Pursuing quarterbacks is a lot like pursuing love. Sometimes the right person comes along when you least expect it; other times you have to dredge through the Bumble muck of Drew Locks and Sam Darnolds in hopes of finding the one. When you’re in that latter group, nothing is more infuriating than blissfully coupled friends like the Chiefs telling you not to worry because the one who’s meant for you will be along soon. “We felt the same way before finding Patrick,” says the person who has been in a relationship for so long they think Hinge is something you buy at a hardware store.
If there were ever an offseason for QB pursuits, though, this is it. We’ve had a hot quarterback spring, with four high-profile trades, four passers drafted in the first three rounds, and five signed to contract extensions. Nearly a quarter of the league’s teams will have new men at the helm this fall. But that doesn’t mean every situation is settled—in the short or long term. So it’s time once again to take stock of just how committed each team is to its starting QB. Who is single and ready to mingle? Who is ready to propose? Let’s take a look, in order of the most committed to the least.
[Editor’s note: Given the open civil and NFL investigations into Deshaun Watson, we’ve excluded both Watson and the Browns from this list.]
Kansas City Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes
Buffalo Bills and Josh Allen
Kansas City and Patrick Mahomes are still the league’s dream couple. The Chiefs gave Mahomes one hell of a ring (almost as big as the one Mahomes got his wife) in the form of a $450 million extension. Unfortunately, that contract was so big that the Chiefs ended up trading receiver Tyreek Hill rather than giving him a new deal, which is like spending so much on the ring you ended up missing a house payment.
The Bills and Josh Allen are also a dream couple, and they might be even more inspiring. They’re the two people everyone made fun of in high school, but then they got ridiculously hot after graduation and now everyone pretends they’ve always loved these two together.
I’ll Change for You
Cincinnati Bengals and Joe Burrow
Burrow is Cincinnati’s knight in shining armor, and he convinced the Bengals that they do deserve love—and that they deserve to spend money in free agency instead of being such cheap bastards. Two decades ago, the Bengals were locking up Gatorade after practice and giving players used jockstraps. But Burrow’s magnetic personality and majestic arm brought them to the doorstep of the Super Bowl, and now to protect their protector, they’ve signed Bucs guard Alex Cappa, Cowboys right tackle La’el Collins, and Patriots interior lineman Ted Karras for a combined $21 million guaranteed. Health is wealth, and it’s nice to see the Bengals investing in a relationship—and proving they can have nice things.
Madly in Love
Los Angeles Chargers and Justin Herbert
These two are young and in love. They know they want to be together forever. So why not go for it? Elope in Europe. Backpack across Australia. Sign a bunch of veterans to try to win a Super Bowl. They’ve got Herbert and left tackle Rashawn Slater on cheap rookie contracts. They traded for former Defensive Player of the Year Khalil Mack, and signed former Patriots cornerback J.C. Jackson and Rams defensive tackle Sebastian Joseph-Day. You can almost picture head coach Brandon Staley staring deeply into Herbert’s eyes at sunrise along the California coast and whispering, “This is the time in our lives to do this.”
Los Angeles Rams and Matthew Stafford
You don’t need me to explain this. Stafford’s already done it himself.
Hot and Heavy
Denver Broncos and Russell Wilson
The Denver Broncos just traded a boatload of picks and players for Russell Wilson, and now these two are enamored of each other. They’re basically this video of Wilson and Ciara in bed, but imagine the Broncos logo in place of Ciara’s head.
Denver hasn’t had a stable man for a while now—since Peyton Manning retired in March 2016, to be exact—and it thinks this could be the real deal. Plus, the Broncos had to do something to keep pace in a division that has Kansas City and Mahomes wifed up, and Herbert and the Chargers making moves.
Are We Having Money Problems?
