clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

The 2023 NFL Quarterback Commitment Index: Post-Draft Edition

This offseason has brought plenty of changes for the NFL’s quarterback-team partnerships. With the draft in the rearview mirror, which couples are happy, and which are heading for a split after this season?

AP Images/Ringer illustration

It is wedding season for everyone you know. That includes NFL teams, whose relationships with their quarterbacks aren’t that different from romantic partnerships. (Minus the romance.) Every team feels incomplete without a QB, but finding one is a quixotic odyssey. And when you do find the right person, it’s essential to lock them down and prevent them from hitting free agency.

The NFL draft has come and gone, and now we know where every NFL team’s relationship with its quarterback stands. With summer just around the corner, let’s take stock of who’s wifed up, who’s about to get married, and who’s having a hot girl summer.

Editor’s note: We have excluded Deshaun Watson and the Cleveland Browns from this list; Watson still faces two active civil lawsuits filed by women who said he committed sexual misconduct during massage appointments.

Relationship Goals

Kansas City Chiefs and Patrick Mahomes
Philadelphia Eagles and Jalen Hurts
Buffalo Bills and Josh Allen

These are the couples you see on Instagram that make you think, “Why can’t I be as happy as them?” The newest couple in this group is Jalen Hurts and the Eagles, who ascended to the top tier after their wedding (or, uh, contract extension) last month. Hurts is now under contract through 2028 on a deal worth up to $255 million. When the Eagles drafted Hurts in 2020, GM Howie Roseman said they wanted to be a “QB factory” (total fuccboi move). But Hurts and the Eagles’ narrow Super Bowl loss convinced them to settle down. Life (and questionable defensive holding penalties) comes at you fast.

Cold Feet at the Wedding but Finally Walked Down the Aisle

Baltimore Ravens and Lamar Jackson

Jackson and the Ravens were once the league’s Cinderella love story. But this offseason, they nearly became a cautionary tale when Jackson got cold feet. He skipped Baltimore’s playoff games in January and asked for a trade in March.

Most of the issues came down to Baltimore’s prenup. Jackson apparently balked at not getting offered a fully guaranteed contract, while the Ravens insisted this was standard practice. The Ravens smoothed things over by signing Odell Beckham Jr. as a guilt gift. Then the Eagles and Hurts got hitched in April, and that seemed to change Jackson’s tune, leading him to sign a new five-year contract worth up to $260 million that was extremely similar to Hurts’s deal. Nothing speeds up a couple’s timeline like seeing other people get married.

Ring Shopping

Cincinnati Bengals and Joe Burrow
Los Angeles Chargers and Justin Herbert

These are two of the most promising, beloved couples in the NFL, and there’s a lot of pressure on these teams to commit after Hurts, Jackson, Mahomes, Allen, and Kyler Murray all got hitched. (Hell, even Daniel Jones and the Giants are married now!)

But the Bengals and Chargers don’t come from that kind of money, making a deal slightly more complicated. Chargers owner Dean Spanos, who inherited the team, is being sued by his sister for “financially ruinous” business practices. The Bengals have been spending more money to show Burrow they’re serious, but they may need to put the ring on a payment plan—a.k.a. splitting a signing bonus into rolling guarantees—to get a deal done. There’s no doubt that both Burrow and Herbert will get their rings soon. But considering these teams’ budgets, they would be wise to get lab-grown diamonds.

Instagram Algorithm Is Just Wedding Dresses

Jacksonville Jaguars and Trevor Lawrence

Lawrence is not eligible for a contract extension until after the 2023 season, but nobody doubts that he’ll get one. The only question is whether the Jags will do it next summer or the summer of 2025. The longer they wait, the more wedding-related ads Lawrence will be bookmarking for his big day.

Puppy Love

Carolina Panthers and Bryce Young
Houston Texans and C.J. Stroud
Indianapolis Colts and Anthony Richardson
Pittsburgh Steelers and Kenny Pickett

Ah, to be young. The Panthers took Young first in this year’s draft, the Texans took Stroud second, and the Colts took Richardson fourth, while the Steelers took Pickett in the first round last year (he was the literal boy next door: The Steelers share a facility with Pickett’s University of Pittsburgh). There’s nothing quite like that feeling of falling in love.

We Found Love in a Hopeless Place

New York Jets and Aaron Rodgers

Rodgers went on a four-day darkness retreat, making him the perfect man to understand the Jets, who have been on a 40-year darkness retreat. The Jets’ only 4,000-yard passer is Joe Namath. As ESPN’s Rich Cimini and Rob Demovsky noted, the Jets have the fewest touchdown passes in the NFL (225) and are tied for the most interceptions (210) since 2010. Now Rodgers steps into their life. Sure, sometimes he puts his foot in his mouth (and even puts his foot on Zoom). Yes, the Jets are trying to copy and paste one of the only exciting times in their life, when Brett Favre came over in 2008. And yes, they probably overpaid in the trade with Green Bay, which included a swap of first-rounders that likely cost New York a potential franchise left tackle in Georgia’s Broderick Jones. But Rodgers makes Jets fans happy. What else can you ask for?

