NFL quarterback carousel, Eric Bieniemy, Cards’ hires and more

Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens. (Photo by Courtney Culbreath/Getty Images)
Lamar Jackson, Baltimore Ravens. (Photo by Courtney Culbreath/Getty Images) /

The story of this offseason will once again be quarterback movement. Let’s break down the futures of Lamar Jackson, Derek Carr, Aaron Rodgers and others.

Quarterbacks drive the NFL. They also drive the offseason storylines.

Last year, it was Matt Ryan, Carson Wentz, Russell Wilson and Baker Mayfield changing places. This year, it’ll be Derek Carr and Jimmy Garoppolo, and potentially Aaron Rodgers and Lamar Jackson.

This past weekend, Carr visited with the New York Jets, the first stop on his free agency tour (he spent time with the New Orleans Saints while under contract). Carr makes ample sense for Gang Green. The 31-year-old is a four-time Pro Bowler who immediately becomes the best quarterback the Jets have employed since having one year of Brett Favre in 2008.

Carr would provide stability to a franchise long searching for bedrock to build upon. However, there are concerns.

While Carr is a substantial upgrade and likely makes New York a playoff team, he doesn’t make them a contender. In the AFC, Carr is somewhere between the seventh and 10th-best quarterback. He’s never won a playoff game and only reached the postseason twice.

Carr has also been horrid in bad weather. In games when the temperature is 40 degrees or below, the California native is 2-7. In those tilts, Carr averages a stat line of 21-of-36 for 223 yards on 6.1 yards per attempt, with a total of 10 touchdowns against 11 interceptions.

Yet for New York, there’s another available California quarterback who thrives in cold weather: Aaron Rodgers.

Rodgers will soon emerge from his darkness retreat, and if the Green Bay Packers start shopping him, the belief is a two-team race between the Jets and Las Vegas Raiders is likely.

For Rodgers, there are connections to both. The Raiders have former teammate Davante Adams. The Jets have his former offensive coordinator in Nathaniel Hackett after his one-year debacle with the Denver Broncos.

With New York and Las Vegas each having all their draft picks and the cap flexibility to take on Rodgers, it could come down to where he prefers. If that’s the case, the Raiders seem in control. They have the better weapons, an indoor stadium and are closer to the west coast. And perhaps most importantly, they don’t have the New York media.

If Rodgers ends up in Las Vegas, that clears a path for Carr to sign with the Jets if he pleases. The question is will New York general manager Joe Douglas wait and risk losing out on Carr — who is currently a free agent — or sign him to ensure his future is brighter than his present? And will Carr decide to eschew the snow and sleet for the comfort of a dome in New Orleans, or the warmth of Carolina and the Panthers.

To continue the thought exercise, let’s say Rodgers goes to New York. Now what?

The most logical conclusion is the Raiders sign Garoppolo, who has strong ties to head coach Josh McDaniels from their shared days with the New England Patriots. In this scenario, Carr could still check in with New Orleans or Carolina.

As for Jackson, he’s the headliner. A 26-year-old MVP who is assuredly about to be tagged by the Baltimore Ravens if no long-term deal can be agreed upon.

If the two sides continue to falter in negotiations, the Ravens might start taking calls. If they do, keep an eye on the Atlanta Falcons.

Atlanta checks almost every box. The Falcons are one of the few NFL teams that need to bring in stars to fill their building. Owner Arthur Blank is acutely aware of this. Jackson, who played college ball only six hours north at Louisville, would immediately energize a long-dormant fanbase.

On the field, Jackson would be a phenomenal fit in head coach Arthur Smith’s offense. He’d also have young weapons in tight end Kyle Pitts and receiver Drake London. Factor in Atlanta being in the NFC, and its ability to send Baltimore a top-10 pick among other assets, and there’s plenty to like from both sides.

Finally, who is the most popular player in Falcons history? Michael Vick. Jackson is a very similar player in terms of style and flair.

We’re in the early stages of the offseason. Carr could end up with the Jets, Panthers or Saints. Rodgers could be traded to the Jets or Raiders, or Green Bay could hold onto him. Garoppolo could wind up frozen out of Las Vegas and New York depending on the circumstances, but he has ties into both. And with Jackson, he could sign for a mega-deal in Baltimore. If he doesn’t, half the league becomes interested if he’s on the trading block.

For now, it’s all speculation, talk in league circles and some connecting of dots.

But this is the NFL, and quarterbacks drive the conversations. Even in the cold of February.

Power rankings

Top 10 skill-position players most likely to reach first Pro Bowl

1. Jaylen Waddle, WR, Miami Dolphins
2. Garrett Wilson, WR, New York Jets
3. Dameon Pierce, RB, Houston Texans
4. Tee Higgins, WR, Cincinnati Bengals
5. DeVonta Smith, WR, Philadelphia Eagles
6. Travis Etienne, RB, Jacksonville Jaguars
7. Isiah Pacheco, RB, Kansas City Chiefs
8. Chris Olave, WR, New Orleans Saints
9. Kenneth Walker, RB, Seattle Seahawks
10. Justin Fields, QB, Chicago Bears


"“Good talks so far. We’re in it. We’re just trying to figure out what’s best, and we’ll do what’s right.”"