Dallas Cowboys and Dak Prescott
The Cowboys and Dak Prescott are in love. There’s no doubting that. But Dallas has been making some erratic decisions involving money lately. The Cowboys cut right tackle La’el Collins—one of the better players at his position—to save $10 million. They traded away receiver Amari Cooper for a fifth- and a sixth-round pick to save $16 million in cap space. Surely Dak is looking around and wondering, à la Marge Simpson, “Are we in some sort of fiduciary trouble?” (Mike McCarthy in this analogy is Homer Simpson.)
Getting Their Nails Done Every Weekend
Kyler Murray and the Arizona Cardinals
There’s no question Kyler Murray wants that ring—a.k.a. a huge contract extension. He might as well be getting a fresh coat of polish every weekend to make sure his nails look good once the Cardinals finally pop the question. He even removed his Cardinals-related Instagram posts this February to get his point across. (These two have a weird habit of talking to one another through their friends.)
The odd vibe between the @AZCardinals and Kyler Murray is indeed alarming:— Chris Mortensen (@mortreport) February 13, 2022
Murray is described as self-centered, immature and finger pointer, per sources.
Murray is frustrated with franchise and was embarrassed by playoff loss to Rams and thinks he’s been framed as the scapegoat
But while everyone had their doubts early this year about whether this couple would last, it now seems like Arizona is doing everything possible to placate Kyler. It even brought his old college receiving buddy, Marquise Brown, over in a trade from the Ravens. But still, Kyler will probably have to wait until training camp in late July for a new deal.
Put a Ring on It Already!
Baltimore Ravens and Lamar Jackson
The Ravens and Lamar want to be together long term, but Jackson’s mom is negotiating his contract. Weddings are complicated enough without having to plan through the mother-in-law.
Fell in Love With the Boy Next Door
Pittsburgh Steelers and Kenny Pickett
The Steelers took former Pitt quarterback Kenny Pickett with the 20th pick in this year’s draft. And while that selection was interesting enough in that Pickett could be the team’s next franchise QB, it’s also notable that the University of Pittsburgh and the Pittsburgh Steelers literally share a building.
“We circled the United States the last several months exploring all these guys,” head coach Mike Tomlin said after the draft, “and we ended up with the guy next door.” It’s like a cheesy rom-com.
We Worked Through Our Issues
Green Bay Packers and Aaron Rodgers
After a year and a half of fighting in public and contemplating divorce, the Packers and Rodgers renewed their vows this offseason. They navigated some stormy waters, and they lost Davante Adams in the process. But Rodgers was diplomatic about Adams’s departure, showing his (re)commitment to this team. These two will always be good together—especially in a division that includes the Lions, Bears, and Vikings. But after being married for so long, will they ever find that spark again?
New England Patriots and Mac Jones
While many other young quarterbacks operate in high-flying, freewheeling, modern offenses, Jones and the Patriots are much more traditional. They lean on the running game, defense, and special teams. And while their fans may prefer a more modern approach to quarterbacking—like letting Jones show some bare ankle or throw for more than 4,000 yards—New England has its traditions: Patriots QBs are allowed to throw on first down after they win three Super Bowls.
Let’s Move in Together to See If That Fixes Things
Miami Dolphins and Tua Tagovailoa
New York Jets and Zach Wilson
These teams aren’t sure if their QBs are the one, but they’re way too invested in the relationship to break up. So instead of sitting down and having some serious talks about the future, they’re distracting themselves with other big commitments. The Dolphins traded five picks for Tyreek Hill, plus they signed top left tackle Terron Armstead and a yacht-load of other offensive players.
The Jets just added former Ohio State receiver Garrett Wilson with the 10th pick in the draft to join Elijah Moore, last year’s second-rounder, in an offense that has been revamped around QB Zach Wilson. They also used two first-rounders on cornerback Sauce Gardner and defensive end Jermaine Johnson II to fix what was the worst defense in football last season. These teams are going all in to discover whether this will work, and they’re praying it doesn’t blow up in their faces.
