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Could Matthew Stafford be the only returning starting QB in NFC West for 2022?

Kyler Murray is maximizing his leverage. Jimmy Garoppolo has been relegated to plan B by the 49ers.

Syndication: The Enquirer Kareem Elgazzar/The Enquirer / USA TODAY NETWORK

As Matthew Stafford and the Los Angeles Rams hoisted the George Halas Trophy and celebrated their NFC Championship win, it seemed the San Francisco 49ers and Jimmy Garoppolo had fought their last battle together.

NFL: NFC Championship-San Francisco 49ers at Los Angeles Rams Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

But the first domino to fall in what is shaping up to be a furious quarterback NFC West carousel in 2022 was the Seattle Seahawks trading Russell Wilson to the Denver Broncos. After spending the better part of the last year courting star signal caller Aaron Rodgers, Denver moved on to Wilson as it’s contingency plan - though they are expected to be compete in the every man for himself AFC West gauntlet this season.

The Seahawks didn’t just trade away Wilson - they also acquired a young quarterback in Drew Lock that has all the tools but hasn’t figured how to make the most of them in the NFL. Tight-end Noah Fant also moved from Denver to Seattle with Lock, and he joins what could be a formidable receiving group with DK Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. Seattle also recently signed Geno Smith to a 1-year deal that could be worth up to $7M per year, which means he is potentially a starting option should Lock squander his opportunity.

Garoppolo should have been the next signal caller on the move, but the 49ers instead failed to strike while the iron was hot - and now there is a limited number of suitors for one of the NFL’s most winningest quarterbacks. While Trey Lance is the odds-on favorite to start for San Francisco in 2022, if he struggles the team could reasonably turn to the reliable veteran.

NFL: Atlanta Falcons at San Francisco 49ers Stan Szeto-USA TODAY Sports

And now all eyes are on Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals.

The former number one overall selection in the 2019 NFL Draft cleansed his social media pages at the onset of the offseason - and he continued to stir the plot on Thursday when reports broke that indicated Murray would not play for the Cardinals without a new contract.

After seeing other franchise leaders like Stafford, Rodgers, Derek Carr, and Deshaun Watson being rewarded with contract extensions this season, Murray seems to feel undervalued after taking his team to the playoffs for their first time under head coach Kliff Kingsbury.

Is rocking the boat enough to for the Cardinals to consider moving on from their apparent answer at quarterback? It’s fair to wonder if the team has concerns about how Murray has publicly handled his contract dilemma, which in turn could make them nervous to commit to Murray long-term.

After joining the NFC West just one season ago, Stafford could already be the most stable presence in the division - and the Rams should be heavy favorites to repeat as the “best in the west” because of that.

We have no idea what the 49ers will be with Lance in the driver’s seat, but we do know they will be committed to the ground game and will play tough defense. Can the Seahawks simply the NFL game for Lock, allowing the young passer to take a step forward in his fourth season? Will Kyler Murray remain with the Cardinals in time for the season, or will he seek a payday elsewhere?

Time will tell for sure, but it’s shaping up to be a tumultuous offseason for NFC West signal callers.

NFL: Super Bowl LVI-Los Angeles Rams at Cincinnati Bengals Kirby Lee-USA TODAY Sports