NFL quarterback questions: Concerns, standouts, contracts

ByNFL Nation reporters ESPN logo
Wednesday, December 6, 2023

It has certainly been an interesting2023 NFL seasonunder center. San Francisco's Brock Purdy is making an MVP charge, Dallas' Dak Prescott has been red-hot for two months and Houston rookie C.J. Stroud is playing like a Pro Bowler. But perhaps most notable is how many quarterbacks are seeing action. Through 13 weeks, 52 different signal-callers have started at least one game ... and that list should grow after a few more QB injuries in Week 13.

We called on our NFL Nation reporters to answer 12 big questions around the game's most important position. They touched on growing concerns, expectations for the final five weeks of the season and potential implications for 2024 and beyond. Let's start with Baltimore, where Lamar Jackson is adapting to life without his top target. These 12 questions are listed alphabetically by team.

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Baltimore Ravens

How do you expect the target shares to shake out for Lamar Jackson's top pass-catchers with Mark Andrews out for the season?

In the seven quarters since Andrews injured his ankle, Jackson's three most-targeted players areZay Flowers (11 targets), Odell Beckham Jr. (11) and Isaiah Likely (eight). The X factor is Likely, who brings more speed and elusiveness as the starting tight end. His average of 4.8 yards after the catch per reception ranks eighth among AFC tight ends with at least 40 catches over the past two seasons.

"As he keeps developing his craft and his depths [on his routes] and setting up defenders, he's going to be hard to handle," Ravens offensive coordinator Todd Monken said. "It's just a matter of time. It's not a matter of if, it's just a matter of when." -- Jamison Hensley, Ravens reporter

Buffalo Bills

Are the Bills worried about Josh Allen's turnover issues?

"Worried" probably isn't the right word, but sure, an active eight-game streak with an interception is not what anyone wants. The good news for Allen and the Bills' offense? Under interim offensive coordinator Joe Brady over the past two games, the team has turned the ball over on less than 8.3% of drives, its lowest rate this season outside of zero turnovers in Weeks 2 and 4 -- and far below the team's average of 17.3% of drives entering Week 11.

Limiting throws downfield should help the offense keep the ball, as 10 of Allen's 13 interceptions have come on throws of 15 or more air yards. The Bills would also get a boost if they had more consistency from the receivers, as nine of the team's 17 drops have come in the past three games. -- Alaina Getzenberg, Bills reporter

Carolina Panthers

What can Bryce Young do down the stretch to build confidence -- for both himself and the Panthers -- heading into the offseason?

The simple answer is survive. The top pick of the 2023 draft has been sacked 44 times, the fourth-most sacks through a player's first 11 games since the 1970 merger. And there's no sign that the pressure will let up. Young did make it through the first half of Sunday's loss at Tampa Bay without a sack in large part because the Panthers put him under center seven times in the first quarter and used more play-action. They got away from that in the second half, and he was sacked four times for the eighth time this season.

If Young and the Panthers' offense use more play-action -- they have the second-lowest play-action rate in the league (15.3%) -- that could potentially help him long-term.-- David Newton, Panthers reporter

Green Bay Packers

Has Jordan Love shown enough to prove he's the Packers' long-term starter and get another extension this offseason?

The Packers can't do anything with Love's contract until May because of the 12-month rule that says teams aren't allowed to extend an extension until a year has passed. It was in May 2023 when the Packers gave him the one-year extension in lieu of the fifth-year option on his rookie deal.

A month ago, it looked like they might let him go into 2024 before they considered a new deal, but as long as Love continues his current trend -- four straight games with multiple touchdown passes and three straight without an interception -- he's going to warrant much more than his scheduled 2024 pay of $6 million (plus up to $9 million more in incentives). -- Rob Demovsky, Packers reporter

Las Vegas Raiders

How likely is it that the Raiders will draft a first-round quarterback for the first time since JaMarcus Russell in 2007?

Talk about a fluid situation dependent upon a number of factors. Who will be the GM? Who will be the coach? How will rookie Aidan O'Connell play in the final five games? Where will the Raiders be picking in the draft? And how doesJimmy Garoppolo's contract factor in?

A late-season collapse could mean a total rebuild and might see the Raiders trading up to go all-in for the likes ofCaleb Williams, Drake Maye or even Jayden Daniels(who has an Arizona State connection with interim coach Antonio Pierce). But today, sitting at 5-7 with hopes of a late run, I'd say there's a 49% chance -- a notch below 50-50 -- of the Raiders using a first-round pick on a QB for only the fourth time since the 1970 merger (Russell in 2007, Todd Marinovich in 1991 and Marc Wilson in 1980). -- Paul Gutierrez, Raiders reporter

Los Angeles Rams

What's the early buzz on whether Matthew Stafford will be the Rams' starting quarterback in 2024?

There's no reason to think Stafford won't be the Rams' starting quarterback next season. After their victory over the Browns on Sunday, coach Sean McVay said, "Matthew's a baller. He had another great game, and he's going to continue to play really well for us."

