Quarterback is the most important position in football. Having one of the best in the league can be the difference between a playoff berth, a Super Bowl appearance and missing the playoffs entirely.
As such, every team that doesn’t have their version of a franchise quarterback will be looking for one this offseason. The past two years, teams gave up tons of draft capital and salary cap space to land who they thought could lead them to a championship.
Not every team is in dire straits at the quarterback position. Some teams have found their long-term starter, either through the draft or elsewhere. Others, though, are still on the fence about how to proceed at the position.
We placed every team’s quarterback situation — defined as the QB who started the most games last season, with two exceptions in the Cleveland Browns and San Francisco 49ers, explained below — into four tiers: franchise quarterback, solid starter, upgrade potential and replacement needed. We did so based on a composite ranking of three advanced metrics: Wins Above Replacement (WAR) from Pro Football Focus, Defense-adjusted Value Above Average (DVOA) from Football Outsiders and Expected Points Added per Play (EPA/play). We also accounted for scheme and coaching changes, as well as a general eye test for each situation/player.
This is not an exact science. For instance, by this overall metric Detroit Lions quarterback Jared Goff ranked sixth, while Los Angeles Chargers quarterback Justin Herbert ranked 17th. That doesn’t mean the Lions have a franchise quarterback in Goff, nor does it mean the Chargers should try to replace Herbert.
Still, this is at least a statistical guideline to understand where teams stand before free agency opens in three weeks and the draft takes place in a little over two months.
These teams have their QB1 locked in — even if they’re still figuring out what/how to pay them.
QB WAR rank: 2 | QB DVOA rank: 3 | EPA/play rank: 1
This one is obvious. The Chiefs have Patrick Mahomes, who is not only a two-time MVP, but also a two-time Super Bowl MVP who helped Kansas City host the AFC title game for five straight seasons. It helps, too, that Mahomes’ contract is arguably the biggest bargain in the league.
QB WAR rank: 3 | QB DVOA rank: 7 | EPA/play rank: 6
Although flaws emerged once again in Josh Allen’s game, he’s still very clearly one of the best quarterbacks in the league. His arm strength is elite, as are his rushing ability, pocket awareness and rapport with his receivers. The Bills don’t have a problem at quarterback, but should still look for improvements elsewhere across the roster
QB WAR rank: 11 | QB DVOA rank: 2 | EPA/play rank: 4
Surprise! The analytics have spoken and yes, Tua Tagovailoa is a franchise quarterback. His health is a major concern after he missed four total games with two concussions, but Tagovailoa’s gameplay within Mike McDaniel’s offense cannot be discounted. Tagovailoa completed almost 70% of his passes for 1,529 yards, 11 touchdowns and no interceptions during the Dolphins’ five-game mid-season winning streak.
QB WAR rank: 1 | QB DVOA rank: 11 | EPA/play rank: 7
Joe Burrow proved his AFC playoff run last season wasn’t a fluke when he put together a career year in 2023. He finished with a league-leading 5.08 WAR, completed 68.2% of passes and tied Allen for the second-most passing touchdowns with 35. Burrow checks off all the boxes of a franchise quarterback.
QB WAR rank: 7 | QB DVOA rank: 12 | EPA/play rank: 2
Jalen Hurts perhaps took the biggest leap in 2022. He went from a quality young player to a bona fide stud with MVP potential. Just look at what he did in Super Bowl LVII in a losing effort: four total touchdowns and 374 total yards of offense. Hurts’ 0.268 EPA/play trailed only Mahomes and his 35 total touchdowns ranked fourth in the league. The only knock against Hurts is the Eagles had the highest WAR without a quarterback in 2023, ahead of the 49ers, Vikings and Jets.
Los Angeles Chargers
QB WAR rank: 6 | QB DVOA rank: 21 | EPA/play rank: 21
This is where we diverge from the dogma a bit. Justin Herbert didn’t have a great statistical season, but his playmaking ability, which helped overcome rampant injuries around him, makes him a much more valuable player than his numbers indicate. His 3.13 individual WAR ranked sixth among quarterbacks and he led four fourth-quarter comebacks in 2022. If not for a second-half collapse in the wild-card round against the Jaguars, Herbert would have gotten the chance to go toe-to-toe with the Chiefs in the divisional round.