Marriage Counseling

Denver Broncos and Russell Wilson

Denver’s pursuit of Wilson was the Red Wedding of NFL marriages—two firsts, two seconds, and three players, plus a contract that included $124 million fully guaranteed—all so Seattle could have Geno Smith outplay Wilson straight up. But the Broncos are too invested in Wilson to pull the plug, so they hired Sean Payton to fix their problems. Perhaps Payton can make Wilson and the Broncos work. Or perhaps he’ll be like Dr. Jacob in Ted Lasso and just run off with the Broncos himself while Wilson spouts motivational football clichés in a foreign country.

Better Together

Dallas Cowboys and Dak Prescott

These two will be together forever, for better and for worse.

When Harry Met Sally

New York Giants and Daniel Jones
Seattle Seahawks and Geno Smith

Sometimes romance takes longer than expected. The Giants declined Jones’s fifth-year option in the spring of 2022, only to give him a contract that included $92 million guaranteed in the spring of 2023. But are the Giants settling down with someone they love or someone they merely like? Is Daniel Jones the Right Guy? Or is he Just a Guy?

Smith waited almost a decade for his second chance at a starting job until Seattle believed in him. In March, he signed a three-year contract to stay in Seattle. The team could get out of that deal after one year, but it must feel nice that the Seahawks didn’t run off with a young new passer in the draft when they had a chance.

Auditioning for a Ring

Detroit Lions and Jared Goff
Green Bay Packers and Jordan Love
Miami Dolphins and Tua Tagovailoa
Chicago Bears and Justin Fields
Las Vegas Raiders and Jimmy Garoppolo

All of these QBs are definitely the starters for their teams—for now. The Dolphins can say they have all the faith in the world in Tagovailoa, but they also lost their first-round pick this year for trying to replace him with Tom Brady (and that plan was hatched before Tagovailoa suffered multiple concussions in the 2022 season).

The Bears traded down from the no. 1 pick rather than replacing Fields, but they also will have two first-rounders in next year’s draft if they want to pursue a quarterback like USC’s Caleb Williams or UNC’s Drake Maye.

The Raiders signed Jimmy Garoppolo in free agency this year, but practically speaking, the Raiders can throw him overboard for a measly dead cap hit of $11 million next year.

The Lions swapped Matthew Stafford for Jared Goff in 2021, and both couples found they were happier in their new arrangements, with Stafford delivering the Rams a Super Bowl and the Lions now having far better odds to win the NFC this year than the Rams do. Detroit can get out of its relationship with Goff next year (third-rounder Hendon Hooker is the guy you’re not supposed to worry about).

All of these teams will say the right things about their men—but all of these men must know that if this season doesn’t go well, they could be single by next summer.

Love’s situation is even more complicated. Green Bay’s certainly got a method with its quarterbacks. Just as Aaron Rodgers sat on the bench for three years behind Brett Favre, the Packers are rolling with Love after he sat on the bench for three years behind Rodgers (perhaps there’s something to be said for the fact that the only team without a traditional owner is also the only one that has executed multiple quarterback succession plans).

The interesting thing here is that the Packers offered Love a promise ring—a.k.a. a mini contract extension—for one additional year at $13.5 million in 2024.

The only reason for Love to accept this contract is that he sensed the Packers wouldn’t pick up his $20 million team option for 2024 by the deadline earlier this month. It’s understandable that the Packers may not want to commit $20 million to Love in 2024 considering he has started literally one game. But if Love did play well in 2023, he’d likely be in the Daniel Jones situation of being either franchise tagged for roughly $35 million or eligible for a deal closer to $180 million. So accepting this mini extension is like taking a promise ring in lieu of holding out for a real engagement ring. Love is taking this deal as a hedge against his failing, while the Packers offered this promise ring to buy themselves some time to get to know him better.

It’s Complicated

San Francisco 49ers and Brock Purdy and Sam Darnold and Trey Lance

The 49ers have always had nontraditional romances, from the awkward Steve Young–Joe Montana years to the Alex Smith–Colin Kaepernick Super Bowl run to the failed Jimmy Garoppolo exile last season. But somehow, the 49ers got rid of Garoppolo and made their QB situation more complicated.

