Quarterback is the most important position in football.
From running the offense to being a leader, the position is ripe with responsibilities. So, it’s no wonder why teams spend so much of their time trying to solidify quarterback plans.
Some teams have hit the lottery, with entrenched quarterbacks that won’t go anywhere for the foreseeable future. Most others, though, are either looking for an update or to overhaul the position entirely with a rookie.
The 2023 NFL offseason will be full of quarterback changes, but what can fans expect come Week 1 in September? Here are predictions for the 32 starting quarterbacks next season, with an added confidence level in each projection (1 to 10, 10 being the most confident they’ll start for that team in 2023):
Which teams aren’t changing quarterbacks in 2023?
Chiefs: Patrick Mahomes (confidence level: 10)
Bengals: Joe Burrow (confidence level: 10)
Bills: Josh Allen (confidence level: 10)
Jaguars: Trevor Lawrence (confidence level: 10)
Chargers: Justin Herbert (confidence level: 10)
Eagles: Jalen Hurts (confidence level: 10)
Not much to argue about here. These six are guaranteed to start for their teams next season, barring injury. They are all established young stars with mostly secure contract situations. Mahomes and Allen have already received massive deals, Burrow, Herbert and Hurts are extension-eligible this offseason and Lawrence is still on his rookie deal.
Browns: Deshaun Watson (confidence level: 10)
Broncos: Russell Wilson (confidence level: 10)
These two teams have made their beds. Watson and Wilson aren’t going anywhere after they were acquired in trades last offseason before signing massive extensions. The Browns gave Watson a fully guaranteed $230 million deal, while the Broncos signed Wilson to a five-year, $245 million extension with no out until 2026. Even if these two underperformed in 2022, Cleveland and Denver can do nothing else but hope for a turnaround next season.
Cowboys: Dak Prescott (confidence level: 9)
It would be tough for the Cowboys to move on from Prescott, even after his interception-filled season. The cost of Prescott being off the roster would be more than him on it, according to Spotrac. The only reason my confidence level isn’t a 10 here is because of Jerry Jones. He’s the ultimate wild card – you just can’t rule anything out with the Cowboys’ 80-year-old owner.
Vikings: Kirk Cousins (confidence level: 9)
Cousins has one year and a fully guaranteed $35 million left on his contract, so it’s highly unlikely the Vikings move on after another solid season. It would be hard to upgrade from Cousins, who is firmly established as one of the best 10-to-15 quarterbacks in the league. The Vikings’ overall ceiling with him at QB remains a question.
Steelers: Kenny Pickett (confidence level: 8.5)
Patriots: Mac Jones (confidence level: 8)
Bears: Justin Fields (confidence level: 8)
These three young quarterbacks have shown enough to start again in 2023. Pittsburgh finished the season 7-5 with Pickett at QB, and he clearly improved throughout his rookie campaign. Jones had a rocky second season in New England after a strong rookie year, but a revamped coaching staff should get him back on track in 2023. The Bears could draft a QB at No. 1 overall, though they appear committed to Fields after an electrifying second season as a runner.
Lions: Jared Goff (confidence level: 7)
Goff proved once again in 2022 that he’s the perfect bridge quarterback. If he’s put in a good situation (roster, coaching staff, etc.), he’s perfectly capable of winning games. The Lions likely won’t ever win a Super Bowl with Goff, but he’s an ideal stopgap while they fortify the roster.
Titans: Ryan Tannehill (confidence level: 6)
Tennessee has the option to cut Tannehill, it just doesn’t make sense unless it can find a clear upgrade. There aren’t any alternatives on the roster, especially after rookie Malik Willis looked like a seal in shark-infested waters during his three starts. The only justification for starting Willis is if you’re embracing a total rebuild, which seems far-fetched under Mike Vrabel.
49ers: Brock Purdy (confidence level: 5)
This will come down to Purdy or Trey Lance, likely in a training camp battle. Kyle Shanahan seems more comfortable with Purdy running his offense, which essentially makes the quarterback a game manager and allows the skill players to cook. With Christian McCaffrey, Deebo Sameul, George Kittle and Brandon Aiyuk, Purdy might just be a better fit.
Falcons: Desmond Ridder (confidence level: 4.5)
What can the Falcons really do at QB next season? Lamar Jackson will be the popular name floated, and we’ll get to him later, but giving Ridder a full season seems the most likely. As a rookie last season, he gradually improved while starting the final four games. If he flames out, the Falcons will be in position for a top pick in 2024.
Injuries are a concern, but they should be back
Cardinals: Kyler Murray, with Jacoby Brissett (confidence level: 7)
Murray suffered a torn ACL in December, and he should be back sometime early in the season. The Cardinals don’t need to rush him back, considering they won four games last year. For the games Murray misses, expect them to sign an established backup like Brissett.
Rams: Matthew Stafford, with Baker Mayfield (confidence level: 7)
Stafford missed eight games with a spinal cord injury last year. He – along with head coach Sean McVay and defensive star Aaron Donald – will return in 2023. I can’t imagine McVay and Donald would’ve returned without an assurance that Stafford could return to full health.