This group finished with an above-average composite ranking and should keep its current starter for at least the next season. These teams either have a quarterback close to franchise status or a quality one good enough to keep them competitive.
QB WAR rank: 10 | QB DVOA rank: 8 | EPA/play rank: 22
Trevor Lawrence took a massive leap in Year 2 and looks very much like the franchise-caliber talent he was promised to be when he went No. 1 overall in 2021. But he’s not there — yet. Lawrence turned the ball over 17 times during the regular season and five times in the postseason, which is equal to the 22 total turnovers he had in 17 games during his rookie season. The arm strength, accuracy and weapons around him are all there. Lawrence just needs to put everything together to rise higher among his contemporaries.
QB WAR rank: 17 | QB DVOA rank: 13 | EPA/play rank: 10
The pressure is heating up for Dak Prescott and the Cowboys. While Prescott remains one of the better quarterbacks in the league, he also threw an interception in all but two of the 13 games he played this season. Though Prescott’s EPA/play is solid, his mediocre 1.63 WAR and 8.3% DVOA meant he didn’t add as much to the team as he could have.
QB WAR rank: 8 | QB DVOA rank: 14 | EPA/play rank: 15
This is contingent on the Seahawks keeping Geno Smith this offseason. Smith went from journeyman backup to Comeback Player of the Year after he built a great rapport with receivers D.K. Metcalf and Tyler Lockett. Keeping Smith makes sense if the Seahawks want to remain competitive in the NFC West. He’s clearly shown he understands the offense and can play well under center.
QB WAR rank: 19 | QB DVOA rank: 16 | EPA/play rank: 13
So here’s the thing: Lamar Jackson is a franchise player. He’s a former MVP and arguably the most dynamic quarterback in the NFL. But injuries have prematurely ended his past two seasons, he doesn’t have a great cast of skill position players around him and his advanced metrics rank among the middle of the pack. There is a also a chance he is playing for another team in 2023. But at this moment, he’s a Raven, and his stability keeps Baltimore afloat — for now.
QB WAR rank: 4 | QB DVOA rank: 19 | EPA/play rank: 10
Kirk Cousins is the epitome of adequate. He plays well enough to keep a team competitive but not always good enough to win them games. Cousins also benefits from the 2022 Offensive Player of the Year Justin Jefferson lining up all over the field and head coach Kevin O’Connell’s play-calling. The Vikings will remain squarely in NFC North contention so long as Cousins is around, but aren’t necessarily locks to make runs in the playoffs because of his ceiling.
QB WAR rank: 15 | QB DVOA rank: 4 | EPA/play rank: 9
No, this isn’t an endorsement of Jared Goff’s viability as the Lions’ long-term answer at quarterback, or an argument against drafting a replacement in the top 10 this spring. However, Goff’s efficiency in 2022 means the Lions shouldn’t be so quick to cast him aside. His efficiency numbers ranked top 10 this past season, but his 2.02 WAR landed him squarely in the middle of the league. The Lions could remain competitive with him under center.
San Francisco 49ers
QB WAR rank: 25 | QB DVOA rank: 6 | EPA/play rank: 3
It’s really hard to dissect the 49ers’ quarterback situation. On one hand, both Jimmy Garoppolo and Brock Purdy finished in the top-10 of our composite rankings. But that’s mostly because both were among the best in DVOA and EPA/play, which was likely a product of Kyle Shanahan’s offense. Both finished outside the top-24 in WAR while the 49ers ranked No. 2 in team WAR when you take out the quarterback — meaning it didn’t matter who was under center. It’s fair to say, though, that whomever 49ers picks as QB1 — either Purdy or Trey Lance, since the team has been trying to move on from Garoppolo for close to a year now — will be a solid starter in San Francisco.
QB WAR rank: 33 | QB DVOA rank: 32 | EPA/play rank: 33
The Browns were a unique situation. Jacoby Brissett started the first 11 games during Deshaun Watson’s suspension, and finished 16th in QB WAR, ninth in DVOA and 11th in EPA/play. So while Watson was not good, Brissett’s success proved Kevin Stefanski’s offense can produce competent quarterback play. The Browns are locked in for at least another four years of Watson, who now gets a full offseason in Cleveland.
This group either finished with a below average composite ranking or could see improvements with a different/better passer, or both. But it doesn’t necessarily mean they must find a replacement to succeed.