– Seattle Seahawks general manager John Schneider on negotiations with Geno Smith

There’s been positive momentum with Smith and the Seahawks since the season ended, and the hope for both is avoiding the franchise tag. Seattle giving the Pro Bowler around two years and $60 million makes sense, fully guaranteeing the first season with partials in the second.

If the sides don’t agree to a long-term deal, expect the non-exclusive franchise tag, which would cost $32.4 million.


Random stat

Josh Jacobs, Derrick Henry, Nick Chubb and Saquon Barkley each ran for more yardage than the entire Tampa Bay Buccaneers roster in 2022.

Info learned this week

1. Jalen Ramsey’s days numbered with the Rams?

Sometimes, a non-answer is the best answer. Enter Kevin Demoff.

Demoff, the Rams’ COO, spoke to NFL Network’s Bridget Condon and when asked about the potential trading of former All-Pro corner Jalen Ramsey, didn’t issue a firm denial.

Ramsey, 29, has three years left on his deal and after struggling this season, could be on his way out. However, once the majority of next year’s salary becomes guaranteed on March 22, the Rams would only save $5.6 million by trading Ramsey, but also eat a whopping $19.6 million in dead money this upcoming season, per Over The Cap. In short, Los Angeles has a month to figure out a trade if that’s the route it chooses.

If Ramsey gets dealt, there will be a long list of suitors despite his relative down year. The Rams have been cavalier about draft picks, but they could use a few after dealing them away in various trades over the years. Going into April’s draft, the Detroit Lions own Los Angeles’ first-round choice, with general manager Les Snead having only two selections before the sixth round.

The draft pick situation, compounded by Ramsey’s slippage and the need to retool, could make the Rams antsy.

2. Bieniemy lands with Commanders after leaving Chiefs

Eric Bieniemy finally got a new job. Still, it’s somehow not as a head coach.

After winning his second Super Bowl in four years with Kansas City as its offensive coordinator, Bieniemy left as a free agent to sign with the Washington Commanders in a lateral move.

The motive is simple. Bieniemy will call the plays in Washington and run the unit without an offensive-minded head coach such as Andy Reid by his side. If he succeeds with the Commanders, nobody can diminish his talent any longer.

Of course, it’s a risky move. Bieniemy is leaving the Chiefs, who have some of the greatest offensive players of all time. Kansas City is very likely to be excellent once more in 2023, and if Washington struggles with a first-time starting quarterback in Sam Howell, some will unfairly say Bieniemy wasn’t of consequence with the Chiefs, and he’s failing with the Commanders.

Conversely, success with such an unproven signal-caller stamps Bieniemy as one of the league’s best assistants. The 53-year-old is betting on himself, surely hoping this is a final stop before being offered a top job elsewhere.

3. With Bieniemy gone, KC focuses on Matt Nagy

The Chiefs are almost certainly going to Matt Nagy as their new offensive coordinator. He could have a much bigger role in the years ahead.

Nagy, 44, was Kansas City’s OC under head coach Andy Reid from 2016-17 before taking the Chicago Bears’ job, lasting four years (with two playoff appearances) before getting fired. This past season, Nagy was the quarterbacks coach for Patrick Mahomes, and now looks to ascend with Bieniemy heading to Washington.

As for the future, Nagy might be wise to stick around even if other chances come his way. Reid is turning 65 years old in March and has three years left on his contract. He’s undoubtedly a Hal of Famer already. Will Reid stick around and go for one more pact, hoping to approach Bill Belichick’s record of six Super Bowls? Might depend on what happens over the next few years.

But if Nagy knows Reid plans to leave once his contract ends, he can take over when Mahomes is 30 years old. Not a bad position to be in for his second act.

4. Eagles to replace both coordinators after Steichen, Gannon get HC jobs

It’s only been a week since Super Bowl LVII, and already the Philadelphia Eagles have a few significant holes to fill.

In the days following their defeat, the Eagles saw offensive coordinator Shane Steichen and his defensive counterpart Jonathan Gannon take head-coaching gigs with the Indianapolis Colts and Arizona Cardinals, respectively.

Offensively, quarterbacks coach Brian Johnson seems certain. It’s been reported Johnson will get the job, but it was obvious from the jump. Johnson, 36, helped elevate Jalen Hurts from a controversial second-round pick to an All-Pro. He’s the obvious choice.

Defensively, linebackers coach Nick Rallis joined Gannon in Arizona as his coordinator, taking away one internal candidate. Vic Fangio is also gone after serving as a consultant this year, accepting the coordinator job with the Dolphins.

