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Offensive players, excluding quarterbacks, and defensive players to keep an eye on were covered in articles last week. Now, the focus turns to passers.

Every season, a different set of players face a crossroads or have something to prove for a variety of reasons. The most common reasons are related to age, contract or salary cap concerns, injury, poor performance or off-the-field issues.

Here are 12 quarterbacks to watch during the 2021 season who fit into one of those categories.

Carson Wentz (Colts)

Wentz leaving the Eagles in 2021 seemed unthinkable prior to his stunning regression last season. He was considered a fixture at quarterback when he signed a four-year, $128 million contract extension with a then NFL-record $107,870,683 of guarantees in June 2019.

Conventional wisdom suggested Wentz would remain with Eagles because the record for dead money related to an individual player in one league year would be shattered in a trade. A $33,820,611 salary cap charge for Wentz to play elsewhere didn't stop the Eagles from dealing him to the Colts for a 2021 third-round pick and conditional 2022 second-round pick, although the salary cap has dropped $15.7 million from $198.2 million in 2020 to $182.5 million. The 2022 second-round pick becomes a 2022 first-round pick if Wentz takes at least 75% of Indianapolis' offensive snaps or 70% and the Colts make the playoffs this season.

The Colts are banking on a reunion with head coach Frank Reich will resurrect Wentz's career. Reich was Wentz's offensive coordinator for Wentz's first two years in the NFL in 2016-17. Wentz was a leading candidate for NFL MVP in 2017 before tearing multiple ligaments in his left knee near the end of the season.

Matthew Stafford (Rams)

Stafford is in Los Angeles because Rams head coach Sean McVay had soured on Jared Goff and the Lions accommodated his request to be traded to a contending team. Goff was included in this trade where the Lions received a 2022 first-round pick, a 2023 first-round pick and a 2021 third-round pick from the Rams.

Stafford has been considered a victim of poor circumstance by many where only making the playoffs three times (without any victories) in a 12-year NFL career is largely a result of the Lions mismanagement. He is now viewed as the missing piece for a Rams team that had the NFL's best defense in 2020. The season will be a huge disappointment if Stafford remains winless in the playoffs considering the Rams were eliminated in the Divisional round by the Packers last season after beating the Seahawks in the Wild Card round.

Baker Mayfield (Browns)

A Mayfield contract extension isn't an immediate priority for the Browns. Mayfield rebounded from a sophomore slump in 2019 to arguably play the best football of his NFL career during the second half of last season, which helped the Browns earn a playoff berth for the first time since 2002. The 2020 success has raised expectations for the Browns.

The 2018 first overall pick is a beneficiary of a strong running game and stellar offensive line. According to Pro Football Focus, the Browns have best rushing attack and offensive line heading into the 2021 season. These factors have contributed to the reluctance of putting Mayfield in a similar salary stratosphere as Bills quarterback Josh Allen, who was 2018's seventh overall pick. Allen recently signed a six-year, $258 million extension averaging $43 million per year. In order to get in the $40 million-per-year neighborhood, Mayfield will at least have to demonstrate that his performance over the last half of the 2020 season wasn't an anomaly, if not take a step forward this season.

Jimmy Garoppolo (49ers)

Durability has been a big issue with Garoppolo ever since the 49ers acquired him in a 2017 midseason trade with the Patriots. When Garoppolo has played, the 49ers have a 22-8 regular-season record and won the NFC Championship Game during the 2019 season. Garoppolo's lack of availability was a major factor in the 49ers moving up to the third overall pick in this year's draft to select Trey Lance as his replacement.

San Francisco's Super Bowl aspirations are helping keep Lance from supplanting Garoppolo as starting quarterback, although it may be inevitable at some point this season. Before any quarterback change, Garoppolo will essentially be conducting a league-wide audition to be a starter for some other team next season. The 49ers will pick up $25.6 million of 2022 cap space with a Garoppolo departure next offseason.

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Kirk Cousins (Vikings)

Cousins hasn't quite lived up to expectations since signing a fully guaranteed three-year, $84 million contract, which briefly made him the NFL's highest-paid player, to join the Vikings in 2018 as an unrestricted free agent. The Vikings have only made the playoffs once in Cousins' three seasons in Minnesota. By contrast, the Vikings played in the NFC Championship Game during the 2017 season, prior to Cousins' arrival, with journeyman Case Keenum at quarterback.

Kellen Mond was taken in the third round of this year's draft suggesting the Vikings could be ready to move on from Cousins when the two-year, $66 million extension he signed in 2020 expires after the 2022 season. It could be next offseason in a trade if the Vikings don't rebound from a 7-9 record in 2020 or Cousins' strong anti-vaccine stance becomes more problematic. He was already subject to a five-day quarantine period as a close contact when Mond tested positive for COVID-19 at the beginning of training camp. The Vikings would likely have to eat a portion of Cousins' fully guaranteed $35 million 2022 base salary to deal him next year.

