Jimmy Garoppolo is on the edge of becoming the most sought-after quarterback of the offseason.
If that sounds like buzzkill after a year of endless rumors about Aaron Rodgers and Russell Wilson possibly moving on from Green Bay and Seattle, it’s hard to deny that. And while Deshaun Watson and Houston will eventually part company in what will be a blockbuster trade, nobody is quite sure when that will exactly happen given ongoing legal issues surrounding the former Clemson signal-caller.
On top of that, the quarterbacks in the draft are all, in a word, underwhelming.
“There’s not a single guy in the draft who a team could take right now and reasonably expect to think he could start next season and have some type of real impact,” one scout said. “There are probably going to be three of them taken in the first round, but I wouldn’t take any of them that high.”
All of this leads back to Garoppolo, the guy who finished two of the past three seasons by either losing in the Super Bowl or losing in the NFC Championship Game. Yet San Francisco has essentially committed to Trey Lance as the quarterback-in-waiting, leaving Garoppolo as possible trade bait … unless he wants to play rough with the 49ers.
Before we get into all of that, here’s a rundown of where some of the league’s notable quarterbacks will wind up next season:
Predicting NFL Quarterback Destinations for 2022
A source with knowledge of the Packers’ inner workings recently laid out the strong argument for why Rodgers is expected to return to Green Bay. A potential Rodgers reunion would come despite a pair of ugly playoff exits in each of the past two seasons and a flare-up after the team drafted Jordan Love in 2020.
“Aaron runs the show now. He won the battle with Gutty (General Manager Brian Gutekunst) and he already controls (head coach) Matt (LaFleur). He proved that last offseason when they got (wide receiver) Randall Cobb,” the source said. “Gutty spent the entire season working on the relationship because he knows you have to have the quarterback.”
All that said, the source said Rodgers is capricious enough that he could wake up one day and demand to get out (Denver is ready to give the Packers whatever it takes) or even retire.
“He’s a different kind of dude. He thinks he’s smarter than everybody else and he likes to push people’s buttons. If he wasn’t as great as he is, he’d be on his sixth team by now. But he is that great and you have to deal with what he wants and, right now, he runs the organization. Is he going to get that somewhere else? Probably, but he knows he has it now,” the source said.
As for Rodgers’ recent social media post in which he expressed appreciation for teammates, including Cobb, another source said that was Rodgers just playing with people for the sake of seeing how they react.
“Aaron likes to make people uncomfortable and that tweet made people uncomfortable because they’re trying to figure out what he’s thinking. He loves that crap because he likes to play with everybody’s mind,” the source said.
2022 Destination: Green Bay
The return of 70-year-old head coach Pete Carroll was a tell to people who know the dynamics of the Seahawks.
“If Wilson was leaving, Pete wasn’t going to stay around and management really wouldn’t want him to stay because they would be doing such a massive overhaul,” a source said. “(General Manager) John Schneider is now the guy really running things because he’s going to be there long-term. If Russell wasn’t going to stay, John would have put in motion another plan, but that’s not what’s happening.”
Additionally, the source said that the move by Seattle to hire Shane Waldron as offensive coordinator last season was critical appeasement of Wilson, who now feels obliged to make Waldron successful.
“If Russell wanted out that bad, he could have rested longer than he did when he got hurt last year. He came back as fast as he could, didn’t play that well and now he’s feeling like it’s on him to make the OC look good,” the source said.
Wilson has implied for more than a year that he’d like to play in a bigger market, such as Chicago or New York. However, the three teams in those two markets have young quarterbacks in varying stages of development. A trade is not impossible, but highly improbable.
2022 Destination: Seattle
The only questions about Watson at this point revolve around when the Texans will finally trade him and how much they will get for him. Of course, the first question is directly impacted by the impending criminal and civil actions he is about to go through.
As for the price, it’s really about whether this is going to be three first-round picks or perhaps a little more.
“You’re talking about one of the top five quarterbacks in the league. If you know when he’s going to play, it’s three first-rounders and maybe a player. Maybe even four first-rounders. He’s that good. He has been that good on bad teams with bad coaching. He’s a monster. The only thing you don’t know — which has been the issue for most of the past year — is the risk of when he’ll be playing,” one of the sources said.
Miami considered trading for Watson this past offseason, but the deal was dependent on his settling his civil suits with 22 women who have accused him of various issues that involve sexual assault and/or harassment. Carolina and Philadelphia are also interested and the market for teams in need is deep.
2022 Destination: Philadelphia
With Rodgers and Wilson off the table and the risk/timing/cost of getting Watson to be uncomfortable for most teams, Garoppolo rises to the top of the ranks of best quarterbacks available. While Garoppolo has his share of issues, including critical missed throws or interceptions in crunch time, he is 33-14 as a starter in his career and 4-2 in the playoffs.
“If you look at the play, you don’t see pure greatness, I get that,” one executive said. “But you look at the record and there are about 25 teams that would like to have that. He was a couple of plays from winning a Super Bowl and a couple of plays from getting to a second one. If you put the right cast around him, you can win a title with him.”
Two other personnel men believe that Garoppolo will be able to parlay his situation into a long-term extension (he has one year left on his deal with the 49ers) that will be a minimum of $30 million a year with perhaps $100 million guaranteed.
“Is he worth it? Most people would say no. But are teams desperate enough, particularly this year with not much out there, to take him? Absolutely, and they will pay,” one of the personnel men said.
2022 Destination: Denver
An ugly home loss to Las Vegas and then an embarrassing loss in the season finale at Jacksonville featured Wentz playing the role of shrinking talent. His stats (62 percent completions, 27 TDs and seven interceptions) showed huge progress from his 2020 performance in Philadelphia.
At the same time, there’s a level of panicked play that continues to haunt Wentz at critical times. He’s young enough that someone will take a chance on him, but the price won’t be high and it will undoubtedly be conditional.
2022 Destination: Carolina
The issue here is expectation. Vikings ownership thinks that it has a competitive team with the combination of offensive weapons Dalvin Cook, Justin Jefferson and Adam Thielen … and the owners aren’t wrong. That’s why the team brought in Kevin O’Connell as the next head coach.
The concern is that Cousins only has one year left on his deal. In a business governed by short-term thinking, there is no way to replace Cousins right now and expect to win.
2022 Destination: Minnesota
The Raiders just made the playoffs and there is an expectation the team will build on that with new head coach Josh McDaniels. The tough part is that Carr’s fumble issues (24 in the past two years and 43 over the past four) are so pronounced that McDaniels is going to be unnerved.
Beyond that, McDaniels has never been afraid to believe in himself to get the most out of a team with limited talent. McDaniels once traded away Jay Cutler in Denver and drafted Tim Tebow, thinking he could make Tebow into a quarterback.
While McDaniels has learned from that mistake, it’s hard to see him wanting to extend Carr beyond the one year Carr has left on his contract. The Raiders could keep Carr and perhaps franchise him for one year, but this is not a long-term relationship in the making.
2022 Destination: Las Vegas