It would be easy for Carson Wentz to see Baker Mayfield starting for a team in the playoffs this weekend and think that could be him next season. Going from being a starter to finding a role as an emergency option for the L.A. Rams, Wentz and Mayfield have had a similar story. It would be understandable for Wentz to want to leave the Rams in free agency and to pick a team that might be open to having a competition that includes him.
However, Wentz doesn’t have as good of a case as Mayfield and there won’t be that many starting jobs up for grabs this time.
And for L.A., a team that has struggled to secure a reliable long-term backup to either Jared Goff or Matthew Stafford, Carson Wentz will be their best option too. The Rams should re-sign Wentz and Wentz should re-sign with the Rams.
What teams will have openings at quarterback?
How many teams appear to have their starting quarterback for Week 1 of the 2024 season already? Including the Rams, we could probably name at least 11 of the 16 teams in the NFC that believe they have their starting quarterback right now, and that’s not including the Giants or Cardinals. Contractual commitments will probably keep Daniel Jones and Kyler Murray in place for now. It’s also not including Washington and they are certain to draft a quarterback with the number two pick. Or the Vikings, who most likely intend to re-sign Kirk Cousins.
Then there are situations like the Jets, as detailed here by NFL.com’s Nick Shook:
This has nothing to do with Aaron Rodgers and everything to do with the situation behind the four-time league MVP. This season taught the Jets the importance of a solid backup plan. The franchise is expected to move on from Zach Wilson, and while Trevor Siemian played OK at times, New York would be foolish to go through another offseason without finding a better backup for their 40-year-old starter. The time is now to start turning over every stone to find this answer, regardless of Rodgers’ status entering 2024.
That only leaves one true opening in the NFC: The Atlanta Falcons.
The Falcons do not have a head coach yet, so the direction they want to go in at quarterback likely changes based on the person who is hired as the head coach. If that was Raheem Morris, maybe Atlanta would consider Carson Wentz.
In the AFC, if we’re including a contractual commitment to Deshaun Watson and the expected return of Aaron Rodgers, only four jobs appear to be open for next season:
The Steelers are going to bring in somebody to compete with Kenny Pickett. The Raiders and Broncos are probable to release Jimmy Garoppolo and Russell Wilson. The Patriots seem ready to move on from Mac Jones.
But like Washington, there’s a significant chance that the Patriots will draft a quarterback who they’re prepared to start in Week 1.
I won’t say it’s impossible that Wentz or another quarterback could go to Washington or New England and not beat a rookie out to be the Week 1 starter. But Wentz or another quarterback will be looking over their shoulder every week and counting down the days until the fans get what they want and he’s benched for the exciting rookie.
So how many job openings for a starting quarterback?
If we’re playing it really safe, I’d say there are only four teams that will acquire a quarterback who could start in Week 1: Falcons, Steelers, Raiders, Broncos. Two of those teams are interviewing head coaches and Pittsburgh is interviewing offensive coordinators, so any of those choices could impact Wentz’s opportunity to start somewhere.
#Steelers HC Mike Tomlin said he will be seeking outside candidates for a new offensive coordinator this offseason.— Fantasy Fanatics (@FFB_Fanatics) January 18, 2024
Tomlin also said they plan to bring in competition for Kenny Pickett
Russell Wilson? Minshew? Joe Flacco? Kirk cousins? Draft a QB? Jameis Winston? Justin… pic.twitter.com/yP2Iky460y
And then two other jobs in Washington and New England that might give a veteran bridge quarterback a chance to start and play it out as long as he can.
The Titans claim to be committed to Will Levis, but that could be another opportunity depending on who the next head coach is.
Going to the Jets could be smart if you’re betting that Aaron Rodgers won’t play a whole season, but then you’d be going to the Jets.
Or Wentz could test his luck with the Giants, Cardinals, Saints, and see if the starter doesn’t play himself into being a backup. Then there are teams that might lose a starter in the offseason, like the Vikings. But for now, I’d say there are about 4-6 teams that could be looking for a veteran starter who they can acquire in the offseason via free agency or trade.
How many quarterbacks?
This is maybe where Carson Wentz goes from a fringe NFL starter getting an opportunity somewhere right away like Mayfield to being back with the Rams as a backup and waiting out his opportunity to fill-in for Stafford.
The Bears are going to choose between Justin Fields and expected number one pick Caleb Williams. So one team, be it the Falcons or Raiders or someone else, is probably going to get Fields. If Chicago holds onto Fields and trades the pick, then someone will get Williams.
Kirk Cousins is a free agent, so if the expected return to Minnesota doesn’t happen, he could fill a job somewhere else. So it’s a matter of whether the Vikings have Cousins or a job opening, so it sort of evens out.
The Broncos will have to release Russell Wilson to get an opening for Sean Payton, which is expected. Wilson shouldn’t have to compete to start with his next team.
And then there is Ryan Tannehill, who did not play well last season but could still be ahead of Wentz based on recent experience. No team made a substantial offer to Wentz as a free agent last year, so did he do enough in one start with the Rams to get ahead of Tannehill or Jimmy Garoppolo? Teams trading for Mac Jones or Zach Wilson might rather take their chances with the younger player in a rebuilding season. Even Sam Howell and Desmond Ridder have more recent starting experience and could be traded for a small sum.
Not to mention Gardner Minshew, Joe Flacco, or names that could become available like Jake Browning or Geno Smith.
When the musical chairs of quarterbacks settles down, there are probably too many quarterbacks ahead of him and too few places to sit.
Carson Wentz should return to Rams
Wentz was all well-and-fine in his one extended appearance this season against the 49ers B-team defense. He finished 17-of-24 for 163 yards, two touchdowns, and one interception, also rushing for 56 yards and a touchdown.
Not to discredit Wentz’s performance in his first game in a year, it’s just a fair caveat to include that both teams were different than the usually are because of players resting. If I didn’t say it, people would ask, “Why didn’t you say that it was against the 49ers b-team defense?”
Wentz is a great option as a team’s backup, which is why the Rams should re-sign him as a backup, but only having started eight games in the last two years he most likely won’t be the first choice to sign in a competition to start.
Wentz had two promising seasons after he tore his ACL in 2017, but wasn’t the same player in 2020 and in the eyes of the league may not have shown any real improvement since then. Wentz will probably be assessing what, if any, offers he has to be a team’s backup quarterback in 2024 and of those, L.A. seems like the best opportunity for a veteran quarterback who wants to resurrect his career. McVay has improved the careers of Jared Goff, Matthew Stafford, and Baker Mayfield, even if in the cases of Stafford and Mayfield it was only by a small margin.
If the Rams sign him, that’s a sign that he’s perceived in the building as someone who could start again. With the Rams having to go to backups in each of the last two seasons, it would be beneficial to have someone around next time.