The Partner Who Is a Terrible Gift Giver
Jacksonville Jaguars and Trevor Lawrence
The Jaguars love and appreciate Trevor Lawrence, but they aren’t good at showing that. They knew he wanted a pass catcher, but they weren’t exactly the best at shopping for one. “We got you Christian Kirk!” the Jaguars proudly proclaimed, “for the low, low price of $18 million a year!”
“Wow!” Lawrence gulped. “Could we have had A.J. Brown for that much?”
Lawrence is still young and polite, though, so he unwrapped his next gift—former Giants tight end Evan Engram—with a smile while silently wondering how Jacksonville spent $9 million a year for a tight end who can’t catch. “So … thoughtful,” Trevor says. “Did you happen to get a receipt?”
The 80-Year-Old Virgin
Chicago Bears and Justin Fields
The Bears have never developed a quarterback. I know, I know—they’ve been around forever, but it just never happened for them. They don’t know how to support a guy. They aren’t experienced. And they always make the wrong move. Just look at what they’re doing with Justin Fields. Chicago has one of the worst receiver corps and one of the worst offensive lines in the NFL. Yet instead of addressing those positions in the draft, the Bears went out and spent their first two picks on … defensive backs. While the Jets and Dolphins are trying to help their QBs in their own (potentially misguided) ways, the Bears are just collecting action figures and letting Fields do all the laundry, all the while blaming quarterbacks for being so difficult to develop.
We Were on a Break!
Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Tom Brady
Did Tom Brady retire? Did he fake-retire to try to go to Miami? Who knows. Regardless, these two are back together, and now it’s like Ross and Rachel arguing about him sleeping with that girl from the copy place. Eventually they’ll put this behind them and pretend the whole thing never happened.
You Could Do Worse
Minnesota Vikings and Kirk Cousins
This is the definition of settling. The Vikings aren’t happy. But they looked around the league this offseason and it was clear that other couples are even more miserable than they are. Getting back out there and dating seems like a lot of work. Plus, the whole thing with Justin Jefferson is going so well that maybe it’s better to just not rock the boat. So they’re sticking with Kirk … again.
We Had an Understanding
San Francisco 49ers and Jimmy Garoppolo (and Trey Lance)
This is a love triangle that has gone on much longer than anyone anticipated. When it was just a three-person fling last year, it was fine because everyone was on the same page. The 49ers were going to fool around with Jimmy for a year, but first-rounder Trey Lance was the partner who would take over in 2022.
Now, though, summer is here, Jimmy is still around, and it doesn’t seem like anyone is getting what they wanted. Jimmy surely wants someone who wants him. Trey likely wants some clarity. And the 49ers need to make up their mind. Is Jimmy the main for 2022, with Trey serving as the side piece again? What’s the deal?
Las Vegas Raiders and Derek Carr
The Raiders signed Carr to an extension last month that was reported as a three-year deal worth $121.5 million. In reality, Carr got a $4 million raise this year, and no guaranteed money beyond this season (except for injury). When your man is giving you a ring, but also telling you nothing is guaranteed beyond this year, is it really a ring?
The Guy They Told You Not to Worry About
Tennessee Titans and Ryan Tannehill and Malik Willis
Atlanta Falcons and Marcus Mariota and Desmond Ridder
Both the Titans and Falcons drafted quarterbacks in the third round last month despite already having starters at the position. The Falcons replaced Matt Ryan with Marcus Mariota this spring, then picked Cincinnati QB Desmond Ridder, who told teams before the draft he has a plan to beat out a veteran QB for a starting job and start as a rookie. That’s bold (and kind of hot). And it’s also bad news for Mariota, who is famously a nice guy.
