The quarterback position is arguably the most important position in all of sports and that’s why it’s so imperative for team’s to have someone they can rely on under center. With a handful of trades involving quarterbacks this past off-season, there are a few teams that have quarterback battles that will be worth watching throughout the course of the 2022 season.
Moving on from Matty Ice
After trading their franchise quarterback to the Indianapolis Colts on March 21, that same day, the Atlanta Falcons signed Marcus Mariota to a two-year deal. Mariota spent the last two years as a backup quarterback for the Las Vegas Raiders, but the Falcons brought him in because he has a familiarity with head coach Arthur Smith’s offense.
While Smith was the offensive coordinator for the Tennessee Titans in 2019, Mariota started six games in Smith’s offense but was eventually benched. The Falcons are in the midst of a rebuild, and having a veteran quarterback that is familiar with the offense will be important for the early part of the season.
However, Mariota isn’t the long-term answer, and they know that because they drafted Cincinnati quarterback Desmond Ridder in the third round of this year’s draft. Ridder threw for 3,334 yards, 30 touchdowns, eight interceptions, and rushed for 334 yards and six touchdowns in his last year with the Bearcats.
Ridder provides a dual-threat ability that Smith is looking for in his offense, but it’s not likely that he’ll be ready to start Week 1. They’ll have to turn to Ridder at some point this season because they’ll need to find out if he’s their answer at quarterback since the 2023 NFL draft class is loaded with quarterback prospects. With a roster that has holes in several areas, Ridder should have an opportunity to prove if he’s the answer to their future.
The Heir to Big Ben
A new era seems to be emerging in the “Steel City”. Heinz Field has now become Acrisure Stadium and the Pittsburgh Steelers are looking for a new franchise quarterback for the first time since 2004. They started their search for a new quarterback by signing 2021 Nickelodeon MVP Mitch Trubisky to a two-year deal in March.
Trubisky spent last season as a backup for the Buffalo Bills, throwing six passes for 43 yards and one interception. Even though he wasn’t on the field a whole lot, Trubisky was able to sit behind Josh Allen and learn from a quarterback who had his own struggles but was able to overcome them with the help of good coaching. Of course, Trubisky won’t go out there and throw for 4,500 yards and 35 touchdowns, but he should be able to display that he’s made strides since his days with the Chicago Bears.
In case of Trubisky showing his old tendencies, the Steelers drafted Kenny Pickett who played about five miles away from Acrisure Stadium at the University of Pittsburgh. In Pickett’s third and final season at Pitt, he threw for 4,319 yards, 42 touchdowns, seven interceptions and had a 67.2 pass completion percentage. With a portion of the public worried about Pickett’s palm size, the Steelers were not deterred by the measurements.
Even though the Steelers selected Pickett with their first-round pick this year, it looks like Trubisky will start the season under center for the Steelers. But if things go south for Pittsburgh, switching to Pickett would be their best and really only option.
Carolina’s Quarterback Carousel
The past two years have been a struggle for the Carolina Panthers and their efforts to find a long-term answer at quarterback. Since 2020, the Panthers have had four different quarterbacks start under center.
Prior to the 2021 season, the Panthers traded for former New York Jets quarterback Sam Darnold in the hopes that he could live up to his status of being the No. 3 overall pick in the 2018 draft. However, that experiment didn’t work like they had hoped and had to sprinkle in former franchise quarterback Cam Newton in for five games. That experiment didn’t go according to plan either.
Since there was no answer on the roster for who should be under center in the future, the Panthers drafted Ole Miss quarterback Matt Corral with a third-round pick to add to their quarterback carousel. But the carousel continued to spin because it still had room for one more player. With the Cleveland Browns moving on from Baker Mayfield, it gave the Panthers an opportunity to add the former No. 1 overall pick to their quarterback frenzy.
Mayfield has one year left on his deal and if he’s fully healthy, he should have no problem taking the starting job. He has had his ups and downs over his four years in the NFL, but he provides the most upside for this offense. Corral could offer the Panthers more rushing ability at quarterback, but he’s still a rookie and the Panthers are in need of a better passer and Mayfield is their best answer for now.