The 2022 NFL offseason has been nothing if not splashy, with big names moving left and right: Davante Adams, Tyreek Hill, Khalil Mack, and on and on. Few positions have seen as much headlining movement, however, as quarterback, where at least four starters were traded and another half-dozen signed with new teams. As the 2021 carousel indicated, some buyers (Rams) inevitably end up much happier than others (Colts). So which ones look like early winners this year?
Here's how we'd rank the 2022 QB moves, from best to worst value:
1. Broncos trade for Russell Wilson
- Full trade: Broncos acquire Wilson and a 2022 fourth-round pick from Seahawks in exchange for a 2022 first-rounder, 2023 first, 2022 second, 2023 second, 2022 fifth, QB Drew Lock, TE Noah Fant and DT Shelby Harris
- Contract: 2 years, $51 million | AAV: $25.5 million
Did Denver give up a massive haul? Sure. But the notion (cliche?) that you can't possibly overpay for a franchise QB rings true here, particularly because a.) Denver is positioned to compete; and b.) Wilson is definitively a top-10 talent under center. If his occasional turnover bouts or injury-riddled 2021 stretch suggest he's not quite the perennial MVP candidate he's long been, Wilson still brings immeasurable poise and an undeniable track record to a city that's been hunting for answers since Peyton Manning.
With Seattle paying a chunk of the remainder of his four-year, $140M extension, he also comes at a financial discount relative to the shuffling QB market, costing less than the Titans will pay Ryan Tannehill, the Vikings will pay Kirk Cousins and the Lions will pay Jared Goff in 2022. Of course, it's only a matter of time before Wilson lands his own new deal, but if that's the case, it must mean he's doing something right in Denver. This is a massive upgrade no matter how you slice it, and arguably a better long-term bet than a long-rumored blockbuster move for someone like Aaron Rodgers. Now let's see if he can deliver a Lombardi.
2. Colts trade for Matt Ryan
- Full trade: Colts acquire Ryan from Falcons in exchange for 2022 third-round pick
- Contract: 2 years, $54 million | AAV: $27 million
This is no doubt another Band-Aid move for Indianapolis, so the clock is still ticking (again) on Chris Ballard and Co. finding a signal-caller for the long term. It's also not necessarily a home run of a Band-Aid when you consider Ryan has been a solid but not great starter for roughly three years and counting -- the kind of fine-but-replaceable veteran they just traded away in Carson Wentz. Approaching 37, Ryan is also not quite Matthew Stafford in terms of gas left in the tank.
And yet, despite all that, the value here is borderline tremendous; by getting a pair of threes for Wentz, Ballard essentially flipped his last QB rental for Ryan and a third-rounder. And limited as he may be, Ryan's floor figures to be in the ballpark of 2021 Wentz. It's not hard to envision him playing rejuvenated behind a much better setup than he had in Atlanta, leaning on the ground game and returning the Colts to the playoffs. With the Falcons eating some of his remaining five-year, $150M extension, Ryan makes for a safe and reliable, if unspectacular, short-term answer.
3. Browns trade for Deshaun Watson
- Full trade: Browns acquire Watson and a 2024 sixth-round pick from Texans in exchange for a 2022 first-rounder, 2023 first, 2024 first, 2023 third, 2022 fourth and 2024 fourth
- Contract: 5 years, $230 million | AAV: $46 million
This one comes with a major asterisk, in that Cleveland basically gifted the entire franchise to a QB who sat out all of 2021 while facing 22 still-active civil lawsuits alleging sexual assault or misconduct. Watson has maintained his innocence, but he's expected to face NFL discipline, perhaps leaving the Browns without his services for part of this season. Right or wrong, the Browns' unprecedented commitment to an alleged serial predator, even after a grand jury declined to file criminal charges, will surely leave a polarizing mark on the organization. And they can't backtrack anytime soon; with his lucrative fully guaranteed deal, Watson can't be released without the Browns suffering a major financial penalty until 2026.
Because Watson will inevitably take the field, however, his football impact must be accounted for here. And while his career 2020 numbers may have been inflated on a bad Texans team often trailing late in games, he still possesses top-10 talent as both a pocket passer and scrambler. He's no doubt a major upgrade on Baker Mayfield, allowing Cleveland not only to play old-school football but also air it out in an increasingly explosive AFC. The question is, after breaking the bank to get him, can they afford to maintain a championship-caliber supporting cast by the time he's fully available to them under center?
4. Saints re-sign Jameis Winston
- Contract: Two years, $28 million | AAV: $14 million
Winston looked very capable as the Saints' starter during the team's 5-2 start in 2021, although New Orleans also appeared hesitant to let him fully take the reins. Now, coming off a torn ACL, he gets a do-over, albeit with a shuffled staff and roster. This is an extremely fair contract for a 28-year-old QB who's yet to prove he belongs as a full-timer but has shown just enough to warrant another trial. His $14M annual pay makes him the NFL's 16th-highest-paid QB, which is perfectly appropriate, and he can be cut after 2022 to save anywhere between $4M and $12.8M. Better yet, his return shouldn't preclude New Orleans from drafting a potential successor, potentially giving a team in transition a pair of high-upside options under center.
