confidence generated by his rookie success, but his showings over the past two seasons will no doubt give teams considerable pause with respect to viewing him as a starter down the road. Jones’ athletic profile is also a less favorable one than that of Wilson, Lance and especially Fields, something which could further consign him to QB2 duties for the foreseeable future.

Four quarterbacks are considered locks to hear their names called on Day 1 of the 2024 draft, one in which each of the top three picks may very well once again be used on signal-callers. Other QB prospects are also in contention for Round 1 consideration, meaning they and their new teams will be subject to considerable scrutiny. To put it lightly, all parties involved will hope the top of this year’s class pans out better than that of its 2021 counterpart.

Offers Come In For Jets’ Zach Wilson

With a $5.45MM guarantee due for Zach Wilson, the Jets are unlikely to receive much in the way of trade compensation for a player on track to become one of the biggest whiffs in modern draft history. But it does appear some interest exists.

Offers have indeed emerged, with Pro Football Talk’s Mike Florio indicating the team has received proposals for the former No. 2 overall pick. These proposals have not intrigued the Jets, and Joe Douglas said Monday (via NFL.com’s Mike Garafolo) the team is not close to hammering out a trade. The Jets gave Wilson permission to seek a trade during the Combine.

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Woody Johnson may be a factor in Wilson not being moved. While the compensation being proposed is not known, Florio adds the owner is believed by some as the person preventing a deal from coming to pass. This would certainly be an interesting development, given Johnson’s comments about Wilson’s 2023 ineffectiveness. That said, Johnson was also believed to be the person who stood in the way of the Jets making an effort to acquire a better backup QB — due to the money poured into Aaron Rodgers — once the team’s future Hall of Fame passer went down in Week 1.

While denying he has nixed any trade — instead pointing to any such efforts being Douglas’ call — Johnson said Monday (via the New York Post’s Brian Costello) the Jets will keep Wilson if they cannot find a trade partner. It has long been expected the BYU alum will not be part of the 2024 Jets, and with trade offers potentially in the mix, it would seem the Jets have a way out without releasing the disappointing passer.

I feel badly about Zach in some ways,” Johnson said. “Last year would have been great, it would have been the first time he could just sit back and watch a master at work. He’s never had that. He’s been in the fire from Day 1. I think that’s what he needs. He needs to be in a place where he can observe for a while. He’s got the skill. He can do everything. There’s a reason we drafted him at No. 2 overall. I have confidence that he’ll get there at some point.”

It is possible teams want the Jets to remain responsible for most of Wilson’s guarantee. Should Johnson have a potential role in Wilson remaining on the Jets, the financial component may be driving that. For now, Wilson would not have an immediate path to playing time as a Jet once again. The team gave Tyrod Taylor a two-year, $12MM deal to back up Rodgers, ending Wilson’s period in the New York spotlight after three woeful seasons.