San Francisco traded three first-rounders to move up to draft Trey Lance with the third pick in the 2021 draft, and the QB who has captured the hearts of everyone in the locker room, the team headquarters, and the Bay Area is … Brock Purdy, Mr. Irrelevant from the 2022 draft.

Except Purdy isn’t fully healthy. He tore his right UCL in the NFC championship game, and the 49ers lost because they ran out of quarterbacks. Purdy could begin throwing right around when 49ers’ organized team activities begin in June. But if Purdy isn’t healthy enough by September, it might not even be Lance who starts. That spot might go to free agent signing Sam Darnold (who was basically Lance before Lance as the other QB whose team traded a boatload to move up in the draft to take a young QB at no. 3 who didn’t pan out).

Suddenly, the 49ers have no plan to develop Lance, who has not played much football. As NFL writer Mike Renner noted, Tom Brady threw more passes last season (799) than Lance has thrown in high school, college, and the NFL combined (798). The 49ers do not have the patience to develop Lance through his growing pains, but they also are too emotionally scarred from running out of QBs on the doorstep of the Super Bowl to let Lance go. Another 49ers season, another quarterback throuple.

Secretly Re-downloaded Hinge

Arizona Cardinals and Kyler Murray
New England Patriots and Mac Jones

Arizona and Kyler Murray were toxic for each other even before they got married. Everyone else found out when it was revealed that Murray’s prenup required him to study more film and play less Call of Duty. But now, the Cardinals are laying the groundwork to file for divorce. Arizona runs next year’s draft, owning Houston’s first- and third-rounders plus its own picks. Together, Arizona and Houston are currently favored to have the top two picks in the draft, as Murray is expected to miss most of the season while recovering from an ACL injury.

Even two top-five picks would be a bonanza in a draft expected to be loaded with elite talent in the top five. With USC’s Caleb Williams (who will be coached by former Cardinals head coach Kliff Kingsbury in 2023, ironically) and UNC quarterback Drake Maye expected to be among the top prospects next spring, Arizona could extricate itself from Murray next year if it wants to (and if owner Michael Bidwill is willing to eat Murray’s salary in 2025—no sure thing). At the very least, the Cardinals have the flexibility to either build around Murray or replace him.

The Patriots and Mac Jones, meanwhile, had a rocky 2022 after defensive coach Matt Patricia was somehow put in charge of the offense—like your boyfriend’s irresponsible friend moving in with both of you until he “gets back on his feet.” Jones had the audacity to voice his frustration with this, and Bill Belichick got mad that Jones was airing the couple’s dirty laundry outside the family. Considering the other quotes that emerged from the Patriots’ 2022 season, it seems like Mac was right.

Or, in the words of Patriot defensive back and 12-time captain Devin McCourty, “There was never true hope.”

Perhaps there will be some hope for this relationship now that New England has hired Bill O’Brien to be its offensive coordinator.

Counting Down the Days

Los Angeles Rams and Matthew Stafford
Minnesota Vikings and Kirk Cousins
Tennessee Titans and Ryan Tannehill

All of these relationships have either run their courses or will soon. The Rams and Stafford won a title in their first season together, but he has a massive contract, and in 2022 he dealt with a nagging elbow injury and ended the year on injured reserve with a spinal cord contusion, which he discovered after feeling numbness in both feet.

The Vikings have given themselves an off-ramp from Cousins, allowing the potential for his contract to void after this season. Sure, Minnesota may take him back after this year even though its season ended on a checkdown in the playoffs against the Giants, because as blah as Cousins makes you feel, it’s better than being alone.

The Titans drafted Will Levis in the second round, giving them another toolsy-but-raw QB to potentially replace Tannehill, who was once a toolsy-but-raw QB himself. Like Cousins, Tannehill is due more than $25 million this year, but his contract voids after this season. Unlike Cousins, Tannehill ended last season on injured reserve.

Ann From Arrested Development

New Orleans Saints and Derek Carr

Him? Why? Is he funny or something?

Not Looking for Anything Serious Right Now

Washington Commanders and Sam Howell
Atlanta Falcons and Desmond Ridder
Tampa Bay Buccaneers and Baker Mayfield

Washington is getting out of a terrible ownership situation. It just isn’t ready to commit to anything serious. That’s why 2022 fifth-rounder Howell and veteran Jacoby Brissett and are its options going into 2023.

The Falcons are similarly just not ready for a serious commitment. Although they’ve convinced themselves they’re in a legitimate, serious relationship with Ridder, nobody expects Ridder to be around for Thanksgiving 2024 (and that’s if he even makes it to this Thanksgiving, considering Taylor Heinicke is lurking behind him).

In Tampa, Mayfield is just a placeholder to try to get Tom Brady’s attention. Baker may think he’s the main guy, but he’s just keeping the seat warm.