5. Commanders trade for Carson Wentz
- Full trade: Commanders acquire Wentz, a 2022 second-round pick and 2022 seventh-rounder in exchange for a 2022 second, 2022 third and 2023 conditional third
- Contract: Three years, $81.7 million | AAV: $27.2 million
Wentz has been the butt of jokes and subject of pile-on criticism ever since his abrupt falling-out in Philadelphia, and as Colts GM Chris Ballard noted before dealing the QB after just one year together, most of the concerns are valid. Entering year seven, Wentz still struggles to cut forced throws and delayed decisions out of his game-day toolkit. So the price tag here is steep, especially considering someone like Jameis Winston could've given you just as much boom-or-bust potential for half the salary, and at the expense of zero draft picks. Still, he's capable of top-15 production and certainly offers higher upside than Taylor Heinicke. If all goes poorly in his return to the NFC East, he can be cut without penalty, saving more than $26M in 2023.
6. Steelers sign Mitchell Trubisky
- Contract: 2 years, $14.2 million | AAV: $7.1 million
This is basically backup/spot starter money for a 27-year-old former No. 2 overall pick with a pair of playoff runs on his resume. In other words, it's just fine for the position in which the Steelers find themselves. There's a good chance he can at least offer what Ben Roethlisberger did in 2021, except with much better legs, which would keep Pittsburgh in the wild-card hunt. There's a chance he can be better. Regardless, the Steelers can still invest in QB through the draft and/or let Mason Rudolph and Dwayne Haskins compete. It's a low-risk, high-reward play for a club rightfully throwing multiple darts at the position.
7. Bills trade for Case Keenum
- Full trade: Bills acquire Keenum from Browns in exchange for a 2022 seventh-round pick
- Contract: 1 year, $3.5 million | AAV: $3.5 million
With Cleveland eating the remainder of his deal, Keenum takes over as Josh Allen's backup on a bargain contract that pays less than inferior backups like Mason Rudolph and Sam Darnold. At 34, he may be a short-term answer as Buffalo's No. 2, but Keenum can still move and zip it on a whim, making him a perfect fit behind Allen.
8. Dolphins sign Teddy Bridgewater
- Contract: 1 year, $6.5 million | AAV: $6.5 million
These are fair numbers for Teddy at this stage of his career. While often lauded in the locker room, the journeyman QB has proven for years now that he's best suited coming off the bench. The Dolphins can't expect him to offer much more in the way of high-octane passing if he does replace Tua Tagovailoa for whatever reason, but at least Miami's built up the supporting cast, too.
9. Falcons sign Marcus Mariota
- Contract: 2 years, $18.75 million | AAV: $9.375 million
NFL Media reports Mariota's deal is actually a one-year, $6.75M deal with a $14M option for 2023. In other words, they're not paying him to be Matt Ryan's successor as much as a possible stopgap starter. You can do a lot worse, to be honest, as Mariota's mobility makes him an intriguing fit back with Arthur Smith, but Atlanta isn't assembled to really support him -- or anyone, for that matter -- at QB. Don't be surprised if he's paired with a rookie before long.
10. Browns sign Jacoby Brissett
- Contract: 1 year, $4.65 million | AAV: $4.65 million
He's actually an important addition, considering the likelihood that their big-ticket QB, Deshaun Watson, may be sidelined for part of 2022. And the Browns have a solid supporting cast to help, including new No. 1 receiver Amari Cooper. None of that means Brissett can be trusted starting the majority of a season. Like Bridgewater, he's a more conservative passer, except less accurate. Keenum might've been the better bet as a fill-in, if he hadn't been older (and close with Baker Mayfield).
11. Seahawks trade for Drew Lock
- Full trade: Seahawks acquire Lock as part of Russell Wilson deal (see above)
- Contract: 1 year, $1.5 million | AAV: $1.5 million
Seattle insists he wasn't a throw-in as part of the Wilson deal, and it's true that Lock, just 25 with a strong arm, could make for a decent underdog project, especially if Pete Carroll allows him to lean on the run. But the O-line isn't exactly built to win there, and we saw how poorly Lock folded in the face of pressure in Denver. No matter, because the real questions in Seattle surround what the team does with all the extra draft picks from Russ's departure.
12. Giants sign Tyrod Taylor
- Contract: 2 years, $11 million | AAV: $5.5 million
Reasonable veteran addition for a team with a young QB, right? Wrong. OK, it's not that bad; Taylor has ties to the new regime, he's a respected leader and is more than capable of helping Daniel Jones grow under center. But why is he getting $8.2M guaranteed? This is like the Eagles' Joe Flacco error of 2021: you already have a young QB basically locked into the top job, and while an older mentor is fine, there's no need to outbid a nonexistent market. Approaching 33, Taylor is past his prime and hasn't been a passable starter in ... five years? Is his knowledge of the offense that important? If you're gonna spend so much on a tight salary cap, just pay the extra $3M for Trubisky and at least give yourself some upside in the potential camp battle.