QB WAR rank: 18 | QB DVOA rank: 17 | EPA/play rank: 8
The Titans are right on the cusp of where they could very easily look to upgrade the position if they wanted, but could still be fine with Ryan Tannehill under center. His 0.192 EPA/play ranked eighth this past season, but his WAR and DVOA were below-average. The Titans will remain a run-heavy team so long as Derrick Henry plays for them, but Tannehill won’t push them any further than he already has since joining the team in 2019.
New York Giants
QB WAR rank: 14 | QB DVOA rank: 23 | EPA/play rank: 14
Another team teetering on the fence between looking elsewhere and sticking with their guy. And it’s likely why the Giants brass sound hesitant to give Daniel Jones a lucrative contract extension. Jones enjoyed his best season in the NFL under head coach Brian Daboll with first-time play-caller Mike Kafka at offensive coordinator — he completed 67.2% of his passes, tossed for 3,205 yards, 15 touchdowns and only had eight turnovers. The Giants also had the second-lowest team WAR without their quarterback, meaning Jones was important to their success.
QB WAR rank: 9 | QB DVOA rank: 26 | EPA/play rank: 20
The Steelers are going to see what they have in 2022 first-round pick Kenny Pickett for at least another season. But Pickett still wasn’t great in his rookie year: He turned the ball over three more times than he scored touchdowns and averaged just 184.9 passing yards per game. The Steelers offense remains a work in progress and Pickett will be an unknown until he proves otherwise — perhaps as early as 2023.
Green Bay Packers
QB WAR rank: 13 | QB DVOA rank: 24 | EPA/play rank: 26
The Packers likely can’t find an “upgrade” for Aaron Rodgers this offseason, but the numbers indicate they might want to try something different. Which leads directly into the Rodgers vs. Jordan Love debate Green Bay will have for the second consecutive offseason. Rodgers had a down season — by his standards, at least — with a youthful supporting cast. That could either signal a decline in his play or a blip in his career. That’s for the Packers to decide.
QB WAR rank: 20 | QB DVOA rank: 30 | EPA/play rank: 28
Russell Wilson could rebound in a big way with Sean Payton running the offense in Denver now. Payton produced a top-10 offense in 11 of his 15 seasons with the New Orleans Saints and Wilson was one of the best quarterbacks in the league during his 10 years with the Seattle Seahawks. But Wilson’s regression in 2022 cannot be discounted after he finished near the bottom in all three metrics. If things don’t change this year, it might be time for the Broncos to look elsewhere.
New England Patriots
QB WAR rank: 22 | QB DVOA rank: 29 | EPA/play rank: 30
The Patriots toyed with a quarterback change in 2022 when Bill Belichick benched Mac Jones in Week 7 for Bailey Zappe, who had won the previous two games while Jones was sidelined with an injury. But neither Zappe nor Jones looked like a long-term starter for New England, and Jones fell close to the bottom of all three metrics this past season. New offensive coordinator Bill O’Brien could turn things around for Jones, but it doesn’t look promising.
QB WAR rank: 29 | QB DVOA rank: 29 | EPA/play rank: 29
Maybe handing Kyler Murray a multi-year extension wasn’t the best idea? Murray regressed significantly in 2022 — which could also be a product of the now-fired Kliff Kingsbury’s offense — and will now miss most of the 2023 season with a torn ACL. He’ll more than likely be the Cardinals’ starter for at least the next two seasons, but there will be some very serious questions if Arizona can’t build a team that improves upon his return.
QB WAR rank: 32 | QB DVOA rank: 36 | EPA/play rank: 16
As much as Justin Fields looked better in 2022, he didn’t make a leaps-and-bounds improvement that would force the Bears to keep him. Fields’ 0.31 WAR and -34.50% DVOA were among the worst in he league and his 149.5 passing yards per game ranked 33rd. His rushing ability is a major part of his game, but it won’t win the Bears anything on its own.
The final group is a combination of teams currently without a clear-cut starter or ones that desperately need one.
Los Angeles Rams
QB WAR rank: 27 | QB DVOA rank: 27 | EPA/play rank: 31
The Rams’ quarterback situation is a low-key huge question mark after a disastrous 2022 season. Matthew Stafford looked awful before his season-ending injury, and his -0.044 EPA/play was among the worst in the league. Stafford isn’t going anywhere and the Rams should be better in 2023 with a healthier squad, but Los Angeles might need to look at other options sooner rather than later.
