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Armando Salguero: Next Stage Of NFL QB Merry-Go-Round Now Set For Offseason

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The fact that Deshaun Watson was not traded at the NFL deadline Tuesday signaled a pause but definitely not a full-on stop of the NFL quarterback carousel. That ride is going to hit high gear in the 2022 offseason.

The Miami Dolphins opted not to trade for Watson, mostly because owner Stephen Ross felt uncomfortable with the uncertainty of Watson’s legal status as it pertains to the quarterback’s 22 pending lawsuits alleging sexual misconduct of one form or another against Houston area female masseuses.

So Watson, who still wishes to be traded, will have to wait until next March at the earliest to be traded if he’s still insistent on leaving Houston.

But regardless of whether the Dolphins are still interested in Watson or not next spring, there will be no shortage of teams lining up for his services — and for the services of any other accomplished veteran quarterback who might become available.

That’s because this offseason, as many as 11 teams will be hunting for answers to their quarterback questions.

And with the class of quarterbacks likely to enter the 2022 draft not considered particularly strong, that means those veteran quarterbacks will be at a premium.

So those elite quarterbacks could bring a mint in trade compensation.

Any team hoping to trade for Watson, or perhaps Aaron Rodgers, or Russell Wilson — all three of whom expressed desire to be elsewhere before the 2021 season began — will be battling very stiff competition for the services of those players.

Here are the nearly half-dozen teams who may be in the market for a veteran quarterback next offseason, in no particular order:

Philadelphia — The Eagles have Jalen Hurts now but showed interest in Watson this year and have done good work to accumulate draft pick capital to be in position to either draft or trade for a quarterback next offseason.

Hurts, meanwhile, is No. 22 in the NFL with a 89.3 quarterback rating.

Washington: The Team is managing Taylor Heinicke now but he’s not the future, barring a surprising and sudden improvement by the end of this season. Ryan Fitzpatrick, the starter when the season began, isn’t the answer either because he’ll be 40 years old midway through the 2022 season.

Carolina: They traded for Sam Darnold and that hope lasted maybe three games. They tried to trade for Watson but were spurned from doing that. Owner David Tepper has promised an on-going chase for a franchise quarterback, so we take him at his word.

Pittsburgh: Ben Roethlisberger is in the final year of his contract (future years void) and he’s not exactly running hard through the proverbial tape at the finish line. The Steelers have a veteran team and veteran coach in Mike Tomlin, who prefers eating meat with a grown man QB rather than breast feeding a rookie.

Tomlin’s respect for Rodgers is well known. And the feeling is mutual.

“I’m a big Mike Tomlin fan,” Rodgers said on the Pat McAfee Show podcast last month. “I have been for a long time. I like the way that he speaks about his team and the way he goes about his business.”

Denver: They won their last Super Bowl because they won the Peyton Manning sweepstakes nearly a decade ago. They showed interest in Watson and ended up trading for Teddy Bridgewater, who’s been solid but not great.

They’ll be active on the QB carousel again next offseason.

Miami: There’s no certainty who will be the general manager or head coach next offseason. But Ross wants a winner in the worst way and if Tua Tagovailoa doesn’t do phenomenal work during this season’s remaining nine games, the Dolphins will be searching for someone better next offseason in what could be a clean sweep at GM, head coach and QB.

Houston: They didn’t want Tagovailoa included in a potential Watson trade with Miami but they’re going to need somebody beyond Davis Mills.

Seattle: In the event Wilson can force his way out, the Seahawks will be searching for a replacement and that isn’t likely to be Geno Smith, the current backup who has actually played well while Wilson has missed games with a finger injury.

Detroit: They have Jared Goff and his contract runs through 2025. But Goff is the league’s 26th rated passer, the team is 0-8 so he hasn’t made a difference, and it’s clear the Lions now see why the Rams traded Goff away.

The problem for the Lions is no veteran quarterback is likely to want to go there and live the Matthew Stafford experience the final seasons of his career.

Cleveland: The Browns have a strong, deep roster and quarterback Baker Mayfield can be traded without salary cap repercussions after this season. This might be a team that’s an elite quarterback away from serious title contention.

New Orleans: The Saints are the prize of the entire bunch. The roster is deep, the personnel department is good, and coach Sean Payton is as good as there is in the NFL. This team is a Super Bowl contender with Wilson, Rodgers or Watson.

The problem is the Saints have salary cap issues and adding an elite quarterback is not cheap.

About that little issue of money …

Watson, 27 next season, is signed through 2025 and would cost his next team $35 million in cap space unless there’s a renegotiation to address that.

Wilson will be 34 by the middle of next season and he’s signed through 2023. His cap cost for next year is scheduled at $24 million for a new team, but again, he’s going to want an extension that stretches beyond 2023 and that means more money.

Rodgers will be in his final contract year in ’22 because he can void his commitment for 2023. That means the Packers can play hardball to try to keep him one more year, but if they decide it’s Jordan Love time — craziness, but stuff happens — Rodgers will also likely be looking for a new contract.

Follow on Twitter: @ArmandoSalguero

Written by Armando Salguero

Armando Salguero has covered the NFL since 1990 for the Palm Beach Post, Miami Herald and ESPN. He was a 2016 Associated Press Sports Editors Top 10 columnist. He is a Pro Football Hall of Fame selector and AP All-Pro team voter.

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