Dolphins: Tua Tagovailoa, with Teddy Bridgewater (confidence level: 6)
Tagovailoa’s concussions are scary, even if the Dolphins appear committed to him for 2023 and beyond. He’s a great fit in Mike McDaniel’s offense with Tyreek Hill and Jaylen Waddle – it just all comes down to health.
What quarterbacks are free agents in 2023?
Seahawks: Geno Smith (confidence level: 8)
Giants: Daniel Jones (confidence level: 7)
Two guys who entered 2022 with no expectations and left 2023 as playoff-caliber quarterbacks. Smith spent seven seasons as a backup before blossoming into a Pro Bowler with Seattle. Jones had his fifth-year rookie option declined before finally putting things together in his first season under Brian Daboll. Both fit best with their current teams – no need to rock the boat.
Ravens: Lamar Jackson (confidence level: 4)
Reports out of Baltimore are concerning – but the Ravens can’t possibly let him out the door, right? ESPN’s Jeremy Fowler reported that the sides could be up to $100 million apart in extension talks. Still, it’s overwhelmingly likely that the Ravens use the franchise tag if they can’t secure Jackson. It could get messy, but the safest bet is that cooler heads prevail and Baltimore realizes it can’t afford to let go of a quarterback of this caliber.
Big quarterback changes are on the way
Raiders: Jimmy Garoppolo (confidence level: 5)
Jimmy G won’t return to the 49ers next season, but he should have a number of suitors. The Raiders make a ton of sense, given his connections to Josh McDaniels. Garoppolo played some of his best football, albeit in limited spurts, while paired with McDaniels in New England.
Saints: Derek Carr (confidence level: 4)
The former Raiders quarterback lands with his old coach Dennis Allen in New Orleans. So far, the Saints are the only team that has received permission to talk with Carr. The Saints were 7-10 last season, and Carr would represent a major upgrade over Andy Dalton. Plus, the NFC South is wide open after Tom Brady’s retirement.
Packers: Jordan Love (confidence level: 4)
That’s right, it’s finally time for Love in Green Bay. He was drafted in the first round back in 2020, then watched Aaron Rodgers win consecutive MVPs. Entering the final year of his rookie deal before the fifth-year option, the Packers need to see what they have in Love. He’s made just one start in three years, but the team seems ready to move on from Rodgers.
Commanders: Jameis Winston, with Sam Howell (confidence level: 3.5)
Does anyone think the Commanders are actually content with Sam Howell for next season? His performance in Week 18 was solid, but Ron Rivera needs to bring in an experienced signal caller as the veteran coach enters a potential make-or-break season under new ownership. Winston has shown flashes with the Bucs and Saints – maybe he puts it all together in D.C.
Buccaneers: Carson Wentz, with Tanner McKee (confidence level: 3.5)
After losing Brady to retirement, the Bucs are starting from scratch. The answer isn’t on the roster (Blaine Gabbert, Kyle Trask), so they need to add another veteran and a rookie. Wentz’s recent stops have ended poorly, but another team will surely take a chance on him. McKee, a Stanford product, is likely a Day 2 draft pick who needs some time to develop.
Jets: Aaron Rodgers, with Zach Wilson (confidence level: 3)
If the Packers do finally trade Rodgers, the Jets are a perfect fit. Robert Saleh’s squad was dominant on defense in 2022 but suffered at quarterback after rolling out Zach Wilson, Mike White and Joe Flacco. Rodgers would solve that problem and serve as a mentor to Wilson, who he already has a relationship with. The Jets also hired former Packers OC Nathaniel Hackett, who Rodgers is fond of. This just makes too much sense.
What NFL teams will start a rookie quarterback in 2023?
Texans: Bryce Young, with Davis Mills (confidence level: 5)
One way or another, the Texans will get the top quarterback in this class. They fell to the No. 2 pick after an improbable Week 18 win, but the Alabama quarterback could still be waiting for them there if the Bears don’t trade down. As an added bonus, new head coach DeMeco Ryans is an Alabama alum. Mills, still on his rookie deal, will stick around as a capable backup.
Colts: Will Levis, with Gardner Minshew (confidence level: 5)
The Colts have tried (and failed) with multiple veteran quarterbacks since Andrew Luck retired. It’s time to get a rookie, and they’ll grab Levis – a Kentucky alum – with the No. 4 pick. Levis is more tools than numbers, which is something Colts owner Jim Irsay could be sold on. Minshew will be brought in to compete for the starting job after two productive years in Philly as a backup.
Panthers: C.J. Stroud, with Sam Darnold (confidence level: 4)
New head coach Frank Reich is used to uncertain QB rooms after years with the Colts. In his first year, the Panthers will draft Stroud, who they hope will be their long-term starter. Darnold will return on a one-year deal to compete for the starting job after he closed the 2023 season strong.