McVay and the front office are big fans of Stafford, and logistically, it wouldn't make sense to move on from him. Stafford's 2024 salary is guaranteed, and a trade before June 1 would leave Los Angeles with $55.5 million in dead money. The Rams did a lot of work during the offseason to keep the 2024 cap clean, too. And while the Rams have their 2024 first-round pick -- at least for now -- they've already won six games, which doesn't put them in position to take one of the top quarterbacks in the draft. Expect Stafford to be back in L.A. -- Sarah Barshop, Rams reporter

Miami Dolphins

Based on his play this season, do you expect Tua Tagovailoa to reset the quarterback market with an extension this offseason?

In the NFL, you are worth what the market says you are worth. We witnessed a couple ofrecord-breaking QB contracts last offseason, and if Tagovailoa continues to play at this level, we are going to see another one in the spring. The 2022 season proved that coach Mike McDaniel's offense is not quarterback-proof -- Tagovailoa plays a pivotal part in its productivity.

The fourth-year pro ranks third in the NFL in passing yards (3,457) and second in passing touchdowns (24) this season, and he should finish the season with career highs in both categories, all while completing a career-best 70% of his passes. He leads by example and is respected within the Dolphins' locker room, which took note of the steps he took this past offseason to prepare to play an entire season. His work has paid off so far, as he is yet to miss a game. And it should pay off financially in 2024. -- Marcel Louis-Jacques, Dolphins reporter

New York Jets

Rank the Jets' quarterbacks in likely play time over the final five weeks of the regular season.

In order of projected playing time, from most to least:Zach Wilson,Brett Rypien, Trevor Siemian, Aaron Rodgers. There is a lot of palace intrigue here, but Wilson likely will return to the QB1 role after two weeks on the bench. Rypien, whom the Jets signed Tuesday after waiving Tim Boyle, becomes a factor because of his familiarity with offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett's offense; Rypien was the backup QB when Hackett was the coach of the Broncos last season.

And while Rodgers has been aiming for months to play, the Jets' inevitable elimination probably will squash his comeback dream.-- Rich Cimini, Jets reporter

Pittsburgh Steelers

What's the early feeling on whether the Steelers will be in the quarterback market come the spring?

If the Steelers opt to add a quarterback this spring, it's unlikely they would use an early-round draft pick to do so. The decision onKenny Pickett's fifth-year option isn't due until after the 2024 season, and the Steelers will likely want a full season under a new offensive coordinator to evaluate their 2021 first-round pick.

After throwing four interceptions in the first four weeks of the season, Pickett hasn't thrown one in his past eight starts. But he also threw only two touchdown passes over that span and hasn't consistently seen open receivers downfield. Pickett's 38.1 QBR ranks 26th in the NFL, better than only Mac Jones, Bryce Young and Zach Wilson this season. And he has done little to prove he's the Steelers' franchise quarterback. But the Steelers aren't likely to pull the plug on him yet, with other options to improve the offense still on the table. -- Brooke Pryor, Steelers reporter

Tampa Bay Buccaneers

Could the Buccaneers decide to run it back with Baker Mayfield next season, or will they be looking for a more long-term solution?

With a 5-7 record, the verdict is still out -- and not only on Mayfield but also on the status of coach Todd Bowles. If Tampa Bay moves on from Bowles this offseason, that will impact the team's QB plans. Mayfield has limited interceptions (eight picks to 18 passing TDs), he has been a leader in the locker room, and he has been able to make plays outside the pocket. But he hasn't been able to carry an entire team on his back every week.

If the Buccaneers take a nose dive in this last quarter of the season and are in position to draft a quarterback high come April, it's something they'll need to strongly consider. -- Jenna Laine, Buccaneers reporter

Tennessee Titans

What does the Tennessee coaching staff still want to see from Will Levis down the stretch to prove he's their guy?

The Titans' staff has been pleased with the way Levis is able to throw the ball down the field but wants him to be more careful with the football. Offensive coordinator Tim Kelly said Levis' decision-making must improve. Although Levis has just two interceptions, he has put the ball in harm's way at times. Coach Mike Vrabel praised Levis for his toughness and leadership, though, and Levis can cement his role as the Titans' quarterback of the future if he continues to efficiently make the correct reads and avoid turning the football over. -- Turron Davenport, Titans reporter

Washington Commanders

Has Sam Howell's recent three-game slide changed how the Commanders view him as a long-term starter?

It's impossible to say, considering we don't yet know who will be in charge of that decision. At 4-9, the Commanders are trending toward having a new general manager and coach this offseason. Current coach Ron Rivera has said numerous times how much he believes in Howell and his future, and defensive tackleJonathan Allenhas said multiple times Howell will be the quarterback for the next "five to 10 years."

Washington currently projects to have the fourth overall pick, but even with that high selection, the Commanders might need to settle for the third-best quarterback in the draft with Chicago and New England likely having picks ahead of them.-- John Keim, Commanders reporter

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