Two names to watch from inside the building include defensive backs coach Dennard Wilson, a 40-year-old with more than a decade in the league. Then there’s defensive line coach Tracy Rocker, who at 56 has worked in his current capacity both in college and pro football for more than 25 years. The Eagles are also looking outside of Philadelphia, requesting an interview with Sean Desai, who worked with the Seahawks as an associate head coach in 2022, after serving as the Bears’ defensive coordinator in ’21.

5. Saints’ cap situation is an annual mess, and this year is no different

New Orleans general manager Mickey Loomis must love a challenge. Look no further than his annual cap sheet.

This year, the Saints are a comical $54.9 million over the threshold despite being without a franchise quarterback. And unlike most teams, there’s no easy contract to rid themselves of, because Loomis has restructured and pushed money down the road for years.

The result, courtesy of Over The Cap, is this:

For those wondering how New Orleans will be cap compliant, it’ll be more money-shoving. And if Loomis lures Carr, the structure will be fascinating.

At some juncture, the Saints are going to essentially be an expansion team as they allow these contracts to expire while staying out of free agency. Barring some phenomenal drafting and coaching, it’ll be ugly.

But Loomis hasn’t shied away from pressing the issue throughout his tenure, seemingly unbothered about the future.

Then again, Loomis is 66 years old. Maybe he sees the future as someone else’s problem.

Two cents

This is going to be a fascinating few months for the Buffalo Bills.

After years of having star quarterback Josh Allen on a cheap deal, his cap hit shoots to $40 million in 2023. For general manager Brandon Beane, the chore is now getting under the salary cap — Buffalo is $16.3 million over — and then trying to retain linebacker Tremaine Edmunds and potentially Jordan Poyer.

If Edmunds and/or Poyer leave, those are two steady veterans who anchor the Bills’ defense. To clear cap and afford either one or both, Beane could have to work on multiple restructures, pushing money down the line.

Furthermore, Beane needs more from his rookie class than he got last season. The Bills have hope for the future of first-round corner Kaiir Elam along with their Day 2 picks in running back James Cook and linebacker Terrel Bernard, but Elam was uneven and Bernard made only 22 tackles. Cook is likely taking over for free-agent back Devin Singletary, so his production will increase.

Buffalo is a clear Super Bowl contender going forward with Allen under center, but as his cap figure rises, so does the degree of difficulty.

Inside the league

Last year, the Broncos hired a first-time head coach along with coordinators who had no previous experience in their new positions. The Cardinals have done the same.

Over the past week, Arizona brought on Jonathan Gannon from Philadelphia, with offensive coordinator Drew Petzing coming over from the Cleveland Browns. And, as mentioned, Nick Rallis is joining Gannon in an exodus from the Eagles staff.

Petzing, 35, has worked as a quarterbacks, receivers and tight ends coach since 2019, both with the Browns and Minnesota Vikings. Rallis, 29, is the league’s youngest coordinator who was a quality control coach until joining Nick Sirianni’s Philadelphia staff in 2021.

This a huge risk for the Cardinals, who are trying to resurrect quarterback Kyler Murray’s reputation while also recovering from a hideous 4-13 campaign. If things don’t go well early — and remember Murray is out for at least half the season rehabbing from a torn ACL — who steps up as a seasoned voice? Who stems the proverbial tide?

Gannon would be wise to stock other positions on his staff with coaches who have significant experience in the NFL.

History lesson

Throughout the 1990s, the San Francisco 49ers were phenomenal. The Los Angeles/St. Louis Rams were not. And yet, they ended up in the same historical spot.

San Francisco owned the Rams, beating them 18 consecutive times between 1990-98. The Niners also had the league’s best overall record at 113-47, while the Rams were second-worst at 58-102.

Incredibly, both finished the decade with one Super Bowl appearance and title. St. Louis swept San Francisco in 1999 behind quarterback Kurt Warner’s magical MVP campaign, ultimately triumphing in Super Bowl XXXIV. As for the 49ers, they hammered the San Diego Chargers five years earlier, their last championship to date.

Parting shot

The hierarchy of the AFC will draw plenty of chatter over the coming months.

It’s the Chiefs who are champs, but the Bengals and Bills are going to be ballyhooed as the top challengers. Then there’s the Jaguars, who made a valiant postseason push after picking No. 1 overall for two consecutive years.

But what of the Pittsburgh Steelers?

Despite starting rookie quarterback Kenny Pickett in 12 games, Pittsburgh went 9-8 and played meaningful football through the final week. Now with Pickett having a full offseason and the Steelers able to build around him through free agency and the draft, head coach Mike Tomlin will have an enhanced roster and more maturity at the sport’s paramount position.

Nobody would argue for Pittsburgh as a Super Bowl contender, but making the playoffs and being a tough out is in play with a strong offseason.