New York Jets
QB WAR rank: 34 | QB DVOA rank: 31 | EPA/play rank: 34
Everyone and their mother knows the Jets are looking for a replacement for Zach Wilson. They’ve already spoken with Derek Carr, have been linked to Rodgers and could even look at Jimmy Garoppolo or Ryan Tannehill as their next starter. The Jets finished fourth in Team WAR without their quarterback and were 29th in Team Offense WAR with the trio of Wilson, Joe Flacco and Mike White. New offensive coordinator Nathaniel Hackett could change that, but only if the Jets upgrade the position with … anyone, really.
QB WAR rank: 35 | QB DVOA rank: 28 | EPA/play rank: 32
Technically, Sam Howell would be the replacement for Carson Wentz and Taylor Heinicke, who both finished near the bottom in our composite rankings. But even still, the Commanders need a better quarterback under center and can still look outside of their own locker room. Washington finished ninth in Team WAR without their quarterback and just hired Chiefs offensive coordinator Eric Bieniemy. New blood is warranted.
New Orleans Saints
QB WAR rank: 12 | QB DVOA rank: 15 | EPA/play rank: 25
While Andy Dalton didn’t perform terribly this past season, the Saints will need to find someone better if they want to win a wide-open NFC South. The team has quality offensive players, a solid defense and is just a quarterback away from being competitive. They’ve already flirted with Carr and could look elsewhere, too.
QB WAR rank: 24 | QB DVOA rank: 27 | EPA/play rank: 31
The Matt Ryan experiment failed, and now it’s time for the Colts to look either toward the draft with the No. 4 pick or back to the veteran quarterback market. Indianapolis needs to take advantage of rookie contracts from its two offensive stars — running back Jonathan Taylor and receiver Michael Pittman Jr. — with competent quarterback play. New head coach Shane Steichen could overhaul the offense, too.
QB WAR rank: 31 | QB DVOA rank: 5 | EPA/play rank: 23
Sam Darnold wasn’t awful this past season after he finished 4-2 in his six starts. But Darnold’s abysmal WAR and EPA/play means the Panthers should look to find an upgrade at the position. The draft is the easiest path, but the ninth overall pick might not net them one of the best prospects unless they trade up.
Tampa Bay Buccaneers
Tom Brady (since retired)
QB WAR rank: 5 | QB DVOA rank: 10 | EPA/play rank: 19
Tom Brady’s retirement opened up the floodgates of Tampa Bay’s murky future. The Buccaneers still have a very good roster on both sides of the ball — they just don’t have a quarterback. Brady added a lot to the team, as evidenced by his top-10 WAR and DVOA, but it’ll be easier said than done when the Buccaneers try to replace that production. Anyone who can get close to those marks would keep the Buccaneers from nosediving in 2023.
Las Vegas Raiders
Derek Carr (since released)
QB WAR rank: 23 | QB DVOA rank: 22 | EPA/play rank: 12
Derek Carr ranked near the bottom in WAR and DVOA despite quality weapons around him, so the Raiders moved on. Now Las Vegas will search for someone who can work the Josh McDaniels offense and help mitigate a porous defense. General manager Dave Ziegler recently said the team might not “have an immediate answer this year” at quarterback, which could either be a misdirect or an indication the team won’t go all-out at the position this offseason.
Marcus Mariota (left team but still on roster)
QB WAR rank: 30 | QB DVOA rank: 18 | EPA/play rank: 18
Marcus Mariota couldn’t elevate Arthur Smith’s offense and Desmond Ridder is far too raw of a prospect to be the team’s certain future at quarterback. But it’s unclear where the Falcons will look this offseason for a replacement. Atlanta owns the eighth overall pick and the second-most salary cap space, so the world is their oyster if they want to splurge at the position.
QB WAR rank: 21 | QB DVOA rank: 33 | EPA/play rank: 36
The Texans will more than likely draft a quarterback with their No. 2 pick if they don’t move up to get their guy at No. 1. Davis Mills isn’t the long-term answer in Houston and new head coach DeMeco Ryans will want to find a quarterback who fits first-time offensive coordinator Bobby Slowik’s system. We’ll soon find out who that is as the draft draws nearer.