Jameis Winston (Saints)

The 2015 first overall pick made the wrong kind of NFL history during the 2019 season. Winston became the first player to throw at least 30 touchdown passes and 30 interceptions in the same season. His turnovers, which included five lost fumbles, led to 112 points for the opposition. Winston also led the NFL with 5,109 passing yards. He was the eighth player to ever throw for more than 5,000 yards in a season.

Winston's penchant for turnovers -- a league-high 111 giveaways (88 interceptions and 23 lost fumbles) from 2015-19 -- prompted the Buccaneers to sign Tom Brady in 2020 free agency and led to tepid interest on the open market. Winston took a one-year deal with a base value of $1.1 million from the Saints to serve an apprenticeship under future Hall of Famer Drew Brees. He returned to the Saints in 2021 on a one-year, $5.5 million deal worth up to $12 million through incentives to compete with Taysom Hill to replace a retiring Brees. Winston beat out Hill in the preseason for the Saints quarterback job. Winston significantly cutting down on turnovers could keep him in New Orleans for the foreseeable future. If not, he could be replaced by Hill at some point this season.

Jared Goff (Lions)

Rams head coach Sean McVay wanted an upgrade at quarterback despite Goff signing a four-year extension averaging $33.5 million per year with the Rams shortly before the 2019 regular season started. Goff was included in the trade that brought Stafford to Los Angeles. The Rams have a $24.7 million cap charge this year because of Goff's departure. The expectations are low for the Lions, but Goff has a chance to show that he's more than just a product of McVay's offensive system.

Sam Darnold (Panthers)

The Jets selected Darnold with the third overall pick in the 2018 NFL Draft to be the long-term solution at quarterback. That wasn't the case. In three seasons, he completed just 59.8% of his passes while throwing for 45 touchdowns with 39 interceptions to post a 78.6 passer rating. Darnold is getting a new lease on his NFL life thanks to a trade from the Jets to the Panthers in which a 2021 sixth-round pick, a 2022 second-round pick and a 2022 fourth-round pick were given up for him. The Panthers promptly showed their initial faith in Darnold by shipping 2020 starting quarterback Teddy Bridgewater to the Broncos and picking up Darnold's fully guaranteed $18.858 million fifth-year option for 2022.

Teddy Bridgewater (Broncos)

Bridgewater became expendable when the Panthers traded for Darnold in April. He was promptly traded to the Broncos for a 2021 sixth-round pick to compete with 2019 second-round pick Drew Lock to start in Denver. To facilitate the trade, Bridgewater took a pay cut from $18 million to $11.5 million, of which $7,062,500 is being paid by the Panthers, and his 2022 contract year was deleted. Bridgewater won the quarterback job over Lock. Steady play from Bridgewater to complement a strong defense could result in Denver making the playoffs for the first time since winning Super Bowl 50 during the 2015 season and make him a viable starter in 2022. It could be somewhere else because reigning NFL MVP Aaron Rodgers has had his sights set on playing in Denver.

Daniel Jones (Giants)

The jury is still out on 2019's sixth overall pick. Jones is playing for his fully guaranteed fifth-year option in 2023, which could be in the $21.5 million range. The Giants must make a decision on Jones' fifth year between the end of the regular season on Jan. 9 and May 2. Jones is equipped with the most weapons he's had in his brief NFL career. In addition to 2018 NFL Offensive Rookie of the Year Saquon Barkley returning at running back from a torn right ACL that limited him to two games in 2020, wide receiver Kenny Golladay and tight end Kyle Rudolph were added in free agency. The Giants also used their first-round pick on wide receiver Kadarius Toney.

Tua Tagovailoa (Dolphins)

Ordinarily when a team uses the fifth overall pick on a quarterback, his future with the team isn't in question after his rookie season. Unfortunately for Tagovailoa, Miami is a preferred destination for disgruntled Texans Pro Bowl quarterback Deshaun Watson, who likely won't be traded until 2022 because of unresolved sexual misconduct allegations. Dolphins head coach Brian Flores' endorsement of Tagovailoa probably should be taken with a grain of salt given the reports that owner Stephen Ross really wants to acquire Watson.

Jalen Hurts (Eagles)

Hurts was considered a work in progress who might not play a lot of meaningful snaps in Philadelphia when the Eagles selected him in 2020's second round. That was before Wentz's startling implosion led to him being benched late last season. Hurts showed enough with his dual-threat capabilities as a rookie to get a chance to replace the departed Wentz this season. The Eagles have the most draft capital to acquire a potentially unhappy or disgruntled high-level quarterback next offseason whether it's Rodgers, Watson or Russell Wilson. In addition to their own 2022 first-round and second-round picks, the Eagles have the Dolphins' and Colts' first-round picks, provided Wentz can stay healthy. Otherwise, Philadelphia will have two first-round picks and two second-round picks next year.