Then there’s the Titans. Tennessee could have lowered Ryan Tannehill’s $38.6 million cap hit this season—the largest in the NFL—by extending the QB and committing to him for a few more years. But perhaps those interceptions on his first and last throws of the AFC divisional round are stuck in the Titans’ mind, because instead of doing that, they drafted Malik Willis—a younger, faster man with a bigger arm. Tannehill has said he’s not interested in mentoring Willis. And like Ridder, Willis is just a third-round pick. Surely there’s nothing to worry about …
The Guy You Actually Don’t Have to Worry About
Washington Commanders and Carson Wentz and Sam Howell
Washington traded two third-rounders (one of which might become a second-rounder) for Wentz this offseason and then drafted UNC QB Sam Howell with the first pick of the fifth round. Wentz has been in similar situations before, with Nick Foles, then Nick Foles again, and then with Jalen Hurts. But considering Howell’s free fall, and the fact that the other QB on the roster is Taylor Heinicke, Wentz doesn’t have much competition for a job here … probably.
Everyone’s Happy for Them
Indianapolis Colts and Matt Ryan
The Colts got dumped by their dream guy, Andrew Luck, and they’ve been on way too many first dates since. But none were as tough as last year, when Wentz came up short for them at the worst possible time. Now they’re just looking for some stability, and they’ve found that in Matt Ryan. Is he boring and predictable? Yes. Is he particularly sexy? No. But he’s stable, and he’s there. And if that is what Indy needs to get back on their feet, then we are happy for them.
One Partner’s Secretly Getting Hot, While the Other Is Decidedly Not
Detroit Lions and Jared Goff
Don’t look now, but the Lions are hot. They signed receiver D.J. Chark this offseason and drafted the fastest receiver available, Alabama’s Jameson Williams, to go with breakout receiver Amon-Ra St. Brown, tight end T.J. Hockenson, and running back D’Andre Swift. They have a sneakily fun group of players who touch the ball and one of the sneakiest good offensive lines in the league. The Lions are like that person who hit the gym all winter and got hot … possibly so hot that they are now out of the league of their partner, Jared Goff. Is Goff outkicking his coverage by getting to play in this offense? Could the Lions secretly be looking for a QB upgrade? If this team was a person, you’d be checking their Instagram story daily.
It’s Not Me, It’s You
New York Giants and Daniel Jones
The Giants’ new regime is getting its shit together. Dave Gettleman is gone, Joe Judge has been fired, and the front office declined the fifth-year option on Daniel Jones’s contract. As Giants co-owner John Mara keeps saying, “We’ve done everything possible to screw this kid up.” But just because this relationship is getting less toxic doesn’t mean it needs to continue. Jones has got to take some time to work on himself, and maybe he and the Giants will wind up going their separate ways.
Hot Girl Summer
Philadelphia Eagles and Jalen Hurts
The Eagles are with Jalen Hurts right now, but everyone knows they’re not exclusive. In fact, Philly looks hot right now. They traded for former Titans receiver A.J. Brown, drafted former Georgia defensive tackle Jordan Davis in the first round, and have two first-round picks in next year’s draft. The Eagles are rounding into form, and they’ll be looking to draw in their next franchise QB soon.
I Can Change Him
Seattle Seahawks and Drew Lock
The Seahawks traded away Russell Wilson and are rebounding with Drew Lock—a taller guy with a bigger arm. Seattle’s gonna pretend like it prefers Lock’s style to Russ’s, and that Lock can give the team things Russ never could (like seeing over the offensive line). But everyone who’s seen Drew in action is just confused. Him? This guy? The Seahawks are convinced they can change him—even though he led the NFL in off-target throw rate in 2020.
No Other Options
New Orleans Saints and Jameis Winston
Sean Payton has stepped aside, but the Saints are still rocking with Winston. But it’s unclear whether they’ve stuck with him because they like him, or because they’ve got nothing better going on and he’s got nowhere else to go.
Literally Anyone Will Do
Houston Texans and Davis Mills
The Texans are rolling with Mills as their third-round QB turned starter on a roster that’s basically an expansion team. Sure. Why not?
This Is Getting Pathetic
Carolina Panthers and Sam Darnold and Matt Corral
It’s tough seeing a team this thirsty for a QB go through such a drought. At this point, the Panthers are basically sending “U up?” texts in the middle of the day.